As the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency makes drastic cuts to service to prevent further spread of the coronavirus, drivers are fearful and feel exposed. Five cases have been confirmed among Muni workers.
Roger Marenco, president of the Transport Workers Union Local 250-A, which represents Muni bus drivers and some other transit workers, said the city has not been able to keep the number of passengers on buses low enough to ensure social distancing. Drivers are afraid of being infected and are asking for masks, gloves, hand sanitizer and wipes.
“Operators are in such a high level of fear factor that they don’t want anybody getting near them,” Marenco said. “We drive as if everybody, as if every trip, you know, we’re carrying the disease, we’re carrying the virus.”
On Monday the transit agency’s director Jeff Tumlin announced that the city would be suspending service on all but 17 lines. He told riders to direct their frustrations with service reductions at him, not at drivers.
“I urge you especially to be patient with our operators. Please feel free to be upset at me for being late for work or for a longer walk to your bus stop, but recognize that your bus operators are frontline workers,” Tumlin said. “They’re accepting some level of risk in order to keep this system running. And in order to deliver essential workers to work, please thank them. They are heroes here in San Francisco.”
Marenco said that even with changes to service, Muni workers are still worried about harassment and assaults, and that he would not be against shutting the entire transit system down if need be.
“If that’s what it takes, you know, to try to put an end or reduce the spread of this virus, well then health before wealth,” he said.
A segment from our radio show, “Civic.” Listen daily at 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. on 102.5 FM in San Francisco.