SF Examiner file photoMuni may consider service cuts to balance its budget.

SF Examiner file photoMuni may consider service cuts to balance its budget.

Muni chief says budget woes could yield service reductions

Faced with upcoming budget deficits that exceed $53 million, the head of Muni acknowledged Tuesday that possible transit service reductions are “an honest option on the table.”

Unless new revenue models are approved, such as extending parking meter enforcement to evenings and Sundays or eliminating discounts at downtown garages, the SFMTA will have to look at “right-sizing its service,” said director Ed Reiskin at the agency’s board of directors meeting on Tuesday.

Reiskin said that the agency cannot afford to fund crucial programs, such as bus maintenance and cleaning, while maintaining its current levels of service.

“I do not want to be the new guy to come in here and say we need to reduce service,” said Reiskin, who joined the agency last year. “But I do want to bring forward an honest budget. There are very few options for us now.”

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which operates Muni, is facing a $19.6 million budget deficit for the upcoming fiscal year, which starts on July 1. At $33.6 million, the following year’s deficit projection is even worse.

In 2010, much to the derision of Muni passengers, the agency reduced service by 10 percent, a development that helped save $30 million. The agency later restored more than half of those reductions.

Tom Nolan, president of the agency’s board of directors, which has ultimate say over the agency’s budget, called right-sizing the service a “laudable and important goal to have.”

“It seems like a really good option,” said Nolan. “You have to look at it as, this as opposed to what?”

The agency could increase revenues by $11.8 million annually by extending meter enforcement times into the evening — as late as midnight in some neighborhoods — and on Sundays.

That idea has gain some traction with agency board members, but Mayor Ed Lee has said he’s “not convinced that option is the right way to go.”

Other revenue options include charging a 25-cent transfer fee for cash-paying Muni passengers, and enforcing a long-dormant planning code that prohibits discounted rates at downtown parking garages. Collectively, those initiatives would raise $9.8 million annually.

The agency also plans on cutting projected expenditures by $78 million over the next two fiscal years.

The agency must approve a two-year balanced budget before the start of its next fiscal year, which begins on July 1. It will hold a series of town hall meetings next month to collect feedback on potential options. April 3 will be the first opportunity for the agency to approve a balanced two-year budget.


Possible Revenue Initiatives

Program and annual revenue

Extending parking meter enforcement hours into evening: $9 million

Extending meter enforcement to Sundays: $2.8 million

Charge 25-cent transfer for cash-paying Muni passengers: $3.8 million

Enforce downtown garage ordinance prohibiting discounts: $6 million

Expand downtown garage ordinance citywide: $5.2 million

Provide free Muni service for youth: ($4 million to $7.9 million cost)

Source: SFMTA

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