Driver Smoke Breaks


The following came to us from Matt Baume, the man behind the Muni Alerts Twitter account, among other things he’s spearheaded.

I took this photo at the end of the 41 and 45 lines, where drivers take breaks after a run. One driver is smoking. She doesn’t have a driver number on her uniform.

This raises a tough question. Smoking at transit stops is illegal in SF — Muni maps spell out the exact code that prohibits it — but what are drivers supposed to do if they’re addicted to nicotine? Where are they supposed to go to smoke on their break?

This lady seemed like a nice person but her smoke was stinking up the whole bus stop. I don’t know what the solution is, aside from firing smokers. I guess you could argue that smokers are unfit to drive buses, since they’ve chosen a habit that adversely affects their ability to do their job legally. But that also seems pretty harsh.

— Matt Baume

What do you think? Sound off in the comments section.


  • Ashley

    A Muni watchdog is so necessary (seriously). Yay for MuniDiaries!

  • Sus

    She should not have been smoking right at the stop, and definitely not right in the open door of the bus – if she were disciplined for that, fine. I do think the suggestion to fire smokers is way over the top though. I’ve never been to the end of the 41 and 45 lines so I’m not sure exactly what the solution is in this instance, but there must be some way she can wander off somewhere and smoke away from the passengers, like most drivers can in general.

  • Kevin

    It’s against the law to smoke outside at a bus stop? Wow! Although the smell of smoke is a bit annoying, I doubt there is much evidence that second-hand smoke outside has ever hurt anybody. I think we all just need to take a deep breath and live and let live.

  • This sounds wrong. Inconsiderate, illegal (rightfully or not), and just rude. But it’s still not as bad as a 49 driver I had once who stopped mid-route, unannounced, and proceeded to mosey on into a smoke shop. We waited at least 10 minutes, then bailed.

  • CAK

    Hey hey hey, firing or otherwise discriminating against anyone for smoking is called Lifestyle discrimination! The ACLU has some literature on it–let’s not break up everyone’s fun-for-one party just because we “know” that smoking is bad. This is a human resources issue–smoking breaks and acceptable locations of such should be published in every company’s employee handbook.

  • Hmm well I don’t think smoking interferes with their ability to drive a bus, though I’m sure some lawyer somewhere can argue against that. I wouldn’t have a problem with drivers taking a ciggie break at a bus stop, even though personally I find cigarette smoke irritating. I assume that there isn’t a gaggle of riders waiting in the bus or at the bus stop when this happens. Interesting conundrum from a legal/policy perspective but I guess it doesn’t bother me at the end of the day.

  • I still just think drivers should only be dinged for not doing their job. Missing runs, breaking up runs in the middle for superfluous personal reasons. Luckily, I’ve found these incidents are the exception, not the norm.

    As for the smoke breaks, if smoking is illegal and around the stops, they simply need to move to an area where it is legal. Keep smoking, if that’s your thing. But be lawful and respectful.

  • It would be possible for a driver to move further away from that bus stop when smoking. But it would also be a hassle — they’d have to lock everything up, instead of just loitering in the doorway. I can understand why a driver wouldn’t want to go through the inconvenience of doing that … but the result is that everyone at the bus stop becomes acquainted the driver’s personal odors.

    So, it is gross. Should it be illegal? I dunno. A bus stop is city property, and we wouldn’t stand for someone smoking in City Hall. Muni riders HAVE to stand at the bus stop — we don’t have a choice. The least that the city can do is see to it that their employees won’t demand that we smell them.

    Is it really illegal to fire someone for smoking in the workplace? What if she was an officeworker, puffing away at her desk?

    I am baffled by the scare-quotes around CAK’s “know.”

  • Oski

    How would you guys feel if every time you did something at your job that someone didn’t like or agreed with took your picture and send it to your boss. I understand that a handful of drivers are hard to deal with but just stop and think what the public puts them through. I really think we need to stop and ask our self if it’s really worth reporting this person and the possibility that they can lose there jobs because we don’t like that they didn’t smile at us or pull the bus to the curb the way we like for them to do.

    • @Oski for my part: smoking is harmful, and therein lies the distinction. it’s not just a matter of agreeing or disagreeing. not a matter of taste or preference. a matter of harm.

      • Kevin

        Really? A single cigarette held by a person standing next to a bus creates a substantial harm? Seriously?

        • Whether one cigarette causes harm, to my mind, is not the issue. What I assume the intent on banning smoking at or near bus stops was, is the harm caused by second-hand smoke. Disagree with that if you want. I’m no scientist. I do know that if it is harmful, a ban is a justified thing. And no, it shouldn’t be waived for a bus driver. Park the bus, close the door, and walk 20 feet. Earn your vice.

        • Smoking is wrong because you have kids on the bus and I will report it right away

    • eugenia

      I think you make a really good point, Oski. And I wouldn’t want this driver to lose her job either. Besides, where else are they going to smoke?

    • We ARE the driver’s boss.

      If someone saw me breaking a law — or even just doing something inconsiderate — I wouldn’t want them to photograph me. After all, who likes getting caught doing something wrong? But I don’t think I could get away with being outraged and offended if they did.

      If you don’t want to be photographed doing something wrong, there’s a simple solution: don’t do it where you can get caught.

      • Oski

        mattymatt. I’m happy to see that you are perfect at work and never do any wrong. Are you also taking pictures of the riders that are smoking at the stops and if so who are you reporting them to?
        Or do you take a picture of them and send it to their employer or police as well?

        • Good grief. Nobody’s perfect, but I’ve never stunk up the office with smoke. Or, as far as I know, broke any laws.

          I don’t take photos of passengers who smoke because they aren’t our employees.

    • chibbs

      Oski, an excellent observation. I read, my head nodding in agreement, the outrage that people feel at being held hostage to other’s loud cell phone conversations; we urge restraint, quiet, politeness. But with the proliferation of cell phones also comes cell phone cameras, and, as astutely observed by a famous comic strip, Big Brother has become us. When does a photograph accompanying a story exemplify, amplify, or go far beyond the story’s point? Is it an illustration, a piece of evidence, or the ink on the pink slip? Should restraint also be urged here?

  • The bus driver should have gone to a place where it was legal to smoke. Sure it’s inconvenient that she would have to lock up her bus and walk about 20 feet away, but didn’t she agree to abide by the law when she took the job? I see bus drivers lock up their buses to take bathroom breaks all the time, maybe we should just allow them urinate on the bus stop instead, it’s quicker, saves water, and a good way to mark their territory so the bums don’t piss there instead.

  • i got on a 22 where the driver was still in his driver’s seat smoking. the whole bus smelled like an ashtray. as soon as i got off the bus, i called 511 and reported the incident. all it took was the bus number, line, time/location, and description of the driver. i think the most important thing to do is report occurrences like this. the lady i talked to at 511 was sympathetic and courteous.

    • @Jason yes! i totally advocate reporting errant drivers. i have to know, though: do you mean 311? not 511, the traffic/planning operation?

  • Oski

    Well since you seem to think muni drivers are your employee’s maybe you guys should start to treat them better. and maybe you will be the perfect robot employee that you want them to be.

  • Austin

    Oh man.
    i used to smoke and I quit, but this is ridiculous. Please get over yourself and stop being such a whiner… blah blah blah I had to smell this yucky smell blah blah blah.

  • Oski

    Austin you are so right. Mat I work at UCB. Why are you going to come and take pictures of me while I’m at work so you can report me also

  • kelci

    firing a bus driver because s/he is a smoker is a serious violation of civil liberties. despite that smoke hastening the death of the bus driver, we as a people have no right to tell someone how they should live their life

  • smoking is fine. but smoking ON THE BUS is not.

  • We Manner Ladies feel there’s enough space to smoke near a bus stop without compromising the air of those waiting in/around it. Come on, drivers: show us your Muni Manners!

  • Paul E. Ester

    SF political correctness at it’s finest.

  • David

    I’m a non-smoker, and occasional criticizer of Muni, but I think people who are uptight with regard to outdoor smoking are about as uptight as it gets. -I’d imagine they can’t fart audibly even when home alone.

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