Activists eager to put brakes on Muni hikes 

Before July 1, 2009, Muni’s monthly Fast Pass cost $45, and that plan included service on BART within city limits.

Next summer, that same pass, now in the form of the multiagency Clipper card, will cost $74 — amounting to a 64 percent increase in the fare over a three-year period.

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With the economy still struggling, some transit activists are saying that Muni’s persistent fare increases are pricing passengers out of the public transportation system.

“At a time when people need to use Muni because the economy is forcing them out of their cars, the agency is driving them away with its fare increases,” said Greg Dewar, a transit advocate who writes The N-Judah Chronicles, a blog.

In 2010, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s board of directors, which governs Muni, approved a program to increase fares annually based on inflation. The program was hailed as a way to give riders consistent expectations for moderate fare increases while the agency sought to balance its structural budget deficit.

While new SFMTA Executive Director Ed Reiskin has said that the riding public has little appetite for increased transit costs, there was no talk from the agency’s board about halting the fare-hike program during its latest round of budget talks, which kicked off this month.

The SFMTA is facing a two-year budget deficit of $80 million, and Reiskin has said its current funding models cannot sustain the transit service it provides.

Supervisor David Campos said the agency could balance its budget without continuing to rely on fare increases. He said the agency could cut down on its work orders — bills from other city agencies for services provided. Chopping overtime — the SFMTA is on pace to nearly double its allotted budget for extra pay — and finding efficiencies in its capital projects are other areas where the SFMTA could find extra cash, Campos said.

“Given the state of affairs at Muni, fare increases should be the last thing they should be talking about,” Campos said.

Recent fare increases have been particularly painful for The City’s youth and elderly. In the past two years, the cost of discounted Fast Passes for those groups has more than doubled — from $10 to $21 — and another $1 hike is set for July.

One fare that won’t be going up: The cost of a single ride, which will remain $2.

The SFMTA’s board of directors has indicated a willingness to extend parking meter hours as a way to balance its budget, a move long advocated by transit activists.

wreisman@sfexaminer.com

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Will Reisman

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