Friday, May 1, 2009

BOS Should Reject the Badly Flawed SFMTA Budget

Rachel Gordon reports that the SFMTA board has approved a budget that balances a $129,000,000 deficit (~$80,000,000 of which it absorbed from other departments for no good reason) almost entirely on the backs of Muni riders.
  • Adult fares will go up 50¢ to $2.00
  • Senior/disabled/youth fares will go up 25¢ to 75¢
  • Adult Fast Passes will go up to $55.00 in July (already scheduled) before reaching $60.00 in January
  • Senior/disabled/youth Fast Passes will go up by the same amount, to $15.00 in July and $20.00 in January
  • The following lines will be canceled:
    • The 4-Sutter
    • 7-Haight
    • 16-Noriega morning express
    • 20-Columbus
    • 26-Valencia
    • 53-Southern Heights
    • 74X-Culture bus
    • 89-Laguna Honda
  • And to quote Ms. Gordon, "Dozens of other lines will have their routes modified or hours cut back."
Private motorists' share of the pain:
  • Meter rates will go up 50¢ an hour and operate on all holidays except New Year's Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Sound fair? Not to me.

As I mentioned before, $2.00 fare is double the cost of a bus ride in 2003. A $60.00 Fast Pass represents nearly the same increase. And for twice the price we get less service year by year.

The increase in parking meter rates is welcome, but is far short of what is being proposed under SFPark. Why the wait if we need the money now?

The fare increases represent a $23,100,000 increase in costs to Muni riders, whereas the parking meter increases represent only $3 million in new revenue, according to SFMTA's own estimates.

And this giant, painful band-aid does absolutely nothing to prevent the same problem from coming back up in the next budget cycle. 2003's fare increases/service cuts didn't prevent 2005's fare increases/service cuts, and lo and behold here we find ourselves again.

As Tom Radulovich points out while wearing his Transit Justice Coalition hat,
The City Charter says this body, the MTA Board, shall diligently seek new sources of revenue for this agency -via Streetsblog SF
That does not mean turning over and over again to the fare box to make up for declining revenue and increasing costs elsewhere in the system. Charging Muni riders more for less service puts the system in a death spiral of declining ridership. Ms. Gordon's article fittingly quotes Greg Harper, Director of similarly-pressed AC Transit
I believe it's possible we could cut to such a point we could kill ourselves, kill AC Transit. -SF Chronicle
The Board of Supervisors has a chance to review the SFMTA budget, and if at least seven supes vote it down the agency must try again. BOS President David Chiu has already introduced legislation that would reject the proposed budget.

That is exactly what they should do, and the MTA board should create a new budget that includes new revenue streams that promote the Transit First language of our City Charter. If they don't we will continue to see Muni circle the drain.


Anonymous said...

The meter increases are NOT welcome. Scooter and motorcycle riders are having meters increased from $2.50 per day to $7 per day! That's 280%, $4.50 per day, or ~$1000 per rider per year! I ride myself and my girlfriend downtown daily. Why are scooter and motorcycle riders being disproportionately punished for SFMTA's shortfall? We are the solution to the problem. What other group is being asked to pay $1000 per year to SFMTA? No others are even close. GET ACTIVE PEOPLE AND WRITE TO SFMTA AND YOUR SUPERVISOR.

Pedestrianist said...

My reflexive response is to suggest that you take Muni instead of riding your motorcycle if you want to save money :-)

As for why motorcycle/scooter riders are being made to bear more of the costs, it's for the same reason Muni riders are getting a fare increase along with a service cut: you're not a politically important group.

These are the "tough decisions" our weak-willed representatives always make because they're not tough at all. Tough would be standing up to the Chamber of Commerce and implementing congestion pricing. Tough is not something we can expect without fighting for it.