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Muni Workers To Protest Safety Conditions, Wages On Transit System

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) -- SFMTA workers gathered in San Francisco Thursday to demand safety improvements, better working conditions and wages in the wake of numerous problems with Muni.

Criticism of the city's transit system escalated last week when an overhead wire was damaged by a train, disrupting downtown Muni metro subway service for much of the day.

That public transit meltdown came after additional safety issues had surfaced with the newest train cars that have been introduced to the system.

On April 12, a woman's arm got stuck in the door of one of those new cars and she was dragged onto the track.

Last week, the SFMTA said it wrapped up preliminary testing with the new fleet's manufacturer, Siemens, where they were able to replicate the problem.

"At some angles, if we either manipulated the rubber or had our hands at a specific angle, it would close," explained Julie Kirschbaum with the SFMTA.

But the agency does not know how to fix the issue yet.

"I don't think we have a full understanding of the cause or a solution," said SFMTA spokesperson Ed Reiskin.

In the meantime, they are locking the back doors of the train so the operator can keep a closer eye on the front doors and make sure no one gets stuck.

Also in April, a shear pin -- the mechanism that joins two cars together -- broke off on a Muni train. That spurred an inspection of the cars that turned up a second broken coupling pin.

Muni's solution to that problem has been to run the new trains as single cars only.

Despite the issues, the SFMTA says it stands by the manufacturer and has more cars on order.

Muni workers say their top issues are increased staffing, repairing faulty equipment, improved safety training and increased wages.

Right now, operators start out at $22 an hour.

Current transit director Ed Reiskin announced Monday he will be stepping down when his contract runs out in August. The city is now conducting a national search for a new leader of the SFMTA.

San Francisco city officials are also planning to increase the SFMTA's budget from $1.2 to $1.3 billion next year.

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