Hearing the news of the the Muni Drivers’ Union (TWU) strike authorization vote (which will probably be illegal if they go through with it) made me think of an amazing article Greg Dewar & Joe Eskenazi did for SF Weekly a little over a year ago (“The Muni Death Spiral“, SF Weekly, April 14th, 2010).
It’s a great reminder of the deep-rooted dysfunction and incompetence at Muni, from the Union, to Management, to the political leadership.
What really showed me how out of touch Muni Management is, and put any doubts I had about their lack of leadership ability to rest, was when they said they were “blindsided” by the CA Public Utilities Commission report that laid out several dangerous and ongoing problems at Muni (ATC failures, derailments, speeding, etc.). All you have to do is ride Muni and/or read the news every few days to know there is something seriously wrong. When the Muni-riding public is more aware of the shortcomings of Muni than the people running it, there’s obviously a problem.
Then there was the report of the Sunset and Twin Peaks Tunnels, which are literally disintegrating before our eyes, and have NEVER been tested for earthquake safety, even after the ’89 quake!
Year after year, Muni management continues to fail the public. We keep voting for additional Muni funding and for reform after reform, yet it continues to be a gamble whether we’ll get to work on time. We keep paying over $300k a year to Nat Ford, yet he continues making excuses for his failures while he’s out searching for another transit agency to sink. We keep telling our Supervisors and the Mayor that Muni is a top priority, yet they continue passing laws like the Happy Meal Ban or symbolic resolutions that have little to no real-world impact on our daily lives.
Yes, there are major issues regarding lack of State & Federal funding, but that’s no excuse. There are dozens of transit agencies all over the country (including our very own BART) that have found ways to operate efficiently & semi-sustainably with limited resources. It’s long past time for a change in Muni leadership, so that real solutions (not just band-aids) are found for the myriad of systemic problems.
Then there’s the Union, which fails to serve the drivers they’re supposed to represent. Unions are incredibly important for the protection of workers’ interests in large corporations and/or governments, but this union keeps standing up for bad drivers and not properly rewarding the good ones. They also forget (and forget to remind their drivers), that Muni is owned by us, the riders. We are their bosses, and they are here to serve us, not their own self interests. The drivers should get at least $60k a year (not including overtime), but they keep asking for more, or refusing to give things up, not realizing that there isn’t any money to pay for all they’re demanding, and that concessions must be made for the system to actually work (yes, large pay cuts for Muni Management must be part of that, too). It’s long past time for the drivers of Muni to vote for new Union leadership, or just end their contract with the TWU and find (or start) another Union that actually represents their interests without turning the whole City against them.
We need bold action, and we need it now: Implement ALL the Transit Effectiveness Project recommendations ASAP, appoint more transit advocates like Cheryl Brinkman & Joel Ramos to the SFMTA Board, hold bad drivers accountable and support the good ones (there ARE many good ones), and make sure the current system is in proper working order and on time before even talking about expansion.
We’re all mad as hell, and we… keep taking it. When “aren’t we going to take it anymore”? When do we get all Network on their asses and start shouting from our windows and rooftops. Lets get angry, but then lets actually DO something. We need to stop letting them treat us, the owners/riders, like cattle and let it be known that all the incompetence and ineptitude will no longer be tolerated.