Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Wow... Muni ... I ... Are You For Real?

Pair of articles in the last few days really cause me to question the sanity of the Muni operators and management.

First up was the announcement of the audit of Muni. Guess what the auditors found? Well, here's a hint, its not that Muni is a well run organization. What they found is that Muni is rife with incentives to be inefficient. The contract with the union, the report found, incentives usage of overtime by management and absenteeism among the rank and file. Why?

Because the contract is bad. It enriches the drivers and other Muni employees while it shortchanges the people who are supposed to benefit from Muni, namely the riders. Essentially, the contract ensures that management has to use overtime, because it is not allowed to use part-time drivers. Part-time drivers are needdedso that Muni can meet the demand of the rush hour commuter traffic in the mornings and afternoon. However, because of the way we as San Franciscans have foolishly allowed to be enshrined in contract and charter, Muni management cannot use part-time drivers. So the choice becomes pay someone a full day to work just a few hours or pay a few hours of over time. Either way, its costing us money.

But according to the Muni operators union, this is all fine and dandy. Of course, faced with numbers and auditors, they wisely have shut the hell up and not commented on this story. Then again, at least seven members of the union do nothing at Muni except work on union issues... at city expense. That means you and I are paying for someone to work for Muni, but really to work on union organizing issues and not transportation issues.


What's the union's response? At a recent rally by drivers, one was quoted as saying "Operators have given and given and given and given, were can't give no more[.]"

I like the union's version of giving. Its Orwellian in a way. Give... apparently to them.... means "get ever increasing salaries in return for less time work". And apparently to them, this is a problem.

But wait, there's more in the report. Apparently there are six divisions of Muni where more drivers spend their work hours on stand-by than actually driving. This is actually worse than the ones Muni pays to work solely on union issues. Essentially, Muni pays a lot of drivers to do...nothing! Remember, if you are in a division, you can't be asked, as an operator, work in another division without automatically triggering an overtime provision for the transferred shift.

So what is the cause of this? Part of the problem lies squarely at the feet of the TWU, the operators union. They've clearly gotten greedy. But apparently, since this is San Francisco, and the TWU is a union and not bankers or mortgage lenders, we're not allowed to say that. Apparently, by virtue of being in a union member, you get some sort of pass.

However, there is another component to the problem: Muni's management. This includes the appointees who sit on the MTA board here in San Francisco. They are not getting the job done. If they were, they would have recognized this problem a few years ago. If they were interested in doing their job, rather than just collecting their salaries, maybe one or two of them would have tried to get an amendement to the City's charter which imposes at least part of this insane system on the City. Maybe one of them would have resigned over it.

But I have not seen any of that so far. In fact, the most that can be said for anyone in the MTA or the City government is that there are some supervisors who are trying to do something about this.

The flip side of that is that they're doing it for selfish ends. With the release of the report, some of the Supervisors started talking about trying to strip away power from the Mayor's office to make the appointments to the MTA board. Essentially, using this situation to start another power struggle between the Mayor and Board of Supes.

Great job guys. How about someone focuses on solving the problem? Can we do the petty infighting later? Like after people have a reliable, efficient (or at least somewhat efficient) public transit system in place?

I know, I ask too much.

So that brings me to the second bit of insanity. As we know, Muni's basic problem is that it is hemorrhaging money. Part of that problem is that Muni does not do enough to make sure that it collects a fare from each person who rides.

Its simple: if you ride Muni, you are supposed to pay for the ride. If we lived in a communist society, this would be different. But the custom and practice in this country is that if you use a service, then you have to pay for it.

Unfortunately, some people do not get this. They seem to believe that only certain people should have to pay.

Well, Muni had adopted a policy of putting inspectors out, reinforced by police officers, to make sure that everyone had proof of payment. Not a big thing. Either you have your Muni pass or you make sure you get your transfer when you pay cash.

Apparently, its just too hard for some people to do this. Apparently, asking everyone on a trolley car or a bus is too "rascist" and "classist".

And those people have complained to the MTA Board about it. So what did the wise management of Muni decide to do? They have curtailed the program!!!!!

Because of course. When you need money to operate, you of course end the program that has been successful in making sure that people pay for the service which you provide.

People, they were not asking for green cards. They were asking for proof of payment! If you can't afford to ride Muni, you shouldn't be riding. It is stealing.

But apparently, its politically incorrect to suggest such things. Its apparently right to expect that only certain people obey the law. That people who immigrants (legal or illegal) or poor, should get a free pass.

Really? For real? Because my wife and I budget each month to buy our fast passes we should be subsidize people who are too lazy to pay their fares?

Muni and MTA Board need to get their heads checked. Either everyone pays or no one pays. Its simple. Its fair. Anything else is just an excuse to not do your job.

And to those who have hectored and intimidated Muni into doing the wrong thing: Shame on you. You are not helping the problem. You are part of the problem. Cloak yourselves all you want in the mantle of being socially progressive, fighting the good fight and all that crap. At the end of the day, you are creating another excuse for the system to fail.

1 comment:

Colby said...

All that and they run people over too - without impugnity - gosh I miss Muni.