The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency operated just a third of its normal morning service, spokesman Paul Rose said.
The agency runs buses, light rail and street cars in addition to the cable cars. It serves about 700,000 passengers each day.
Rose said he did not know how many employees had called in sick.
“We’re doing our best to balance service throughout the city and provide service on every route and line, but at this point there will be delays,” he said.
A fare inspector at the start of cable car lines at Powell and Market streets broke the bad news to tourists who had planned to ride the historic conveyances.
“We’re very disappointed,” said Willfrid Strauss, 56, who was visiting San Francisco with his new wife, Corinne, from France. The two were married in Las Vegas on Friday.
“We’re only here in San Francisco for three days, so this is one of the highlights of our trip,” he said.
City residents trying to get to work in the morning faced crowded light-rail trains and delays of up to an hour on buses.
“It was jam packed, super crowded and slightly slower,” architect Steve Weiss said as he left a light-rail train in Union Square.
All express buses were serving every stop, the transportation agency said. The Bay Area Rapid Transit Agency, which serves an area that includes the city, was honoring tickets on city transportation all day from the Daly City and Balboa Park stations to downtown San Francisco, Rose said.
Transit system workers voted Friday on a new contract that would give them a raise of more than 11 percent over two years. However, it also would require them to cover a 7.5 percent pension payment that is currently paid by the city’s transit agency, the San Francisco Chronicle reported (http://bit.ly/1u8GwY2 ).
The result of the vote was not yet available.
About 2,200 operators work for the agency. They are not allowed to go on strike but can call in sick. They are represented by Transport Workers Union Local 250-A.
San Francisco transit officials said the contract would increase operator pay to $32 an hour, making them the second highest-paid transit workers in the country, the newspaper said.
Union President Eric Williams called the proposal unfair and said in a statement on the union’s website that the city had proposed unreasonable takeaways in wages and benefits.
Calls and emails to union officials on Monday were not immediately returned.
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