Muni fares will not increase after all.
Supervisors Aaron Peskin and Dean Preston joined transit officials and labor leaders Wednesday to announce they reached an agreement with the transit agency to not increase fares over the next two years.
The reversal comes after months of tension between the Board of Supervisors and the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, whose board of directors appoved fare hikes as part of its two-year budget.
The board had voted 10-to-1 on a resolution introduced by Preston calling on SFMTA not to increase fares. But the SFMTA board defied the board’s wishes, along with the desires of a host of community groups.
Tensions only increased from there, with the Board of Supervisors rejecting a mayoral reappointment of a board of director member in retaliation for approving the fare hikes. Peskin then introduced a charter amendment for the November ballot that would grant the Board of Supervisors the power over the agency’s setting of fares.
But after months of discussions, the Board of Supervisors and the SFMTA have reached an agreement.
Peskin has agreed to no longer bring the charter amendment before voters and the agency has agreed to not raise Muni fares for the next two fiscal years.
There is also a commitment to “work together on a new revenue measure that will help the agency avoid major service cuts, particularly in transit-dependent communities,” according to the announcement.
“Every day I’m fielding calls from frantic constituents who are struggling financially during COVID-19,” Peskin said in a statement. “My colleagues and I are committed to working with SFMTA to identify revenue to make the investments we need to keep Muni running, but they must be rooted in equity and performance standards.”
He added, “And when elected leaders establish policies reflecting these constituent needs, city departments should take them seriously, so we don’t have to go to the ballot to get transit justice and accountability.”
Supervisor Dean Preston said, “We will work together on new revenue measures that will allow us to avoid fare increases, maintain and improve service and protect our operators.” He also said, “We have said all along that we are not going to sit by quietly and let fares be hiked on Muni riders, especially amidst a pandemic.”
Gwyneth Borden, chair of the SFMTA Board of Directors, said in a statement that “to provide some economic relief, the SFMTA will not be raising fares, and looks forward to working with the Board of Supervisors on new funding solutions.”
The union representing Muni operators also came out against fare increases.
“Our 2,500 union members cannot support raising fares during a worldwide pandemic,” Roger Marenco, president of Transport Workers Union Local 250-A, said in a statement. “Increasing fares does not directly correlate with improvements for transit service, and operator layoffs shouldn’t be used as an excuse to justify fare increases.”
He added, “If we want to preserve both jobs and transit service, we should start by cutting at the top — not by increasing fares at the bottom.”
The agreement was praised by groups who opposed the fare hikes.
“Any fare hikes would have put an unfair burden on transit riders, many of whom do not have access to or cannot afford alternative methods of transportation,” said Angelica Cabande, of the South of Market Community Action Network. “I am thankful that our city leadership listened to the opposition and came to an agreement to protect our vulnerable riders.”
The fare increases would have started to go into effect at the earliest in November.
The agency had approved a budget with cash fares remaining at $3 for the next two years, but single rides paid for on Clipper cards would have increased from $2.50 per ride to $2.80 and to $2.90 in mid-2021.
Then, adult monthly passes that include BART rides within San Francisco would have increased from $98 to $103 and $106 in mid-2021. Adult monthly passes without BART access would have increased from $81 to $86 later this year, and $88 in mid-2021.
About 20 percent of the agency’s operating budget comes from fares.
“Muni has a substantial and growing structural deficit, but we agree now is not the time to raise fares,” SFMTA Director Jeffrey Tumlin said in a statement.“We look forward to partnering with the Board of Supervisors to find sustainable sources of revenue needed to deliver the Muni service San Franciscans need.”