The Agreement Reached on
A New Municipal Transportation Agency
What's Changed from the Initiative on the Streets
Why the New One is an Even Better Proposal
by Beryl Magilavy, San Francisco Environmental Organizing Committee
Signatory to Published Notice of Intent to Circulate Petition
June 14, 1999
A coalition made up of riders' advocates Rescue Muni, the planning
think tank San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association (SPUR), and the
San Francisco Environmental Organizing Committee (SFEOC), in alliance with Supervisor
Gavin Newsom, have come to agreement with Mayor Brown, Supervisors Yaki, Kaufman,
and Ammiano, and the management of the Municipal Railway and the Department of Parking
and Traffic, to propose for voters' consideration a new initiative to reform Muni.
Our coalition has been gathering the signatures of voters to place an initiative
on the ballot to this end.
We hope we will have the support for the new proposal of all those
who have signed the petition, and all others frustrated with the performance of public
transit in San Francisco. The new proposal is actually better than the proposal that
is on the streets. This improvement has resulted from new information brought to
light during discussions organized by the mayor's office over the last few weeks
among the organizations listed above, the Controller, experts from the Department
of Human Resources, and others. We would like to acknowledge the good faith of all
parties to these discussions, which really had the tenor of a room full people of
different perspectives genuinely interested in reforming the transit system, rather
than the sort of horse-trading sessions usually described in the papers.
Here's an overview of what will change if the new proposal is approved,
and some discussion about each point where there's a difference with the initiative.
Note that there has been a lot of non-substantive re-organization (for instance,
the level-of-service language has been removed from paragraph [a] of Section 8A.100
Municipal Transportation Policy, and moved to Section 8A.103 Service Standards and
Accountability), which will not be mentioned here, but might lead someone doing a
quick side-by-side comparison to be misled on the number of real changes.
A New Transportation Agency
The Municipal Railway will be combined with the Department of Parking
and Traffic (DPT) and the Parking Authority under a new entity called the Municipal
Transportation Agency (the Agency), with the option of adding in the Taxi Commission
at a later time. The reason for this reorganization is to allow transportation financing
and planning to be done in a coordinated fashion that includes all transit modes.
- A Public Agency: The Agency will be within the city structure,
not "privatized," as some opponents of the initiative have suggested. The
director will still report to a commission appointed by the mayor, and the Board
of Supervisors will still approve the agency's budget, but with significant changes
in process noted below.
- Services of Other City Departments: The Agency will be
able to contract with other city agencies for services, but must now include measurable
standards for the quality, timeliness and cost of the services provided. This is
different from current practice.
- Planning Time Incorporated into DPT Move: The principal
difference between the initiative and the new proposal is in the timing of the incorporation
of DPT, which in the initiative on the streets, would be incorporated immediately.
It will now be incorporated over a two-year period, which will allow more time for
planning and staff training. Given the potential complexity of the undertaking and
the fact that DPT was completely reorganized without much time for planning only
seven years ago, we agree that this is a better approach.
Governance and Duties
- Who Can Be Appointed to the Commission: For the first time,
the appointed commissioners who set policy for the Agency are required to have some
first-hand and professional knowledge of the transit system. Two directors must have
significant knowledge of or professional experience in public transportation. The
new proposal has added a further protection from appointments based solely on campaign
contributions by adding that all directors are required to have knowledge or experience
in the fields of government, finance, or labor relations. All directors will be required
to ride the Municipal Railway system once a week on average, and at least four of
them must be regular riders. The initiative on the streets requires all of them to
be regular riders, but we now agree that this might unduly restrict the appointment
pool, likely precluding anyone, for instance, who has to drive outside the city for
his or her commute.
- Citizens Advisory Council: A new, 15-member Citizens' Advisory
Council would be created, with 11 members selected by each Supervisor, respectively,
and four members appointed by the mayor. The council may provide recommendations
to the Agency with respect to any matter within its jurisdiction. Ten members must
be regular riders of the Municipal Railway, at least two must be regular users of
the paratransit system, and at least two must be people over 60 years of age. This
differs slightly from the initiative, which requires 15 regular riders and two paratransit
users, with no requirement for seniors. The changes reflect an acknowledgement that
the combined agency will deal with more issues than public transit, and is improved
by the addition of the point of view of older people.
- One Head of the Combined Agency: There will be one person
in charge of the combined agency (who may or may not also be in charge of the Municipal
Railway), who will be held accountable for strict service standards-checked by independent
auditors-and given the financial incentive of a merit bonus for meeting those standards.
- Protection of Employees in Merger: It is explicitly stated
that the reorganization will not adversely affect any civil service employee's status,
position, compensation, or pension/retirement rights. This is also in the initiative.
Service Standards and Accountability
- Objective Standards: One of the most important and innovative
sections of the charter requirements for the new agency is that it must meet specific
standards of service to the public, including 85% on-time service and 98.5% delivery
of scheduled service hours and number of scheduled vehicles. Other standards with
respect to the Municipal Railway must be established by the commission and met by
the Agency. They include safety and security of passengers and employees, neighborhood
coverage, level of crowding, frequency and mitigation of accidents, travel time,
vehicle cleanliness, customer service, employee satisfaction, public communication,
effectiveness of preventive maintenance. Several suggestions from employee representatives
at the mayor's meetings have expanded and improved the list of indicators that appears
in the initiative. Progress towards all service standards must be publicly reported
at least annually and audited by an independent, outside body every two years.
- Phase-In to Accomplish Some Standards: The wording of the
initiative implies that the required levels of service must be met right away. However,
everyone understands that with a system as we currently find Muni, and with the time
it takes to finance and received delivery of new vehicles, meeting these standards
will take several years. To explicitly acknowledge the reality of this situation,
the new proposal requires adoption of milestones toward service that fully meets
the 85% on-time, 98.5% scheduled service within four years of the reorganization.
- Performance Measures: The new proposal adopts a list of
indicators as performance measures for the Municipal Railway, which measure system
reliability and performance, staffing performance, customer service, employee satisfaction
and verification. Added to the new proposal from the list in the initiative are longevity
of employment, employee recognition, and training and educational opportunities.
The initiative places all these measures in the city charter; the new proposal adopts
them by ordinance.
Personnel and Merit System
- At-Pleasure Managers: In order to improve the accountability
of those people in management positions under the director, the number of management
positions exempt from Civil Service within the Agency will be expanded from the current
17 to that number plus an additional 1.5% of the employees of the agency, for a new
total of about 60. These managers will also have a system of compensation that awards
them for meeting objective performance levels. This mandatory merit pay for managers
represents a strengthening from the initiative of the merit pay program.
- Who Bargains Solely with the Agency: Other employees in
categories defined as "service critical" to public transit, including driving,
dispatching or maintaining transit vehicles; providing information services to the
public; and supervising or managing employees will now bargain directly with the
Agency, instead of on city-wide contract as they do now. These employees will also
be eligible for a merit bonus compensation scheme, based on achievement of performance
standards, including attendance. The attendance incentive proposal is new, added
to address the fact that service problems are created when people use up their accumulated
sick time before retirement.
Unlike in the initiative, the new proposal has employees not in
the "service critical" categories continuing to bargain for economic issues
on city-wide contracts. This includes all current employees of DPT.
This was a complicated area that involved trying to balance the
wish to give the Agency the most autonomy possible in managing relations and compensation
with its own work-force with the fact that many of these job classifications (such
as clerk-typists) are used across many city departments, with transfer rights between
- Human Resources Functions Brought In-House: The initiative
creates both a new Human Resources function and a new Civil Service function within
the agency. The new proposal requires that a range of appeals under the civil service
merit system to continue to go to the existing Civil Service Commission (those that
have to do largely with interpretation of the system's rules), and allows the Agency
to send other disputes at its discretion. Functions of the Department of Human Resources
would still be moved to the Agency, allowing it to set up a more efficient system.
The Agency may contract with DHR for services it does not wish to duplicate, (for
instance, it could contract with DHR for testing). These changes were made to optimize
the balance between avoiding duplication of bureaucracy while protecting the rights
of employees, giving optimum flexibility to management, and creating an efficient
personnel management system.
- Salary Issues: The initiative on the street proposes doing
away with the salary cap for Muni employees (passed by the voters a few years ago,
it sets the maximum salary for operators at the average of the two highest-paying
large transit systems in the country) in order to eliminate a focus on work-rule
bargaining, and does away with overtime for time worked over eight hours a day, which
is very expensive for transit agencies that have to cover morning and evening commute
hours. Both of these have been dropped for the following reasons. The alternative
to the salary cap proposed in the initiative was bargaining with what is known as
"binding interest arbitration" to settle disputes. This is essentially
a legal proceeding-very expensive, and often with an outcome that neither side is
happy about. Compared with that, the salary formula presents fewer problems. Daily
overtime was retained largely in response to concerns from several Rescue Muni members
that this would inadvertently lead to pay cuts for some Municipal Railway employees,
an outcome that none of us wanted.
- Specific Work Rules: Banning missing work without calling
in remains in the new charter proposal. However, we have received assurance that
other three work rule issues specified in the initiative relating to the proof-of-payment
system, weekend/holiday work, and sequencing of vehicles will be handled by collective
bargaining, and as a result we deleted them from the amendment.
- Public Disclosure of Results of Employment Contract Contents:
The new proposal would for the first time require the public disclosure of any tentative
agreement on new wages and conditions of work, with a detailed analysis, comparison
between the current agreement and the prior agreement, and an analysis of costs.
Agreements cannot be approved until the public has 30 days to review the disclosure.
This will enable the public to keep track of how its money is spent, and create a
disincentive for agreement on terms that the public would be unlikely to accept.
The initiative on the street also requires disclosure of and hearings on opening
offers and significant changes in bargaining positions, with the intent to provide
as much public information as possible, but we have been convinced that these extra
requirements would serve to harden the positions of both sides and encourage playing
to the press, increasing the difficulty of reaching agreement.
Funding and Budget
- Separate Transit Fund: Muni is currently funded from outside
sources and the city's general fund. Its allocation can be changed every year, depending
on the incumbent mayor's priorities, and a major cause of its current poor level
of service is the poor level of funding it received throughout the Agnos and Jordan
administrations. Fluctuating funding is particularly difficult for transit agencies,
which must plan out major capital expenditures far in advance. The new proposal,
like the initiative, would create a separate transit fund, to be funded from the
general fund at not less than this year's allocation (the highest in years), adjusted
from year to year by the City Controller to reflect overall changes in City and County
- Parking-Related Revenues: Money now set aside from parking
revenues and fines for other purposes, such as hospitals, would not be affected.
With respect to money from any increase in parking fines and revenues, the new proposal
splits the allocation 50% to transit, 50% the general fund for purposes decided upon
in the mayor's annual budget. This is a change from the initiative, which allocated
all new parking revenues to transit. It was felt that, since only a few years ago
all the parking revenues went to the general fund, this would be too abrupt a defunding
of a number of other city priorities, with no identified source of replacement revenue.
The new proposal also requires that the city not build or expand new parking garages
that would reduce transit funding from the off-street parking fund to less than that
provided in this fiscal year.
- Budget Approval: In order to isolate the Agency from inappropriate
fine-tuning from the mayor's office and the Board of Supervisors, the new proposal,
like the initiative, sets out a somewhat autonomous path for the Agency's budget
process, giving the new agency control in return for accountability for performance.
The Agency's budget, with a bottom line set by formula, does not go to the mayor's
office for approval. The Board of Supervisors, which will consider it along with
the rest of the city budget, can reject the Agency's budget by a 2/3 vote, and must
act on it as a whole (no line-item modifications). Required regular audits performed
by an objective, outside party give the necessary level of oversight to ensure against
some future "out of control" agency.
- Timing of Budget Submittals: There have been some changes
in the timing of Agency budget submission to better reflect what happens in the city's
budget approval process.
The Agency will be required to report annually on the extent to
which it has met service standards and how effectively it is spending money. Every
two years, it must hire a professional outside management or transportation consulting
firm to do an independent review of the quality and efficiency of its operations.
(The initiative on the street requires the outside audit every year, but the frequency
was decreased due to the expense and long lead time required for the city to hire
consultants-requirements for competitive bidding and the like.) Hearings will be
held on the report by the Citizens' Advisory Council, the Agency, and the Board of
Fares and Route Abandonments
Both the new proposal and the initiative set specific criteria
for any proposed change to fares, including the need to keep fares low to encourage
maximum patronage. Fare increases may be blocked by a 2/3 vote of the Board of Supervisors,
but-and this is new to the new proposal-in an effort to ensure that the Board take
responsibility for its decision, consideration of a fare increase must be made as
part of the budget process. This means that if they deny the Agency a fare increase,
they must consider how to make up the money from other sources. Route abandonments
may also be blocked by a 2/3 vote of the Board.
The city's transit-first policy has been expanded and greatly strengthened.
It newly emphasizes the importance of public transit, bicycles, and pedestrians;
emphasizes the importance of having parking policies that encourage transit use in
areas well served by transit, and acknowledges the importance of regional mass transit.
The wording in the final proposal has been streamlined and clarified, hopefuly increasing
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