It certainly looks as if the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency and Muni are eager to step on the gas for big increases in fares and fees. But they stubbornly resist easing up on the brakes when it comes to stopping the waste of millions of our public dollars in the following categories:
- Suspect work orders — invoices billed from other city agencies for services that are allegedly the fiscal responsibility of the SFMTA.
- Swollen overtime — the SFMTA is on pace to nearly double its allotted budget for extra pay.
- Consistent cost overruns — an independent audit found that completion delays have pushed the SFMTA $90 million over budget on its pending capital projects.
- Counterproductive work rules — the entrenched heritage of decades of politically influenced sweetheart union contracts.
Instead of making a serious attempt to lower its two-year deficit of $80 million by plugging any of these budget drains, the SFMTA is proposing yet another barrage of price increases — many of which were previously floated and rejected.
Raising the single-ride basic Muni fare has proven politically explosive whenever attempted, so this highly visible price will stay at $2. The most successful stealth price boosts recently have concentrated on the monthly pass, which now runs exclusively on the multi-agency, all-electronic Clipper card.
Before July 1, 2009, Muni’s monthly pass cost $45 and included BART service within The City. Next July 1, that same pass will cost $74 — a 64 percent increase over three years. Meanwhile, in the last two years, the cost of discounted passes for The City’s youth and elderly has more than doubled — from $10 to $21 with another $1 hike scheduled for July 1.
In 2010, the SFMTA board of directors, which governs Muni, approved a program to increase monthly fares annually based on inflation levels. The policy was pitched to the public as a way to give riders consistent expectations for moderate fare increases instead of big, controversial jumps. But in view of those ballooning costs, the promise of moderate increases seems to be a passing fancy of an agency incapable of sorting out its budget.
It has been well-documented in the last five years that a continued loss of ridership will be detrimental to Muni’s bottom line. Pricing consistent commuters off the transit system will cost Muni money, riders and even more of its already tattered reputation.