Muni Plagued by Unlicensed Bus Drivers

By Matt Baume
|  Wednesday, Dec 1, 2010  |  Updated 7:08 AM PDT
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Muni Plagued by Unlicensed Bus Drivers

Tamara Cameron

You can see the damage best here to the front of the L train.

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It takes a lot to be a Muni busdriver: patience, a thick skin, and a high tolerance for repetition. But one thing it doesn't take is a license.

Several dozen bus drivers aren't licensed to operate vehicles, which means they've collecting benefits but can't do the work for which they were hired. The reason for the missing licenses varies: sometimes it's because they failed a medical exam, but in other cases it's due to a DUI or a failure to renew.

Many of the drivers claim that their blood pressure prevents them from driving.

Muni says that it's working with the drivers to resolve their issues, but some of them have been without a license for at least two years.

San Francisco's aspiring transit agency employs over two thousand drivers. Of them, 52 can't drive. Even though that works out to only about two percent of the workforce, it's just one more piece of the puzzle when it comes to Muni's inability to win widespread acceptance among San Francisco commuters.

Although the license-less drivers aren't being paid a salary, they continue to receive about $12,000 a year in health benefits. They're also taking up a job that could have gone to a more able-bodied worker, since Muni isn't allowed to replace them even though they can't drive.

A shortage of drivers is one of the reasons that buses and trains are so unreliable. Muni management would like to put more drivers on the street, but they're prohibited from hiring replacements for the license-less employees.

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