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Two Awesome Muni Drivers That Deserve Some Recognition

IMG_1151.JPGThe other day I was taking the N home on one of those rare hot days we're known to have. We got on at Embarcadero Center and of course there were a lot of people waiting in a steamy station, and we knew that if we didn't get on ANY train that showed up, we'd be waiting forever, given that Muni loves to run empty J Trains and keep the N as crowded and slow as possible.

The fact we even were able to get on the train was a miracle, and soon we were packed to the rafters and off to the Sunset. Needless to say, this kind of unpleasant ride is SOP during rush hour, so complaining about it wasn't worth the trouble. However, little did we know we were about to be on a Muni train run by an actual professional. In this case, we had an operator who CLEARLY announced each stop, AND connecting trains and significant landmarks/destinations as well. Needless to say, it was a welcome sign. I remarked to my colleague how we were lucky to even hear the stops, much less the connecting lines. A toursit from Texas said "It's always nice to have a real person's voice on these things. These days you get the robot on the telephone most of the time." Indeed.

I'm kicking myself for not noting the number of the train they were on, because I wanted to call Muni and tell them to give this person some sort of recognition. It sickens me how the TWU leadership continually rewards the few bad apples, instead of getting recognition for the good people which would encourage excellent service. Then again, you could write a telephone book-sized thesis on just how out of touch the TWU leadership is with its own members, the labor movement, and reality in general. (For fun, read this piece about how the leadership - not the hardworking rank and file - are balking at restoring some service cuts. Really!)

The other story was related to me by a friend who was on the 22 a few days ago. The bus was crowded and he noticed two shifty types who were acting a bit strange. Then, he (as well as many others) noticed these guys were pickpockets, preying primarily on an elderly man and a few others. Now, everyone SAW it, but no one was saying anything, so my friend decided to tell the driver. He didn't know that he was telling the Jules Winnfield of bus drivers, though.

Immediately the driver stopped the bus. He then made sure the doors were locked, got up and said "THERE WILL BE NO PICKPOCKETING ON MY BUS!" then put out the signal to call the cops. The criminals were desperately trying to leave, but no dice. The police came and the elderly man got his wallet back. Needless to say, that is rather cool. But there's also an uncool part of this story - plenty of people clapped at the end and knew what was going on, but didn't do anything to help. Fortunately, we Muni owners had a professional on board that day, and two hoodlums were taken away by the SFPD.

I will repeat this until the day I die that the majority of Muni operators are good people who want to do a good job. The leadership of their union is a clueless aristocracy that is unqualified to be in charge of a two-car parade, much less the leadership of workers critical to making sure our Muni runs on time. The rank and file need to have a coup d'etat and remove these folks. They deserve better and so do we.

Comments

I have dealt with nasty bus drivers and super nice bus drivers. One of the best runs the 38AX every morning. The usual people board that bus with me everyday, so it's fun to see how we have all become friends over time. The bus driver says hi to us all, waits for me when I'm running down Geary in heels, and always has a smile on his face. I'm really going to miss his morning stories when he leaves for Iraq next week.

I was on that N with you. The driver was more communicative than any I have ever seen or heard on any transit line, anywhere. I felt like I had been misdiagnosed with Alzheimer's and I was in a home or something! COMING TO POWELL ST STATION. POWELL ST STATION! CABLE CARS! UNION SQUARE! POWELL! ABOUT TO GET TO POWELL! SAN FRANCISCO SHOPPING CENTER...

Having been a regular MUNI rider since 1976, I've seen perhaps three or four truly "bad" MUNI drivers. Sure have seen a lot of "bad" passengers, though.

Given the failures of the system, and the endless parade of social maladapts in the passenger population, I think the majority of MUNI drivers do their all too thankless jobs quite well.

Glad to see at least one news article that recognizes that, too.

I always report on good operators here and on Twitter. My only regret is that I can't be on more lines every day to report on more of 'em. It really is a few bad apples that mess it up for everyone else, and in survey after survey, people remember a bad experience longer than a good one.

I hate driving in SF and the fact that the great majority of our drivers do so and put up with the inane bullshit of some of our jerk-ass passengers makes me think that they have some sort of Zen meditation or something during break time.

No offense, but both of these drivers were simply meeting the standards that their job requires. Muni must be in a sad state that we need to cheer people on for doing the bare minimum.

And I agree with Riley that there are a ton of bad passengers on the Muni system.

The second driver was really above and beyond though. The bus operator is not a law enforcement officer, and has to place conducting the bus safely first and assuring general passenger safety. By locking the doors, and more importantly, loudly and directly saying in effect "I'm likely to kick your ass if you're ripping off people" is kinda cool.

However, Muni's Owners failed in this situation by seeing what was happening and all but one doing nothing about it, no calling of police or whatever. People who rip off old people are assholes, and I'm glad someone did something in this case.

Great stories. I wish it wasn't shocking, though -- and just an everyday way of providing service.

I knew this was going to be an excellent post when I read "...given that Muni loves to run empty J Trains and keep the N as crowded and slow as possible..." LOL!

I ride the VTA light rail 2 or 3 days a week when I commute to my headquarters office. The same operator is there 90+% of the time for the 8:04 am departure out of Mountain View. We always leave on time, unless the incoming train is late clearing the short single track section at the beginning/end of the line.

It's funny, but all I ever did was say hi as she walked by me on the way back from her break. The other day she told me her name and said I was one of the few people who always took time to say hello in the morning.

I'm not going to apologize for bad drivers who don't announce stops or don't release the back door at a stop, but lots of passengers just cram onto the bus without even a bit of courtesy.

Maybe we as passengers need to check our attitudes as we board. The rudeness really wears you down after a while.

I also got a laugh out of the J/N comment. I can't wait for the K and M rail service to return this weekend.

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