SFMTA says bus operator shortage is causing commuter delays

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- If you feel like you're spending more time waiting for the bus, you're not alone. There have been long waits for buses in San Francisco for the past several months, in large part because of a bus driver shortage.

"It's just a logjam," says bus rider Roberto Samarron, who takes the bus to and from work in San Francisco. He says catching the bus the past few months, has been tough. "They're so packed where... you just can't have the opportunity to get on. You have to wait, sometimes you're waiting for three buses to come by before you get in."

"We have been working on this since about March, where the numbers started to increase as far as operator unavailability," explained Paul Rose, who is the spokesperson for SFMTA. Rose says the transportation agency has a shortage of bus drivers, with 40 operator openings.

But Rose says they're also struggling to train existing employees. "We have to train our operators on the new vehicles we have, we have to train operators on the new radio system we have, we have to train operators to run the bus shuttles for the Twin Peaks construction."

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"When new operators apply, they sort of have a false reality of what it is to be a Muni bus operator." Roger Marenco is president of Transport Workers Union Local 250A, the union that represents Muni operators. He says a bargaining change that restricts pay for new operators, is one of the major factors in the shortage. "It takes the operators 48 months to max out in pay, when it used to be 18 months."

"There was no bus driver to relieve our bus driver who had been working all day," said Autumn Elizabeth about a recent experience on Muni in San Francisco. She says everyone on the bus had to transfer to a different line.

"That's the only situation where I had an actual bus driver say, there's no one to replace us, they're only hiring part time workers. They're not hiring full time workers because they don't want to give them benefits and so there's no one to relieve us."

SFMTA says they expect more operators to be trained on their new vehicles by the end of August, which should relieve some of the congestion.

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