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Late Fees: Muni Drivers' Class-Action Suit May Cost the Agency Millions of Tardy Dollars 

Wednesday, Mar 19 2014

Running a slow transit service quickly racks up costs. You have to deploy that many more vehicles to carry the same number of fare-paying passengers as a faster-moving service. And Muni is the slowest transit service in all North America.

That slowness may end up costing Muni even more, according to a 2012 class-action suit wending its way through federal court with Muni-like speed, brought by some 233 drivers representing more than 2,000 of their brethren.

The agency, allege aggrieved drivers Darryl Stitt, Tony Grandberry, and Hedy Griffin — lead plaintiffs for a cast of thousands — pays operators based upon "a predetermined amount of driving time." Passengers and drivers alike are aware, however, that Muni's schedules rarely match Muni's reality. The operators claim they're not being compensated for inevitable divergences from on-paper timetables.

This inevitability is baked in, claim the plaintiffs: Muni "has a practice of designing its routes in a manner that makes it impossible for Operators to stay on schedule."

The drivers also claim they're being shortchanged for the time they spend performing post-driving inspections; time spent traveling from one bus or train to another when switching runs; or time spent heading from the bus or train depot to wherever they parked their cars.

Drivers hoping to put in for unscheduled overtime face a new set of challenges. "The unscheduled overtime card is so confusing that [a Muni management] representative could not explain parts of it," claims the suit. When asked, during deposition, why that card contained six rows, the manager replied, "I — honestly, I don't know the answer to that question."

Drivers, the suit continues, are not compensated for the time spent completing these puzzling overtime cards.

Neither Muni nor plaintiffs' attorney Steven Tidrick would comment regarding ongoing litigation. Several of the hundreds of drivers who signed up to allow Tidrick to be their standard-bearer told SF Weekly the numbers they're hearing bandied about constitute "real serious money."

That was the case across the bay, where Tidrick in 2012 earned 1,382 AC Transit drivers a $7 million settlement in a similar class-action suit; fighting that case cost AC Transit upwards of $12.5 million in total. Suits of this sort, in fact, have become something of a transit cottage industry: Last year Tidrick's legal partner, Joel Young, filed near-identical claims against Portland's Tri-Met transit district and the South Bay's VTA.

The next stop for their case against Muni is a settlement conference in an Oakland courtroom on April 2. A recent clerk's notice informs all parties the event has been rescheduled to 2 p.m. sharp.

Punctuality is advised. As Muni knows all too well, tardiness can cost you.

About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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