Muni looks at ways to offset looming shortfall

Muni’s board of directors left open the possibility for a series of fare, fee and fine increases to reconcile a budget deficit that is projected at nearly $82 million over the next two years, although the idea of raising monthly Fast Pass prices was greeted with negative reactions.

San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency officials are posing an increase to the 30-day Fast Pass from its current price of $45 to $52 for 2009 and $60 by 2010. The increase that would net the SFMTA $18 million to $22 million over the next two years, according to the Chief Financial Officer Sonali Bose, who presented the department’s budget projections at Tuesday’s board meeting.

Sentiment among the seven board members was that Muni would have to improve its on-time performance — currently hovering at 69 percent, below the 85 percent benchmark set by voters in 1999 — before asking riders to pay a fare increase.

“We have to earn the confidence of the people before we start asking for more money,” board Vice Chairman Tom Nolan said.

SFMTA officials are still considering raising parking infractions with fines that are currently under $100 by an additional $10. The department expects it could gather $11.5 million to $12.5 million over two years from the augmented citations.

Another possibility is boosting the price of residential parking permits, an annual fee that costs San Francisco residents $60, but would be bumped up to $74 by 2009 and $76 by 2010. The raise would generate $2.03 million over two years.

SFMTA officials have justified its Fast Pass price-hike proposal by comparing its 30-day prices to neighboring agencies such as Oakland’s AC Transit and Santa Clara County’s Valley Transportation Authority, both of which charge $70 for the same period of time.

Dave Snyder, transportation director for the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association disagreed, saying Muni “has to have it own funding guidelines.”

The SFMTA has a budget set at $771.9 million for the upcoming fiscal year, with $787.2 million projected in expenditures, resulting in a shortfall of $15.3 million. For the 2009-10 fiscal year, the department is projecting a $754.6 million budget, with expenditures expected to run $820.8 million, a $66.2 million shortfall. Collectively, the two-year shortfall would total $81.5 million.

According to Bose, the SFMTA will come back to the next board of directors meeting April 1 with a balanced budget. The board will get a chance to approve the budget April 15, before the final version is presented to the Mayor’s Office by May 1.

wreisman@examiner.com

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