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City Hall begins search for new Muni chief

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“We need a real transportation expert”

A new Siemens-built Muni train on an SF street. Photo by Wikicommons

The search for someone new to run Muni—and hopefully reform the delinquent public transit agency—began hours after San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) Director Ed Reiskin announced he will soon depart. Mayor London Breed petitioned the SFMTA board this Monday to begin searching for candidates for one of the city’s most high-pressure positions.

Reiskin announced his exit early today, delicately stating in a letter that “it’s become clear that this is the right time for change.”

In a missive submitted to the SFMTA board shortly after the announcement, Breed laid out Muni’s recent history of disasters and near disasters, including “service disruptions, missed runs, an opaque scooter permit review process,” and, most recently, the compete failure of Muni’s subway system for almost an entire day last Friday.

Breed adds:

When the Twin Peaks Tunnel reopened in August of last year, it was only weeks later that the system was again in a state of paralysis for reasons that took way too long to identify while contingency plans took too long to deploy.

When allegations of mistreatment of female employees by managers and employees surfaced, the Agency was slow to respond and change only came after I sent in an independent ombudsperson to address these challenges.

When concern over potentially problematic doors surfaced on the new Siemens trains, the Agency seemed paralyzed and unable to respond definitively.

At a Monday press conference, Breed declared, “We need a real transportation expert” to head the department, promising a worldwide search for qualified candidates.

The mayor noted that Muni neither communicates effectively with the public nor seems to be prepared for problems when they emerge.

Technically, Reiskin is not resigning but instead opting to let his contract expire later this year without negotiating a renewal.

The mayor did not say whether the city plans to invest any new funds into fixing Muni, stating that the city is “always giving Muni money” before quickly pivoting to promises of future investment in public transit sans any specifics.

Reiskin’s departure marks the end of bubbling tensions at City Hall over his job over the past eight-plus months.

In August of 2018, responding to Muni’s abysmal performance during the renovation of the Twin Peaks Tunnel, Breed effectively put the director on notice, warning “I expect to see improvements across the board.”

Since then, the city’s public transit network has been beset by even greater misfortune than usual, leaving a luckless job facing Reiskin’s eventual inheritor.