munipiece2.jpgNat Ford’s Personal Bailout
Nobody likes SFMTA chief Nat Ford.

The CEO of SF’s transit agency didn’t make a lot of friends around town when he very publicly angled for a job heading Washington D.C.’s airport authority while still technically running San Francisco’s beleaguered transit agency.

Since Ford got dumped from the D.C. gig (by text message no less), San Francisco is stuck with him for the remainder of his contract–unless the city is willing buy out the remainder of said contract to the tune of nearly $400,000.

The word on the street, however, is that the city is going to suck it up and pay Ford to go away as soon as SFMTA concludes its contentious negotiations with the operators’ union.

The last thing SFMTA needs while trying to squeeze every precious dollar out of its drivers (who are already pretty peeved at the agency, as you can see from the latest flier being circulated among operators) is setting a huge pile of money on fire at the feet of a reviled management figure universally deemed a failure. But, after the negotiations are over, the agency may feel like doing whatever it needs to do to put the Nat Ford-era behind it.

The N-Judah Chronicles’ Greg Dewar, however, doesn’t feel that way. Dewar is royally pissed about Ford’s golden parachute and he’s drafted a petition for the city to simply refuse to pay Ford a dime if he leaves, for whatever reason, before his contract is up.

The details of Ford’s severance are written into the contract he signed with the city, so all not paying it will likely do is incite an expensive, high-profile lawsuit that Ford may ultimately win.

That said, a lawsuit just might be the big, public break from the past that SFMTA needs to demonstrate to city hall, the public and its employees that the agency is interested in real reform.

At the very least, sustained public outcry over Ford’s own personal TARP might give the city pause in inserting similar clauses into contracts for its top level executives in the future.

Muni Driver Love Fest
We do a lot of Muni bashing around these parts, but that’s mainly because complaining about things is fun and “I got to work on time today” does not an interesting story make. Even so, it’s nice to give a shout out to a Muni employee doing a great job once in a while. This N-Judah Chronicles post is an open letter to a favorite Muni driver.

The comments on the article, which quickly turned into little fan clubs for everyone’s favorite drivers, revealed the operator in question to be Rhonda Jackson–who everyone agrees is awesome.


And Now Back To Our Regularly Scheduled Program
In February, the California Public Utilities Commission released a report calling Muni’s operations, “the worst in the state.” The commission studied the conditions of the safety precautions on the agency’s light rails and found the system wanting:

The alleged violations found by the CPUC during more than 20 inspections between July 2009 and January of this year include defective track, a poorly functioning automatic train control system, junction box and cable problems, and slow response to providing corrective action. The state inspectors said they found instances of train operators speeding and in one case suspect that an operator was sleeping on the job.

The CPUC will fine the agency $20,000 for every day the violations are not fixed unless SFMTA files a formal response objecting to the ruling–which, surprise, is precisely what they did. SFMTA is challenging the CPUC’s assessment, calling its allegations, “without merit, baseless, and vague.”

Representatives from the two agencies will meet later this week to determine if SFMTA will face any penalties and, if so, what they might ultimately entail.

Another Accident Shows Why Masonic Street Redesign Is Urgently Needed
The coming redesign of Masonic Street can’t quickly soon enough. The stretch of NoPa has been the site of a rash of tragic accidents of late, including a fatal hit-and-run just last week.

Early this morning, the street saw a two-car collision at the intersection of Hayes and Masonic.

While the redesign will doubtlessly make Masonic safer, completion of the project could be as far away as 2015. Area residents are pushing the city to immediately implement changes they say will make the area safer for motorists, bikers and pedestrians.

On May 13th, SFTMTA is holding a public hearing at city hall to discuss the specifics of the impeding redesign.

One Guess Whose Side The Examiner’s Headline Writers Are On
For a story detailing the contentious point of the 8% pay bump Muni operators receive for working late-night hours, the front page of today’s Examiner blares, “For Muni Drivers, Rush Hour is FLUSH HOUR: Operators for cash-strapped agency receive generous pay boost for hours worked between 6 p.m. And 6 a.m..”

The article closes with a quote from SFMTA’s hired gun, uber-flack Charlie Goodyear about how SFMTA hopes reach a compromise by the end of the month while his union counterpart, TWU Local 250-A Secretary-Treasurer Walter Scott, essentially only gets in a “no comment”.

This isn’t to say the story lacks merit–Muni operators’ late-night pay bump is higher than ones at most other transit agencies and the time window for said bump is also significantly longer than for employees of comparable systems. However, by now it’s safe to say that Goodyear is clearly earning every cent of the $100,000 SFMTA is paying him to make the union look like greedy stooges.

Speaking Of Why Everyone Hates Nat Ford
A deal Ford negotiated with BART to change the rate at which San Francisco reimburses BART for passengers who ride BART trains entirely within city limits was laughed out of Wednesday’s meeting of the Budget and Finance Subcommittee.

At issue is that when a passenger takes a BART trip that begins and ends in San Francisco, the city reimburses BART for the price of the trip. The cost of that reimbursement has been tied to inflation but, over the past 10 years, the price of a BART ticket has risen significantly faster than the CPI. This would leave BART deep in the hole, except that the agency gets a 0.5% sales tax from the city to cover the difference. A new contract negotiated by Ford starts with a $1.7 million payment from the city directly to BART’s coffers and than then allows BART to unilaterally dictate any price increases in the reimbursement until 2018.

Unsurprisingly, this was a non-starter down at city hall and everyone was sent back to the drawing board.

The Examiner’s Melissa Griffin postulates that Ford is angling for the now vacant position of BART Executive Director.

“All other explanations for this mess,” she writes, “are unsuitable for printing in this newspaper.”

Cabbies Angling For Their Own Regulatory Body
The series of meetings SFMTA is planning to use to smooth over relations with a fleet of grumpy taxi drivers may not be enough to quell the cabbies’ concerns about a 5% surcharge on all credit card transactions.

An organization called Cabbies Helping Cabbies is in the process getting a measure on the November ballot that would take taxis out from the authority of SFMTA and create a separate Taxi Commission.

The overall thrust behind the measure is that many taxi operators feel that their industry is over-regulated and that SFMTA treats them like government employees instead of fully-licensed, independent businesspeople.

The backers of this bill are hoping that a body solely dedicated to overseeing taxis, that doesn’t also have to pay attention things like smartphone parking apps, would be more responsive to their concerns.

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