Muni operator caught using rubber band in dangerous violation

A photo of a Muni operator using a rubber band to keep a throttle in place that was posted on social media is raising safety concerns.

Muni officials say it has identified the driver in the incident. They say this is a serious safety violation and that the matter is under investigation.

This issue is unrelated to the Muni bus crash reported Monday in the Marina. 

One train operator told KTVU why some drivers do this.

The photo posted on social media shows a Muni train operator at the control. His left hand is on the throttle with a rubber band attached just under the microphone. On his right hand, there is at least one rubber band around his wrist. 

A KTVU crew showed the photo to several Muni passengers who ride the light rail vehicles daily.

"Using a rubber band is probably not how it's supposed to be," said Melissa Sauceda, a Muni passenger. 

"I question whether this is a one-time occurrence or does this happen all the time?" said another female Muni passenger. 

"It's for if the driver is unconscious, it automatically stops the train or slows it down so that's a big safety risk," said a male Muni passenger. 

Muni officials say this practice among drivers is rare. 

"If it is a case where someone tied a rubber band around the throttle, that's a rule violation and it's not acceptable," said San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) spokesman Paul Rose. 

A Muni operator spoke to us on the condition that KTVU not identify him. He is not the driver in the photo, but says a handful of operators use rubber bands on the throttle to avoid fatigue.

"I understand that some drivers do it due to the fact that their hands get tired," said the operator. He said the use of any object to keep the throttle in place is unsafe,"I definitely don't condone it because it puts everyone at risk. It puts me at risk if I'm out on the line driving." 

This operator also raised concerns that Muni is now using drivers to train other operators how to pilot the new trains.

"This is a matter of existing operators who already know how to operate the new vehicles teaching their colleagues how to use the new trains," said Rose. 

"That's a huge problem. It's being done by someone where they're new to the equipment themselves," said the train operator. 

As for the operator with the rubber band on the throttle, the Muni spokesman says he can not comment on the specifics of this. But that for an investigation of this nature, the operator would be placed on non-driving status with pay pending the outcome.