Preston urges Muni to roll back proposed fare hikes

Supervisor Dean Preston introduced a resolution Tuesday to oppose Muni fare hikes in the transit agency’s proposed two-year budget, arguing...

Supervisor Dean Preston introduced a resolution Tuesday to oppose Muni fare hikes in the transit agency’s proposed two-year budget, arguing they would decrease ridership and overly burden riders.

The resolution calls on the Municipal Transportation Agency to “refrain from any Muni increases for the fiscal year 2021-2022 budget cycle.”

“The data on this is absolutely clear across the country. There is a 2018 UC report that hammers the point home that increasing fares decreases ridership,” Preston told the San Francisco Examiner. “We should be doing the opposite. We are in a climate crisis. We need people to be riding public transportation and this is absolutely not the time that we should be imposing a fare increase.”

Preston argued that net revenues from the fare hikes “is tiny” and he is “confident the agency can fund what they are proposing to fund in the budget without” the hikes.

The resolution comes as the agency is holding community budget hearings. The SFMTA board of directors will ultimately vote to approve a two-year budget in April, and the Board of Supervisors would hear the budget as part of The City’s budget proposal in June.

The agency uses a formula to increase fares that would be imposed unless the SFMTA votes to alter them. Muni is looking at raising the current adult single ride cash fare of $3 by 25 cents to $3.25 and the single fare paid by mobile phone or Clipper Card from $2.50 to $2.75.

Other proposed increases include raising the Muni monthly fast pass from $81 to $85.

According to the Jan. 28 agency workshop on the budget, transit fares will generate $201 million in the current fiscal year and $214 million in the next fiscal year with the fare hikes. The agency faces an operating budget deficit of $66 million next fiscal year that it needs to close. Transit fares represent 18 percent of the agency’s $1.2 billion in revenue next fiscal year.

The resolution notes that Muni fares have “doubled in the last 12 years, and the cost of a monthly Muni pass has risen by 80 percent during that time.” It also states that “the typical Muni rider pays nearly $1,000 each year for a monthly pass and parents/guardians pay more than $1,000 each year to travel on Muni with their children.”

Muni provides a free monthly pass for youth, seniors and people with disabilities in households with qualifying low and moderate incomes.

Preston’s anti-fare hike resolution is backed by groups like the South of Market Community Action Network.

“Working class folks in this city are struggling,” Angelica Cabande, SOMCAN’s organizational director, said in a statement. “Fare hikes are an unfair burden on transit riders, many of whom do not have access to or cannot afford alternative methods of transportation.”

The board is expected to hold a committee hearing on the resolution in the coming weeks.

Preston also remains committed to rolling back fares even further but is right now responding to the fare increases in the budget proposal, which was heard in a Jan. 28 agency workshop.

“We are in communication with community members and activists who are looking at ways to reduce fares,” Preston said. “But I don’t think that is going to come through the current budget process over the next couple of months. What we are at risk of in the MTA budget process is that they actually increase the fares.”

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