With Chariot ceasing its commuter service after Feb. 1 and operations by the end of March, San Francisco Mayor London Breed and city officials are making an effort to help 300 Chariot drivers who will soon be laid off.
The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency along with the Office of Economic Workforce and Development (OEWD) announced a new program called CityDrive that will offer Chariot drivers an opportunity to possibly work for the transit agency as a Muni operator.
Chariot drivers can take the course that will help train them on earning a Class B driver’s license from the California Department of Motor Vehicles. The Class B license is one of the requirements operate a Muni bus.
About 15 percent of Chariot drivers currently have a Class B license, city officials said.
Breed said at a press conference at the SFMTA’s Islais Creek bus maintenance facility that when she heard about the private transit company shutting its operations, she immediately thought of the drivers:
“What I’m excited about this that there is hope. There is a possibility that many of the people who work for this company could end up being employed by the City and County of San Francisco as transit operators.”
At the same time of the press conference, Chariot drivers were meeting with OEWD to learn about the requirements for becoming a Muni operators and the type of resources that will be available to them from The City.
“We want to make sure that the almost 300 employees that will be affected by the closing of Chariot will have an opportunity to transition smoothly into a new employment opportunity so there is not a gap in employment, a gap in a paycheck.”
This might be a good opportunity for the SFMTA to hire new operators. The transit agency is facing an ongoing operator shortage, which brought to light over the summer during major construction project in the subway.
Supervisor Vallie Brown, who held a hearing last December about the poor Muni service and operator shortage over the summer, said she had missed meetings, a doctor’s appointment, and heard from constituents about unreliable bus service.
Brown said this was an opportunity for The City to hire more Muni operators:
“Not only is this a win for the Chariot drivers that want to come work for The City, this is a win for us as a city because this means we’re going to have more operators so our buses are on time.”
SFMTA spokesperson Paul Rose said the transit agency is currently facing a 250 operator shortage based off of a 10-hour shift.
Kendra Watkins, who has worked for Chariot for almost two years, said she loved being a driver for Chariot and had never thought of being a driver:
“When I got here I’m like oh my god, I love it. I started smiling and beaming and love the city. I love what I do.”
Watkins said if she gets a job with the SFMTA that she will be fine as she likes to interact with the public:
“I work well with the public. I like passengers. I love people so I’ll be great if this is where I’m going.”
Watkins, who is from Oakland, said she will apply for a job as Muni operator, though, she will have to earn her Class B license as she only has a Class C license.
Roger Morenco, president of the Transport Workers Union Local 250-A, which represents Muni operators, said:
“Transport Workers Union Local 250-A welcomes any future brothers and sisters as transit operators as long as they have gone through the proper process.”
Rose said the transit agency plans to get Chariot drivers who already have a Class B license and interested in working for the transit agency into a March training class which will last nine weeks.
Jerold Chinn is the San Francisco Bureau Chief of SFBay. He covers transportation and City Hall. He has spent over a decade covering transportation in San Francisco. Jerold is a native in the city and frequently takes public transit everywhere he goes. Email tips to [email protected]