SFMTA Roundup: Muni Starts Its Anti-Union PR Campaign, Cab Companies Don't Want MTA's Help, Cars Keep Running People Overhttp://sfappeal.com/news/2011/04/mta-roundup-muni-starts-its-anti-union-pr-campaign-cab-companies-dont-want-mtas-help-and-cars-keep-b.php
Oh, man, Muni management's PR attack on operators is ON, and the driver's union seems woefully prepared to handle it. Other folks the SFMTA's likely pissing off are cab drivers (who say the transit agency's trying to take them over), people getting hit by cars due to poor street maintenance, and people who (rightfully, perhaps) feel unsafe while waiting for the bus.
Muni's New PR Firm Starts PRing
When Muni hired high-priced PR firm Goodyear Peterson, there erupted a chorus of "harrumphs" from naysayers worried that the $100,000 MTA is giving to former Chronicle scribe Charlie Goodyear to handle media relations during the upcoming labor negotiations with the operators union could be better used cracking down the fare-evading hooligans who cost the agency nearly $20 million annually.
As of this morning it looks like Muni's dollars are starting to get spent. All fresh and clean in our inbox came our first shiny, new press release from Goodyear Peterson and, from the outset, it's clear what the firm's role in the negotiations will be--to go for the union's jugular. The release claims that MTA management has identified at least $26 million in savings they could generate from changes to policies for operators like:
"Eliminating $3.2 million in annual paid lunchtime for Muni operators. Union leadership has countered with a proposal to double paid lunchtime, a cost of more than $6 million per year.
Saving approximately $7 million per year through the use of part-time operators who would reduce the use of overtime pay.
Reducing an 8% night shift premium pay which now costs Muni $2.75 million a year. Union leaders are seeking to increase the premium to 15 percent.
Requiring Muni operators to pay their own employee contribution toward their pension plan as is the norm for other San Francisco city employees. This would save the system $9.8 million per year.
Eliminating a $1 million premium paid now to operators who agree to stay long term in one of SFMTA's seven divisions."
Mmmmmm...that's some expensive flackery.
Contract negotiations will go though next month. If an agreement isn't reached by the end of the negotiation period, both sides are legally required to enter binding arbitration.
The release concludes by saying, "The average Muni operator now earns more than $101,000 a year in salary and benefits under the current labor agreement." We'll likely be hearing that phrase a lot from Goodyear Peterson as negotiations continue.
Cut Proposals Surprise Operators' Union Rep
The Chron's Matier and Ross say Muni management is proposing still other contract changes like a 10% decrease in driver salaries, the option to hire part-time drivers, and to get rid of:
The 50-cents-an-hour premium for working in the same division for five years; a $450-a-year boost for transit inspectors whose families miss out on the free rides on Muni that other workers' relatives get; and rules that prevent Muni from firing drivers for not having a valid driver's license.
Muni's operators' union head Rafael Cabrera told M&R this was the first he'd heard of these savings plans, and that he's "surprised Muni has decided to negotiate this way." Rafael, they are spending 100 grand! Did you think that money would go towards pillows with which to pelt you?
Yeah, Cab Companies Don't Want An App For That
The MTA is looking to develop a smartphone app that would allow users to pull up a map of all available nearby taxis, call for one and watch in real time as it drives over and picks you up. Or doesn't pick you up. Either way, you'll have something to do while cowering under an awning outside of a bar in the Richmond at 2am on a rainy Saturday night. It would also easily allow passengers to cancel the aforementioned cab if they manage to hail another one on the street before the one they called arrives. The agency would provide the app to cab companies free of charge and pay for its estimated $400,000 cost from the sale of taxi medallions.
There are already a number of apps that perform similar functions as what MTA is proposing (such as Taxi Magic, Cabulous, and, arguably, UberCab) but those don't cover all cab companies and the agency wanted something all-inclusive.
The app sounds like a great idea, making life easier for both passengers and drivers, but many big cab companies are dead set against it. A spokesman from Luxor Cab argued that the agency should "leave the business of taxi technology to the private sector" and intimated that the whole thing was a MTA power grab in to start managing and/or dispatching cabs itself.
And they have a point -- do you want the folks who frequently don't know when your bus might come (if ever) managing your cabs, too?
Dear Cars, Stop Running Into Pedestrians. Sincerely, Pedestrians
SFMTA's Pedestrian Safety Advisory Committee reports that over 800 pedestrians are hit by cars every year in San Francisco, racking up a whopping total $76 million in medical bills in the process. That's one out of every four traumatic injuries occurring inside city limits. And that's just the ones that get counted--the Department of Public Health estimates that at least 20% of accidents go unreported.
While the majority of pedestrian/automobile collisions happen in the SoMa and Tenderloin neighborhoods, the area around the Panhandle is also notoriously dangerous. Partially in response a motorist running a red light and hitting a 35-year old woman, breaking both of her legs, SFMTA crews are re-striping the badly faded lanes on Masonic from Fell to Turk.
Capital improvement like this are often expensive, but they pale in comparison to the cost of stitching up everyone beaten and bruised (or worse) by San Francisco's army of death monsters.
Waiting For Muni Isn't Safe
According to SFPD, yesterday at 3:05 PM, three 20-something men attacked and robbed a man and a woman waiting for Muni at Divis and Geary.
According to the police report, one victim, a 48-year-old man, was knocked to the ground, as another 21-year-old male victim was shoved. Both had their iPhones stolen, as their assailants fled on foot. Neither were seriously injured.
Because, obviously, just standing there waiting for the bus can be dangerous.