Muni service cuts moving forward

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Muni will go through with plans for massive service reductions on May 8, after the agency’s governing body narrowly approved a set of budget-balancing measures for the next two fiscal years at its meeting Tuesday.

In a move that will save about $29 million annually, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which operates Muni, will reduce operating schedules by 10 percent next month — a move that will increase wait times for passengers and result in more-crowded transit vehicles.

Although the 10 percent service reduction was first approved in February, many transit advocates had hoped the SFMTA board would rescind the plan, particularly since the agency unexpectedly received $67 million in state funding for the next two fiscal years.

However, the SFMTA board, by a vote of 4-3, opted to go through with the service reductions, with a plan to restore half of the cuts by 2011. Board members Bruce Oka, Shirley Black and James McCray voted against the budget proposal, which balances the agency’s finances for the next two fiscal years.

Along with service reductions, the budget proposal includes plans to add 1,000 new parking meters, increase Fast Pass fares annually based on inflation (starting in 2011) and eliminate many free parking perks for public employees.

The service reduction proposal was the most controversial of the measures, with many members of the newly formed San Francisco Transit Riders Union attending the meeting to protest the changes. The union members said that the service changes would particularly affect the low-income and minority communities in the Mission district and Chinatown, where transit vehicles are often overcrowded and unreliable.

Dave Snyder, founder of the Transit Riders Union, said that instead of cutting service, the SFMTA should reduce its work-order payments (reimbursements to other city agencies) and look into extending enforcement on its parking meters to Sundays and evenings.

SFMTA Executive Director Nat Ford defended the service-reduction proposal, saying the agency has lost nearly $300 million in state and local funding over the last three years for operations. He also noted that 90 percent of the transit agencies in the country have reduced service.

“We did everything we could to avoid this day, but this day is here,” Ford said.

The final SFMTA budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1 is set at $749.5 million. It will grow to $768.8 million the following year.

wreisman@sfexaminer.com

 

SFMTA’s budget

Projected annual savings on big-ticket items:

$28.4 million: 10 percent service reduction*

$10 million: Labor concessions**

$6.5 million: Payments to other city departments

$3.5 million: Inflation-based fare increases***

$2.8 million: Elimination of free employee parking

* Service will be restored by 5 percent in 2011

** Still in negotiations

*** Starting in 2011

Source: SFMTA

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