Parking meters, citations may drive Muni budget

Enforcing parking meters on Sunday, raising ticket citations by $3 and increasing single-ride fares by 25 cents are some of the ideas being considered by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency to help make up its two-year budget deficit of $79.7 million.

The SFMTA, which operates Muni, released its budget projections for the next two fiscal years Thursday. Like years past, the agency is considering balancing its budget by passing on higher costs to its customers.

First broached in 2010, SFMTA is again looking at enforcing parking meters on Sundays. It is also considering extending existing parking-meter hours — in some neighborhoods as late as midnight — while adding an additional 500 to 1,000 new meters to city streets. Collectively, those three proposals would add $12.8 million annually to the budget.

Along with changes to its meters, the SFMTA could impose increased costs in parking garages. The agency is pondering enforcing a dormant city policy that prohibits any sort of discounted parking rates in downtown garages,  such as early bird and monthly specials. It is also examining the possibility of extending this policy from the downtown core to the rest of The City.

Jim Lazarus, public policy director for San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, said that enforcing Sunday meters might be good for businesses in some areas of The City. However, he said that enforcing the garage parking ordinance would be “hugely disruptive to the business community.”

Motorists aren’t the only residents who could feel the pain of the agency’s budget woes. The cost of a single-trip fare could increase from $2 to $2.25, and passengers who pay in cash could get hit with another 25 cents every time they transfer to another line. Those two programs are projected to generate an extra $5.7 million for the agency.

The agency also wants to crack down on work orders — bills paid to other city agencies for service rendered — while improving operators’ absenteeism.

The SFMTA is not making specific recommendations on any of the ideas until it meets with business and community leaders, said the agency’s new director, Ed Reiskin.

Reiskin conceded that there isn’t a “single thing on this list that anyone is going to really like,” but he said that early outreach could prevent some of the outrage directed at the agency in the past.

“Rather than us just throwing stuff out, as has been done in the past, I’d like to bring folks in first,” said Reiskin. “We can tell them: Here’s the transportation system we have, here’s what it costs, how do you all think we can fund it?”

On Monday, the SFMTA’s board of directors will discuss the agency’s budget shortfall. Ultimately, the seven-person body will decide which policies the SFMTA should pursue to make up its deficit.

Tom Nolan, chair of the board, said that the agency should pursue the extended meter hours and Sunday parking plans, but drop any idea of charging transit passengers for transfers.

Reiskin said the agency might have to consider adjusting its service levels in the future if it wants to avoid continual deficits.

“We’re not funding the system at the level we need to for the service we’re providing,” said Reiskin. “We need to start thinking about whether to right-size the service, or find a more sustainable revenue model.”


Hiking prices to pay down debt

Below are a number of ideas being floated by the SFMTA to make up for the budget deficit.

Revenue-generating ideas Annual revenue
Increase parking citations by $3 $3.0 million
Extend parking meter hours $9.0 million
Charge for parking on Sundays $2.8 million
Add 500–1,000 new meters $1.0 million
Enforce existing downtown parking garage ordinance $6.0 million
Extend downtown garage ordinance to entire city $5.2 million
Charge 25-cent fee for Muni paper transfers $3.8 million
Increase Muni cash single fare by 25 cents $1.9 million


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