Thursday, February 25, 2010

SFMTA Doomsday

Well, tomorrow's the big day. The SFMTA Board of Directors is scheduled to vote on the package of service cuts and fare hikes that the MTA staff recommended in late January. According to the agenda, the directors will vote on whether to:
  • Require the Premium Fast Pass to ride express buses and cable cars
  • Reduce service by 10% across the board by by reducing the frequency of buses along some lines as well as shortening operating hours
  • Raise the fares for seniors, disabled and youth passes to $30/month, triple what it was just 6 months
Streetsblog is reporting that the third item above, the price increase for Senior/Disabled/Youth Fast Passes is off the table, but it will still be formally considered by the Board tomorrow.

And even without this latest fare increase, the cost of those Fast Passes will still go up by $5.00 in May as part of the last round of fare hikes (remember those? The ones that brought the Adult pass to $55.00 last July followed by the $60-M/$70-A pass split just under two months ago?) And all of this is to bridge a $16.9 million budget gap predicted between now and June 30th. On July 1st the new fiscal year will begin with an estimated $100 million hole. Make no mistake about it, what happens tomorrow is the tip of a very large iceberg.

For anyone who enjoys the mobility that Muni provides, or who cares about public transit or the state of government, this is really freaking depressing. And the insistence of the MTA Board to make up the budget deficit almost entirely on the backs of Muni riders is absolutely infuriating. The Board is obligated under the City Charter (SF's Constitution and the very same piece of paper that gives the mayor his executive power - in other words a seriously binding document) to diligently seek out new revenue sources for Muni. They have refused to do that because the Board members are appointed by the mayor and so feel they ought to carry his water.

It's no wonder to me, after the pay-more-for-less of the last year, that the prospect of further cuts is making ordinary Muni riders really pissed off. A couple have started a Facebook group with the counterproductive purpose of boycotting Muni, but I don't think that's a good idea and neither do a lot of other people. And the ANSWER coalition is planning to hold a protest on the Polk Street steps of City Hall during the MTA's meeting tomorrow. But one of the things they're protesting is higher parking prices and extended meter hours, so I don't think their chorus is the right one to lend your voice to.

Some veteran transportation advocates are banding together to put up a stronger fight on behalf of Muni riders. Dave Snyder, whose work helped build the Bicycle Coalition into a major political force, has started something of a bus riders' union, which you can join at Transit Not Traffic, a coalition of like-minded groups that banded together to defeat Donald Fisher's Prop H and pass Prop A in 2007, is also organizing riders to speak out at the MTA meeting tomorrow. They'll have peeps at Civic Center Plaza tomorrow - directly across from City Hall - to get stickers, collect signatures for petitions, and pass out fliers articulating the opposition to the recommended service cuts.

And they're encouraging people to go inside City Hall, up the grand staircase, and into Room 400 to tell the Directors what they think. The meeting starts at 9am and there will hopefully be a lot of people in line to comment, so be sure to get a seat and a speaker card if you have something to say.

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