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Montgomery Station sales booth Muni's latest budget casualty

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The closure of a San Francisco Municipal Railways downtown sales booth this Wednesday is another casualty of the agency's budget difficulties that include a $16.9 million deficit this year, and estimated deficits of about $100 million for each of the next two fiscal years.

Faced with a $129 million deficit last spring, Muni introduced higher fares and service cuts. The agency eliminated about 250 positions, including 100 employee layoffs, in November.

Some of the layoffs included sales booth operators, and on Wednesday night, Muni will close the sales booth at the downtown Montgomery station, one of the busiest stations.

Muni has deployed staff to the station during commute times to alert customers about the closing and direct them to alternate sales locations.

The agency is also encouraging passengers to switch to Translink cards, which can be used on BART, AC Transit, Caltrain, Dumbarton Express, Golden Gate Transit and Ferry, and all Muni vehicles except cable cars.

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According to Muni spokeswoman Kristen Holland, in addition to resolving the $16.9 million shortfall, the agency must balance its budget for the next two fiscal years by May 1. It has a projected deficit of $102.7 million for the next fiscal year, and a $96.3 million deficit for the following fiscal year.

Proposed solutions include reduced frequency of service and shorter service hours, as well as further fare increases and parking fee and fine increases.

Muni has scheduled public meetings to solicit comment on proposed changes for the 2010-11 fiscal year on Feb. 6 at 10 a.m. and Feb. 9 at 6 p.m., and for the 2011-12 fiscal year on March 10 at 6 p.m. and March 20 at 10 a.m.

The meetings will be held at 1 S. Van Ness Ave. in the second floor atrium.

SFMTA board meetings at City Hall on Feb. 16 at 9 a.m. and on March 30, April 6 and April 20 at 2 p.m. will also include public hearings and possible board action.

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