Pay more fees, get more hassle

Once again San Francisco officials are scrambling over each other in a frenzy to reach deeper into the public’s pockets. Desperate to maintain their addiction for spending more money thanThe City obtains each year, local politicians are attempting to balance the upcoming $338 million deficit by looking for fees that can be raised — or for the few remaining free amenities that could have fees slapped on them.

Yet what is being offered to San Francisco consumers in exchange for these new or increased fees is less service plus more quality-of-life inconveniences.

Anyone in the Bay Area with the temerity to attempt bringing a vehicle into San Francisco would surely agree that the near-extinction of free street parking is one of The City’s most stressful aspects. Garage-less San Franciscans unwilling to stop going out in the evening can routinely expect to pay a de facto tax of several hundred dollars for parking tickets each year; not to mention those maddening hourlong drives around the neighborhood at midnight in search of a rare legal parking space.

So now the Recreation and Park Commission is pushing a plan to install parking meters in eastern Golden Gate Park and the Marina Green, eliminating one of The City’s last outposts of relatively convenient street parking. This has been a repeatedly defeated and intrusive idea, and residents of the Sunset and Richmond districts can be expected to shout it down once again.

A Recreation and Park commissioner tried to sell the meter proposal on the basis that commuters should pay fairly for free all-day parking in Golden Gate and the Marina Green. But how would these “freeloading” commuters get to their downtown jobs if not by riding Muni buses from the parks — thus contributing much-needed fares to help reduce the Municipal Transportation Agency’s pending $81.5 million two-year shortfall.

The MTA board of directors is looking at possibly increasing various fares, fees and fines — even though Muni officials’ first idea of raising monthly Fast Pass prices by one-third was greeted with loud boos, and even though city voters already gave Muni an extra $30 million a year in November. Still on the table are a possible $10 raise in parking fines under $90 and boosting the residential parking permit annual fee from $60 to $74 by 2010.

But happily, so far the Muni board majority wants on-time performance considerably improved before bus riders are asked to pay a fare increase. On-time arrivals have been stuck at about 69 percent, not particularly close to the 85 percent benchmark set by voters in 1999. Insisting that service improvements be achieved before taxpayers are dunned for higher payments is a refreshingly original attitude in San Francisco politics, and The Examiner would like to see a lot more of it.

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