SF may eradicate paid parking for Muni drivers

January 19, 2011 11:53:46 AM PST
San Francisco's "transit first" policy to encourage the use of public transportation is drawing the fire of critics, over a perk enjoyed by Muni drivers. They use their cars to get to work and park for free. That was supposed to change this month, but it hasn't.

Muni drivers aren't feeling the love. First, voters overwhelmingly approved Prop G in November, which means their second-highest-in-the nation salaries are no longer guaranteed. Then in December, their traditional $3,000 year-end payout was eliminated.

"We're not being treated fairly at all, I don't think so," Muni driver Salene Wanzer said.

But so far in January, they've gotten a big break. This month, they were supposed to start paying $80 for parking in the bus yards and other Muni property. That would bring the cash-strapped agency a $500,000 this year and more than a $1 million next. But that hasn't happened, even though it flies in the face of the city's "transit first" policy.

"I don't think it's fair to ask people to pay more for meters downtown and garages downtown if we aren't going to ask that of MTA employees as well," Daniel Murphy from Rescue Muni said.

But the union says it's more complicated for operators who work odd hours and often come from outside the city to drive the buses.

"It's easy to say we want money, but they have to come out with the logistics if they are feasible or not," Rafael Cabrera from the Transport Workers Union said.

On Tuesday, the Muni Board of Directors was scheduled to put in place fines for those who continue to park for free, but decided instead to re-examine taking away the freebie.

"I'm not considering back tracking, but maybe there is something that we haven't considered," Muni Board Chairman Tom Nolan said.

Nolan believes the parking perk should be part of upcoming negotiations between the city and Muni drivers. This year will mark a historic first.

"The whole playing field for bargaining has changed with the passage of Prop G," Muni Executive Director Nat Ford said. "We'll be negotiating wages, benefits and work rules, so it is a new day."

Labor negotiations are scheduled to begin next month, and Muni directors are putting the paid parking plan on hold indefinitely.