Passengers board an N-Judah Muni bus at Fifth and Market streets. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Passengers board an N-Judah Muni bus at Fifth and Market streets. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Chamber of Commerce urges supes to give SFMTA the money it needs in next budget cycle

Letter calls on the board to make ‘tough decisions’ necessary to keep Muni running

The San Francisco Chamber of Commerce formally urged the Board of Supervisors to give The City’s transit agency the resources it needs to survive the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, even if it means deprioritizing other city programs.

Rodney Fong, CEO and President of the chamber, wrote a letter Friday calling on the Board of Supervisors to prioritize the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency in the upcoming budget cycle by “responsibly allocating the tax revenues available” or risk service and staff cuts that would threaten recovery of the entire local economy.

“Public transportation itself is an essential service of any progressive city, and as such is crucial to San Francisco’s goals,” Fong wrote. This essential need must be reflected in our city budget, and its integrity prioritized before expansion or introduction of other city programs.”

SFMTA’s failure would have grave fallout for the entirety of San Francisco, the letter asserts.

Without public transportation, essential workers can’t reach their jobs. All businesses, but especially those owned by people-of-color, could fail and basic needs could not be met, the letter says.

On behalf of the Chamber of Commerce membership, Fong called on the supervisors to make the “tough decisions” needed to “allocate funds in the 2021 budget for continued operations of the SFMTA” and protect the “vital piece of infrastructure” that is Muni.

SFMTA faces an estimated $68 million deficit this fiscal year and a projected $168 million deficit in the next, largely due to plummeting ridership. It’s already had to cut Muni service by more than 30 percent, and it’s now considering the possibility of laying off as much as 22 percent of the agency’s workforce in order to balance the budget.

The chamber did not provide specifics for how much money it thinks the board should allocate or where the money should come from, but it did say that relying on federal aid is not a safe strategy.

“While federal aid may be on its way, is not clear when or to what extent and perhaps not in time to rescue our public transportation system,” the letter read.

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