Prop. A, five years later: The second part in a two-part series explores where funding from Proposition A has gone since voters passed the initiative in 2007. It was intended to give the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency more control over revenue from parking meters and off-street lots to put toward the Transit Effectiveness Project. It appears that money has been put toward other uses.
From aging equipment to a lack of qualified bus drivers, problems with Muni are well-known to the hundreds of thousands of passengers who use the service daily. That’s why many residents would probably question how spending $130,000 a year on a plumber helps fix the transit system’s entrenched issues.
The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which manages Muni, is projected to collect
$31 million in revenue this fiscal year from Proposition A, a ballot measure passed in 2007. Prop. A gives the agency more control over revenue collected from parking lots and meters, and the money is supposed to go directly toward the Transit Effectiveness Project, a long-awaited plan to improve Muni service.
However, funds have been directed to areas that seemingly have ambiguous links to transit service, according to records obtained by The San Francisco Examiner.
Of the $31 million taken in this year, $134,536 will be used to pay for a plumber. Another $91,478 will be spent on a gardener. Five custodians will take in a projected $397,764 combined this fiscal year. A secretary will receive $93,155. And six general laborers will take in a total of $533,100.
Overall, the funds will pay for 217 transit agency employees at a cost of $23 million. Along with funding these positions, Prop. A revenue will go toward a new dump truck and 50 Go-4 Interceptors, the small vehicles used by parking control officers.
Paul Rose, a spokesman for the transit agency, defended the expenditure plan.
“As part of the [Transit Effectiveness Project] effort, and based on comparative surveys with other systems, various frontline positions were identified as needed for Muni’s service level, including plumbers, gardeners and general laborers,” Rose said.
However, former Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin, who advocated for Prop. A in 2007, said the funds are being misspent.
“We gave the SFMTA and its commission unparalleled authority and took away oversight from the Board of Supervisors,” Peskin said. “But it has been a failure because the SFMTA has simply not used the money properly. I think it’s time to put oversight of the funds back into the elected officials who represent Muni riders.”
Quentin Kopp, a retired Superior Court judge and also a former board president, called the expenditures an expropriation of taxpayer funds.
“These are parochial and nonintended uses,” Kopp said. “The intent of this initiative was clearly not to pay for gardeners and plumbers.”
The Transit Effectiveness Project study, completed in 2008, was the first extensive report on Muni service in more than a generation. The report recommends increased service on the busiest lines and identifies other efficiencies within San Francisco’s transit network.
The transit agency is expected to place a general obligation bond on the November 2014 ballot that would provide the Transit Effectiveness Project with $120 million, although that cash influx would not fully fund the project.