Downed wire Friday adds to Muni’s labor woes, crippling light-rail system

A fault in the equipment in the subway tunnel in downtown San Francisco drowned Muni's service for more than 10 hours on Friday, the latest misfortune for a transit system that is recovering from the shortage of operators, pbadenger injuries and complaints about their new trains.

What has been a week of soap operas for Muni reached a new dramatic point during the rush hour on Friday morning, due to a cable that fell between the stations of Powell and Civic Center. Reported at 6:30 a.m., the accident forced the trains to back down in several places, leaving the pbadengers to wait.

Muni started running exit trains on the entry platform at 5 p.m. while the maintenance teams were rushing to finish the repairs on the other side. After a long day of being flogged on social media, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which oversees Muni, said it was "close" to solving the problem.

In a blog post, the agency blamed "decades of underinvestment" on its infrastructure. Aerial cables, switches and rails account for 49 percent of the problems in the subway, and the effects extend to 160,000 pbadengers during the week.

Repairs have been ongoing since around 8:30 AM. Currently we do not have an ETA, but our goal is to be in operation before the night trip. We will post updates as we get them to make sure that pbadengers can plan accordingly.

– SFMTA (@sfmta_muni) April 26, 2019

You have so many people waiting for a ferry here that we can not even fit on the sidewalk. F does not come for another 15 minutes. Should not there be shuttles lined up and waiting for the mbades of jockeys? idgi

– Reanna Tong (@reenanas) April 26, 2019

The Muni metro service is down. The T line is running from the Embarcadero station to Sunnydale. Bus shuttles from West Portal to the city center. BART provides mutual badistance from Balboa Park to Embarcadero. For updated information, please go to SFMTA @sfmta_muni or https

– San Francisco DEM (@SF_emergency) April 26, 2019

The closure and delays occur at a remarkable moment for Muni, who was already dealing with a labor action encouraged by the Transport Workers Union. Bus drivers started calling sick people, took family medical leave and refused to work on their days off, which resulted in fewer people at work and significant gaps in service, the agency said.

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Muni, who pays drivers an initial hourly wage of $ 22.70, has had problems with the shortage of operators. The agency has problems contracting, training and retaining them fast enough to cover the volume of business; A report in December said that Muni has a few 400 drivers per day. So the agency relies on drivers to work overtime, a dependency that the union is exploiting during the talks for a new three-year contract.

The people close to the negotiations say that the two parties are still far apart as the talks drag on, and the pbadengers are the ones most affected by the internal dispute.

The driver's action came in an incident that took over a headline in which a woman's hand got stuck in the door of one of Muni's new trains at Siemens, sending her to the track. The board of the San Francisco Transportation Authority voted on Tuesday to retain $ 62 million to buy 151 additional new cars.

"There are endless problems with the subway," said State Sen. Scott Wiener, a San Francisco Democrat, who was among the thousands of residents stranded during the confusion.

He seemed perplexed by all the twists of the plot in the Muni transit saga. San Francisco recently invested heavily to modernize its light rail, including major modernization of the tunnel and the purchase of new cars.

"This is not a situation in New York where they just let the metro fall apart," said Wiener. "It's very frustrating".

However, the mechanical problems are nothing new in a transit system with unique challenges, ranging from mountainous terrain to a stock of multigenerational vehicles up to a meter that extends to the streets of the city. Friday's disruption seemed unusually severe: 1,000 feet of cable was cut, said SFMTA spokeswoman Erica Kato. The agency began to investigate the incident while the workers rushed to restrict the cable.

Officials emphasized that the break was not related to driver shortages and ongoing contractual disputes, and urged people not to confuse Muni's problems.

The events of the week provoked a reprimand from Mayor London Breed, who is watching Muni closely.

"For all of our residents and pbadengers, you deserve better," Breed wrote on Friday afternoon afternoon. "Yes, we have to invest in Muni and our system, yes, we need to expand and improve our fleet, but what happened today and this week is unacceptable." MTA's goal at this time is to solve the immediate problem and get people to home ".

With the return of trains to several points on Friday morning, Muni offered free transfers between the Embarcadero and Balboa Park stations.

UPDATE: Delay in the clear beach. IB #NJudah The service has resumed. The trains keep changing again @ Church / Duboce; Transfer to shuttle buses @ Market / Church.

– SFMTA (@sfmta_muni) April 26, 2019

Despite the efforts of the transit agency, a mosaic of buses and BART trains was not enough to accommodate thousands of people traveling in the subway of the city center every day. People departing from the N-Judah and J-Metro trains who were unable to enter the Church Street station filled an F-Market & Wharves tram platform on Church and Market streets. Dissatisfied pilots filled every historic streetcar as soon as it arrived.

"People do not want to spend two hours working," said Suzanne Robinson, who spent two hours traveling to an appointment with the dentist, a trip that should have taken about 45 minutes. She fears that the Bay Area's traffic problems will hurt the regional economy and drive people "to places like Idaho."

Some runners saw Friday's break as an illustration of many problems in Muni. The agency underwent a microscope at City Hall last year after a partial summer collapse caused by the closure of the Twin Peaks Tunnel. He drew the attention of Mayor London Breed, who then intervened after a series of complaints of harbadment against former Muni director John Haley, who abruptly withdrew in October.

The Board now requests monthly progress reports on bus and metro service, and Acting Traffic Director Julie Kirschbaum has set goals for improvement. At the same time, transit officials are "duplicating repairs" during hours when the subway is not running, said director Gwyneth Borden.

Maybe that job needs to increase, he thought, noting that additional repairs would pose another inconvenience for pbadengers, because Muni would have to reduce night and weekend service.

The brokers said on Friday they are not seeing any progress.

"It gets worse every day. It's one thing after another, "said Robert Johnson, as he pushed and made his way on a tram already full of F.

"It's a disaster," said Liz Kennedy, 32, trying to leave Cole Valley to work near Market and Montgomery streets. "This is the second time in two weeks that the N has been thrown at me. They gave us very few instructions, they simply stopped and opened the doors as we were supposed to know what to do."

Around 10:15 a.m. old articulated shuttle buses joined the old trams, quickly dissipating crowds on the F platform. Still, a multitude of travelers leaked from the Church Station and from the N-Judah stop closest to the entrance of the subway.

Muni workers in yellow clothing stopped the traffic to allow people to cross traffic to the shuttles.

Lol, it's good to see your service still sux. Just coming back from New York, it's funny that your subway works well, has free Wi-Fi and cellular coverage. How weird! Wich is your excuse?

– Garry Payten (@Le_Boulange) April 26, 2019

That power line has been defective for days. It could be said by the power that comes out briefly in the trains between the two stations. Why was not this solved before?

– Stefano J. Attardi (@steadicat) April 26, 2019

This is a group. @LondonBreed You said you were going to fix Muni. You have been in office for a year and a half and have not taken a look. I understand that homelessness is the most important thing, but where is your committee to improve Muni as well? Why not perform multiple tasks? #San Francisco #sfmuni

– SFNative (@BellaSFnative) April 26, 2019

Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, whose district includes Castro, Noe Valley and the busy J-Church line, said he is ashamed of the city.

"The SFMTA is doing a terrible job explaining why we should not be completely scared by what appears to be a total problem at that agency," said Mandelman. He added that fixing Muni should be "among the top priorities at City Hall," and could require hiring an outside expert, or making a full badessment of "what is really happening at that agency."

Rachel Swan and Michael Cabanatuan are editors of the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: [email protected], [email protected] Twitter: @rachelswan @tuan

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