Did a San Francisco Muni bus driver show his penis to a teenage girl and punch a passenger last year?
A complaint filed with the city in January 2022 alleges that’s what happened on the 43 bus line going inbound to the Marina.
The Standard learned of the report through a public records request regarding complaints of sexual harassment and assault on public transit in the city. The request turned up 53 reported incidents over an eight-year span, including the allegation from Jan. 23, 2022. A total of 28% of all filed complaints were against drivers.
But repeated requests for further details about the alleged incident—including how it was investigated, whether it was referred to police and whether the driver was disciplined—were met with terse responses that shed little light on the matter and raise questions about transparency on how the city handles such reports.
“That’s awful. I’m beyond words,” said Dylan Fabris, community and policy manager for the San Francisco Transit Riders union, which advocates for safe and sustainable public transportation. “We are against any form of harassment on public transit.”
The complaint filed with the city alleges that on Sunday, Jan. 23, 2022, the Muni bus driver exposed himself to a 16-year-old girl before telling her he wanted to have sex with her.
According to the complaint, the driver told the girl he planned to quit his job immediately and that he would drive her wherever she wanted if she had sex with him. The complainant said there were other minors on the bus at the time.
A passenger confronted the driver, the report said, and threatened to contact the police. The driver, the complaint said, responded by grabbing the passenger’s backpack, punching the passenger and chasing the passenger off the bus.
The transit agency would not confirm or deny if the complaint was forwarded to police, citing City Attorney’s Office guidelines that say “personnel records are confidential.” The record obtained by The Standard did not name the driver.
The San Francisco Police Department could find no record of a 911 call that corresponded with the date and time of the incident, and no case number was no provided to The Standard by the transit agency. San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency refused to disclose whether a case number existed, when the investigation into the complaint began or if it had concluded and any outcomes from it.
“Whenever a complaint is made against an operator, our protocol is to review on-board video footage,” transit agency spokesperson Stephen Chun said. “If after reviewing the on-board footage we found merit to an allegation, it would be referred to the SFPD. There are very few circumstances in which we would not refer a complaint of this nature.”
The agency says it does not refer complaints to police if reviewed on-board video footage finds that the complaint was “fraudulent.”
“[SFMTA] cannot comment on the result of the investigation, in this case because personnel records are confidential,” Chun said.
Muni Drivers Union Vice President Pete Wilson said he did not have any information about the incident.
“This is the first I’ve heard about it,” Wilson said.
In September, 477,230 people rode Muni, 65% of the ridership total during the same month in 2019, and a 2022 Bay Area Council poll found 36% of 1,000 respondents said personal safety concerns prevented them from taking public transit more frequently.
Although the city reported that it had received 53 reports of sexual harassment or assault on public transit from 2015 to 2023, experts and research suggest the total is likely a substantial undercount.
A 2018 report from the New York University Rudin Center for Transportation found that among 547 respondents, 88% of those who experienced harassment did not report it.
The SFMTA has also acknowledged that sexual harassment and assault on public transit are often underreported.
Garrett Leahy can be reached at email@example.com