Muni is currently facing a systemwide operator shortage, according to this article in today’s San Francisco Examiner.
This situation is not new, but it appears to be getting worse. It affects all modes of Muni vehicles, including the historic streetcars. And based on anecdotal evidence we’ve received, it’s not just the quantity of people applying to be operators, it’s the quality as well. We were told by authoritative sources that recently a higher percentage of prospective F-line operators have been washing out of training than previously.
One issue in particular surprised us: in one class, a high percentage of trainees were unable to tell which way a switch was set. In other words, from the operator’s position, looking directly at the switch points right in front of them, they couldn’t tell which direction their streetcar would go as they proceeded through the switch. This is really a question of basic visual perception and of course would make one wonder what *else* they can’t discern on the street.
We’re glad Muni Training is maintaining its standards for all operators. We hope they’re able to recruit enough candidates to fill the vacancies throughout the system, but as this Examiner article and others have recently pointed out, it’s getting harder and harder to find workers for what have traditionally been middle-class jobs in San Francisco as the city gets ore expensive.
In the meantime, the shortage is making an increasing impact on the F-line. We’re told that the extra streetcars added to the schedule recently to cope with the increasing loads are being cancelled, since they were rarely filled due to lack of qualified operators. We’re told that buses will be added to the F-line starting June 23 to try to help out, though streetcar-seeking riders have in the past let the buses go by, so they usually end up carrying few people.
This is an unfortunate development as we hit the peak of visitor season.