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Muni update: Drivers feeling the squeeze

SF Public Press
 — Oct 4 2010 - 7:21pm

SF Public Press multimedia editor Monica Jensen met with Muni operator Emmanuel Andreas, who was featured in a story in the Public Press’ summer print edition, to discuss how Muni’s on-time performance goals affect drivers.

According to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, Muni’s on-time performance system-wide dipped to 72.5 percent after achieving a record high of 75 percent in the previous quarter. Meanwhile, a recent ridership survey shows that only 52 percent of passengers rate Muni service as “excellent” or “good,” down three percent from 2007.
“Muni wants us to push, but how can you be on-time when you have delivery trucks double parking, taxis cutting you off, pedestrians walking," Andreas said. “I mean you have so many variables that will deter us to be on time.”

Andreas, 47, has been a Muni driver for 11 years. He said bus operators do more than sit behind the wheel but also serve as Muni “ambassadors,” which works well when they’re able to establish relationships with riders by driving routes consistently.

“We have a very good working relationship with the riding public because when you drive for so long on the 33 line, you establish an exclusive relationship,” Andreas said. “Basically, they know your name, which is very good. And also that gives the operator like me a positive image for Muni.”
But when the system makes service cuts or increases fares, passengers take out their frustrations on drivers, which adds stress to an already high-pressure job. Andreas said the stress of driving a Muni bus contributes to many health issues among drivers, noting that fair health is a job requirement.

“We have to go through tests, different tests, blood tests, the different things for blood sugar level, diabetes, blood pressure. Once you’re diagnosed with these types of symptoms, then you be examined every year,” Andreas said. “Let's say your blood pressure doesn’t improve with medication, you can’t drive. You’re on disability.”

Stay tuned for updates as we continue reporting and talk with more Bay Area transportation experts about what the city needs to do to fix Muni. The full package of stories will appear in the fall print edition of the San Francisco Public Press.