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SF schools warn parents about Muni driver shortage

Delays may mean back to school tardiness

The back of a yellow school bus in Chinatown.
The city offers yellow school bus service only to certain families, leaving tens of thousands of students to rely on Muni.
Photo by obias Kleinlercher / Wikipedia

Monday marks the first day of school for the San Francisco Unified School District [SFUSD], which might also mean the first day of transit delays and Muni hassles for some of the city’s youngest commuters.

Among other back to school welcoming material on the SFUSD site, the district has appended a brief proviso warning that the ongoing Muni summer meltdown might infringe on students’ ability to get to class on time:

“An operator shortage has resulted in Muni delays across San Francisco, which Muni is working on addressing. Students and staff who ride Muni may experience delays getting to and from school.”

SFMTA lists some 50 schools composed of grades six through 12 that Muni buses service, and boasts that the majority of San Francisco schools are within a five-minute walk of a Muni stop.

The district operates only a limited number of yellow school buses, and require that families apply and specially qualify for them.

“There is no guarantee that general education transportation services will be available” for any given student or family, the district warns parents, which leaves many families to their own devices when it comes to getting to class on time.

Photo by Sundry Photography

The SFMTA estimates that about half of the cit’s 57,000 SFUSD students use Muni during the school year. Which means that the present Muni meltdown has the potential to generate a surge in morning tardiness at San Francisco schools.

The metro transit network is presently suffering from a serious shortage in drivers, such that more than 100 scheduled coaches sat idle on some days during the summer, and SFMTA recorded nearly 200 missed hours of service on certain days.

City Hall’s transit self-assessment also shows that Muni buses suffer “major vehicle failure” more than twice as often as vehicles in cities with similar transit networks, breaking down an average of every 6,600 miles—the average in peer communities is about 14,000.

Transit woes have been a fact of life in San Francisco for about as long as life in San Francisco, but this latest spate of errors was so pronounced that SFTMA even posted a public apology on its site and promised to increase driver hours to address the shortfalls.