Proposition B is a common-sense measure to improve our transportation system by tying funding to population growth. As more people move to San Francisco and start using Muni, we must spend more money on Muni. Prop. B will make that happen.
The San Francisco Democratic Party, the Sierra Club, the League of Conservation Voters, Walk San Francisco, the San Francisco Transit Riders Union and many more groups agree that Prop. B will make Muni more reliable and our streets safer.
Since 2003, San Francisco has grown by 10 percent — 85,000 people — and Muni service has not kept up. Muni is overcrowded and unreliable. Buses and trains break down too often and don't run frequently enough. One big reason is that Muni has $2.2 billion in deferred maintenance, and that number will grow unless we bring the fleet to a state of good repair. Prop. B will help close that funding gap so that we can begin to address some of our deferred maintenance.
By 2040, an additional 150,000 people are projected to call San Francisco home. Prop. B will help Muni's budget to reflect this growth in City's population, by adjusting the formula that pays for Muni service.
As our city grows, we need to be sure we are providing service to all areas of our city. Recently, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency began an expanded effort to assess whether services were being equitably provided to transit dependent communities. Prop. B will provide resources that could address any deficiencies.
And while Muni has gotten more crowded, our congested streets have gotten more dangerous, particularly for pedestrians. We've had too many pedestrian injuries and fatalities. Twenty-five percent of the funds realized by Prop. B will go to pay for projects to improve street safety for all users, and will help San Francisco achieve its goal of Vision Zero — the elimination of traffic fatalities in 10 years.
Some have criticized this measure by claiming it will lead to budget cuts. However, the numbers don't bear this out. Prop. B, if passed by voters in November will direct about $22 million in additional city tax revenues to Muni and traffic-safety projects to account for the population growth since 2003. That is only a tiny half of 1 percent of The City's general-fund budget.
Furthermore, even that tiny fraction of a percentage would likely be paid for by the population growth itself: The approval process for most larger residential projects examines the direct costs imposed by new projects and compares them to the revenues they will generate for The City. Projects are not approved until a positive balance is demonstrated — and typically this positive balance will underwrite the funds Prop. B will send to the SFMTA. Thus, the idea that Prop. B will lead to budget cuts just isn't the case.
Speaking of possible cuts, Prop. B is vital to ensure we don't cut planned transit and safety improvements. The SFMTA budget has an assumed $30 million line item in fiscal year 2015-16, which was supposed to be funded by other revenue sources.
However, those revenue sources have since been removed from consideration. Passage of Prop. B will help address that shortfall. It will help keep new-vehicle procurements and a proposed 2015-16 service increase on track.
Prop. B also complements Proposition A, the transportation bond. Prop. A bond funding can only pay for long-term, major capital improvements. Prop. B, on the other hand, will pay for short-term operational costs that cannot be financed by general obligation bonds: new vehicles, fleet maintenance and repair, improved service frequency and capacity. Thus, these two work hand in hand.
In the end, Prop. B is one of the only ways for voters to weigh in on whether we want to see more funding to improve transportation. Voters don't get to make budget choices like the mayor and the Board of Supervisors.
If we want to direct funding to make Muni run better, this is our chance.
Thea Selby chairs the San Francisco Transit Riders Union and Peter Straus serves on its board; John Rizzo is the political chairman of the San Francisco Bay Chapter of the Sierra Club; Amandeep Jawa is president of the San Francisco League of Conservation Voters.