Monday, May 4, 2009

Fingers Crossed, BOS Just Might Reject MTA Budget

Sources in-the-know say it looks likely that the SF Board of Supervisors will find enough votes to reject the SFMTA's budget, which is badly flawed. This as Beyond Chron reiterates its opposition to the current budget and new-and-already-awesome blog adds its voice to team 'No.'

They should do just that and I'd like to encourage you to contact your supe of you haven't yet done so.

There are so many good reasons to reject this budget that have been put forth by so many sharp minds in the transit advocacy and progressive community:
  • Raising fares and cutting service hurts ridership
  • This budget balances the deficit on the backs of Muni's poorest users
  • In creating this budget, the SFMTA board has shown an inclination to avoid making drivers pay their fair share of road costs
  • This budget represents a sharp departure from the goals and promises of the much-touted TEP
The MTA board ought to know that any new budget they draft should avoid these mistakes. Instead they need to do their due diligence and define a level of service to which Muni should aspire, then agressivley persue funding to make that service a reality. Read this quote from a big-city mayor about another troubled organization called MTA:

As discussions for a permanent funding plan for the MTA continue, stop-gap measures that kick the big problems down the road must be rejected. For any plan to truly meet the needs of the metropolitan region’s people and our economy, it must include stable, reliable funding for capital projects. Our transportation infrastructure is aging, and expansion projects are absolutely critical to keep New York City and the surrounding counties moving forward. We must invest in the system, even during economically difficult times, or buses, railcars, stations, signals and tracks will fall into disrepair and commuters will suffer -- just as happened in the 1970s.

There is no painless option, but the issues will be no simpler a few months from now than they are today, which is why Albany must find a permanent stream of funding for capital projects -- not next fall, but right now. -Michael Bloomberg, Mayor of New York City

Replace '1970s' with '1990s' and 'Albany' with 'the SFMTA' and you have a statement I can get behind.

In much the same way that the economic nightmare in which we find ourselves needs a massive public investment to bring about a recovery, the Muni funding/service crisis we've been 'kicking down the road' will need a proper financial reimagining to ever be resolved.

Opponents of public transportation and their weak-willed accomplices are putting forward the line that these tough times require tough decisions. That these fare increases and service reductions are overdue, deserved, and have been waiting for this crisis for the political cover they need to finally get passed.

Well hell yes , these tough times do require tough decisions, but why is it that we're only asking Muni riders to make sacrifices. Why is nobody out there arguing that this funding crisis shows just how badly we need to 'make the tough decisions' and implement congestion pricing downtown? Let's ask for some real sacrifices from the Transit Last crowd and get some new revenue sources out of the well-off road users who have literally had a free ride this whole time.

The way we've had this argument has been like the frog in the pot of water on the stove. Each year we've allowed incremental reductions in our expectations of what resources Muni deserves from the city and what services the city deserves to expect from Muni. Since this marginalization has happened gradually we, like the frog, have barely noticed it - and we're getting cooked alive.

Our City Charter mandates that San Francisco make decisions with an eye toward being a transit first city. That means we need to increase transit ridership. That means we need to increase transit service. And that, if you follow, means we need to increase funding for transit.

Doing otherwise is merely kicking the problem further down the road.

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