Ask a Muni Driver: Unwritten rule to let the homeless ride for free?

In the first post of our new monthly series, Ask a Muni Driver, Muni operator Tammy answers your questions about dealing with homeless people on the bus. You might remember Tammy from when she threw a surprise party for her passengers, then had to take a leave of absence from work because of the death of her son. Tammy has since returned to work and has graciously offered to answer your questions. Her comments are strictly her own and do not represent SFMTA or any other organization.

Hello everyone, I’m operator Tammy. In case you don’t remember me, I’m the driver featured in the Muni Diaries post “Party on the 33” in May 2010 and “Why you haven’t seen Muni driver Tammy.”

I wanted an opportunity to reach out and thank everyone who left positive comments and encouraging words when I lost my son. Nothing will compare to the love you all gave, which made me feel so good. So I thought that the Ask Muni Driver series would be a great opportunity for me to give back.

My purpose is to bridge the gap between the community and Muni operators through constructive, positive dialog. I believe that as drivers we should make a conscious effort to provide safe, time-efficient, and courteous service; and the passengers should be prepared to board with money in hand, and be respectful and courteous. If so, I know that riding Muni will be a positive experience.

Let’s get to the questions. And please don’t egg my bus if you don’t agree with my opinions!

Is there an ‘unwritten rule’ to always allow the homeless to ride for free? – Lou

No Lou, there’s no unwritten rule. Operators have to pick their battles. Out of compassion we know the only warm place is on the bus so that’s why some of us let them ride.

Why don’t you ever smile? – RLM stonebody

You haven’t looked at my pics, I always smile.

Pretend you’re one of us. How would you suggest we react to things like unruly homeless people, unruly teens, general intimidations/threats, and uncivilized overcrowding? Why do you pretend not to notice what’s going on? What would it take for you to step in and help? Why do you penalize the rest of us law-abiding riders, who just want to reach our destination, by halting the vehicle and trying to reason with unreasonable people? – Fortama

Wow, you’re making me work, Fortama. I would first discern whether the person has mental issues or is just being rude. If they pose a threat, you should inform the driver because your safety is our #1 priority. Sometimes you have to keep in mind that the ride is not going to last too long, so change seats, or if you’re being threatened, let the driver know.

We don’t jeopardize someone’s safety, so if you are being threatened, let the driver know right away so he or she can handle the issue.

Although I understand what you’re saying, we have to pick our battles. If two passengers are arguing about a seat, they’re old enough to handle that issue. If we stopped for every issue that took place on our buses, you would never reach your destination.

Are there any Muni ghost stories? – D

D, if there’s any ghosts around, you can bet your life you would not see any drivers!

Thank you all for taking the time to write. Muni isn’t where it should be, but I think that through positive dialog, we are on the right path for positive interaction. Be good to yourself and others.

— Muni Driver Tammy

Ask a Muni Driver is a monthly series where Muni operators answer your questions on Muni Diaries. Got a question for your Muni driver? Here’s your chance. Ask away in the comments section or email us at muni.diaries.sf@gmail.com.

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