MTA Board Approves Budget But Caves on Stronger Parking Enforcement

3489709659_ae7923e265_1.jpgMTA Directors James McCray, Chair Tom Nolan and Shirley Breyer Black. Photo by Michael Rhodes.

Despite the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s daunting
deficit — $128.9 million – members of the MTA Board of Directors
voted six to one yesterday for a surprise
amendment to the budget to eliminate a proposed extension of parking
meter enforcement on Sundays and from 6 to 10 pm on weekdays.

Revenues, instead, will be made up through the renegotiation of
work orders with the San Francisco Police and other departments,
and through a proposed $3 courthouse processing fee
for parking and Muni citations.  While directors also voted to extend
the hours of operation of community buses such as the 36 Teresita and
the 17, serving many San Francisco State University students, to 11 pm,
proposals to raise Muni fares and cut  service
remained unchanged.

Directors approved the overall budget
which includes increases in one-time Muni fares from $1.50 to $2 on
July 1, adult Fast Passes from $45 to $55 on July 1 and to $60 on
January 1, 2010, and Paratransit fares from $1.65 to $2.  Parking meter
fees will also go up 50 cents in all zones, as will parking rates in
city-owned garages.  Muni service cuts – such as increases in head time
from 10 to 12 minutes on the 31-Balboa and the elimination of the
26-Valencia and the 21-Hayes west of Stanyan – will also go
into effect.

The proposed $778.8 million budget now goes to the San Francisco
Board of Supervisors, which can only vote it up or down.  Seven
supervisors are required to vote it down. Board President David Chiu has introduced a motion that would allow supervisors to reject the budget, which he has expressed deep concerns about.

“In making the rounds
with some of the supervisors, it became very clear that [parking
enforcement on Sundays] was very important to them,” said Tom Nolan,
the chair of the MTA Board of Directors, who proposed the parking
enforcement amendment.  In particular, “Supervisor [Carmen] Chu didn’t like
the idea of enforcing parking in merchant corridors out in the avenues
next to residential areas.”  He added that the Mayor’s office was also
in support of eliminating Sunday and evening enforcement.

“There was budget room to vote for [the amendment],” said Director
Malcolm Heinicke after the meeting.  “I remain interested in it as a
revenue source…but we didn’t have a gun to our heads.  I want to err
on the side of more process and hear from more merchants.”

The directors declared a fiscal emergency April 7,
allowing the MTA to waive all California Environmental Quality Act
reviews, but perhaps because the proposal to eliminate plans to charge
for parking at meters on Sundays was a surprise, Muni riders were not
organized to oppose the amendment.  However, in conversation during a
break in the meeting, members of the public spoke.

“That’s not fair,” said Muni rider Patty Sweet.  “[If] people
choose to take their car instead of the bus, get the money from them.”

“We
just lost a $9 million opportunity to restore service, “ said Paul
Hogarth of the Tenderloin Housing Clinic.  “Those of us who have been
fighting for transit justice have always been told, ‘We’re in a budget
crisis.’  It’s really insulting to see [the directors] turn around and
reject this proposal while raising fares at the same time.”

Director James McCray, Jr. voted against the proposed amendments
and the overall budget.  Expressing concern for 53-Southern Heights
riders in Potrero Hill and 26-Valencia riders, McCray called his vote a
protest vote, adding, “It’s difficult for me to decrease service and
increase costs.”

The budget will now be considered at the Board of Supervisors Budget and Finance Committee on May 6 at 1:30 p.m.

  • As the Mayor-appointed MTA board clearly has shown an inability or unwillingness to consider new, more stable sources of income, and instead has started the “death spiral” of cuts that will never be restored along with fare increases that will be permanent, it’s time for folks to lobby the Supervisors to reject the entire MTA budget and force them to make better choices.

    When I hear about people not bothering to show up to work who get paid, about bloated management, and a system that’s not even recovering money it’s owed (tickets, meters, fares) it’s a bit much to see them use the TEP to wreck the system, then jack up the price.

    Veto. Yes we can!

  • Anyone really surprised that Newsome’s folks would be for increasing fares while not also increasing parking fees?

    This is robbing the poor to help make life easier on the rich. Plain and simple. Transit first city, give me a break.

    I’m glad that David Chiu represents my district. I know he will do his best.

  • DaveO

    “Anyone really surprised that Newsome’s folks would be for increasing fares while not also increasing parking fees?”

    What are you talking about? They raised parking fees.

  • I misspoke, I meant to say they didn’t increase the hours of enforcement.

    It is still a sad state of affairs when transit takes a double hit.

  • DaveO

    Well, they didn’t start charging for transfers either. Neither parking nor transit advocates got all of what they want. I’m at least happy that the translit lines eliminated are essentially the ones targeted for elimination during the TEP.

  • And you all want to build political support to allow this kind of governance which disproportionately hits transit over parking to adjust stop spacing?

    Let’s hope this budget is odoriferous enough that we can count to seven over at the Board of Supervisors.

    -marc

  • Marcos, explain how we are building political support for this? I’m completely against it.

    I also hope that David Chiu can rally six more to defeat it.

  • @mikesonn, the group think meme that reducing bus stops is a valid way to close the budget deficit is being hyped in this forum and others. If political support is built behind that, the MTA Board will feel empowered to bring the same values and principles to bear in reconfiguring stops along lines as they have brought to the priorities expressed in this budget.

    Stop consolidation will be difficult enough if done in a sane and rational manner. Done by this MTA Board under Gavin Newsom, it will end up as brutal as this budget is.

    -marc

  • DaveO

    @marcos Proponents of stop consolidation support it because it is a way of improving service for the vast majority of riders. That this may additionally result in cost savings is a secondary, ancillary benefit that may be a way of persuading the powers-that-be to actually follow through on this service improvement project.

  • @DaveO, I under stand why proponents support it, but realize that the MTA is under no obligation to do things the way you want, for the reasons you want them to.

    If you give them political cover to take action, and then they take that cover to do the predictably wrong thing, then you all will own responsibility for that.

    If you trust the MTA to act correctly when so empowered, then proceed eyes wide open.

    -marc

  • The point of the TEP was to cut some lines, but also ADD service to other lines to be more efficient and pick up the slack. Doing the former without doing the latter is typical half-assed management, an almost sacred tenet in San Francisco.

  • Nick

    Does anyone know how many of the 7 directors generally side with transit over traffic? Leah used to serve on that board and it was great knowing there was at least one dedicated advocate there for cyclists and transit riders.

    I know Streetsblog wasn’t around back then, but why excatly did the mayor remove her from that position? It didn’t make much sense.

  • Shahum was prohibited by the City Attorney from voting on anything having to do with bicycle policy as it was deemed to benefit her financially by augmenting the SFBC’s revenues.

    Little did the CA know that inaction on bike policy earned the SFBC double the members than they’d had before stasis set in.

    The Mayor is not able, under Section 8A of the Charter to remove an MTA director other than for cause. The Mayor requested resignations from all commissioners prior to his second term, and the decision of MTA directors, Planning Commissioners and members of the Board of Appeals to accede to the Mayor’s requests were all their own.

    Shahum’s actions in accepting the City Attorney’s gag order on bike policy at the MTA and her resignation from a protected seat at the Mayor’s behest speak better than anything to the values and principles she brings to participation and obliterates even the facade of status of the MTA as an independent agency.

    Do I need to bring up again the fact that the SFBC received just under $500K in grant dollars from the MTA associated with the 2002 Bicycle Plan Update and the consequent conflicts of interest and resulting endangering of cyclists for 5 years that had led to?

    -marc

  • DaveO

    @marcos Well definitions of the “right” or “wrong” thing are in the eye of the beholder. For example, I consider the MTA’s decision not to charge for transfers and instead raise fares at parking meters as the “right” thing to do, but I can see why others might disagree with that.

  • @DaveO, political power grows when people of like mind organize to exert political pressure. Most of us organize along the principles that transit should trump traffic, and many of us also come from the progressive side of the spectrum and believe that transit should equitably distributed and take careful consideration for the least powerful amongst us.

    We can all respectfully disagree, as in stop reduction, on equity, political viability, complexity and feasibility, but I understand that folks are coming at it because they want to strengthen transit not because they want to screw the transit dependent. I’ve done enough work trying to shoehorn good ideas into public policy to see pitfalls facing such proposals and won’t pretend to myself that they don’t exist. Some take that as attacking motive of objective legitimacy of a proposal, but that is not the case.

    Likewise, we come together around transit first and livable streets principles, and it naturally follows that most of us will coalesce around policies that shift the burden to private autos from transit. “Right” as in correctness, within this context is defined by the principles of unity of our coalition, not by what people with different values propose.

    We are right and they are wrong, based on our principles of unity.

    -marc

  • theo

    @marcos,

    I don’t understand where your fear of a rampant MTA is coming from. Do you have some specific example you’d like to share?

    It’s usually impossible to take positive change in SF because of the power of a NIMBY backlash. Just look at the Whole Foods development at Haight & Stanyan. It only squeaked through because Mirkarimi got enough cover from the public that he could beat back the Haight-Ashbury Stagnancy Council.

    I’m not worried that if you give the MTA an inch, they’ll take a mile — the local organizers will take care of that.

    I’m much more worried that we’ll miss a rare opportunity to improve the Muni system at a time when people can be convinced that sacrifices should be made.

  • Dave W

    I live in an area that is served by Muni until the TEP cuts take place. I now do not have the option of taking the bus unless I walk a mile to get to the nearest stop. I will be driving my car once these cuts in service start and I am glad I won’t have to pay for parking until 10 pm.

  • @Greg,

    The point of the TEP was to cut some lines, but also ADD service to other lines to be more efficient and pick up the slack. Doing the former without doing the latter is typical half-assed management, an almost sacred tenet in San Francisco.

    On the other hand, procrastinating in the face of a budget crisis until we run straight over the cliff is a sacred tenet statewide, especially in Orange County.

    Sh*t happens. The state yanked a ton of transit funding for 5 years. The rest of the city budget is hosed. It’s wishful thinking for you to even pretend the TEP could go forward as planned.

    Fortunately, the TEP gave us the data we need to make cuts and consolidate stops in the fairest way possible. So I’m not going to complain.

  • @theo, perhaps we are living in parallel universes.

    By what measure have advocates pressuring the MTA been able to restrain their worst excesses over the past 10 years?

    Can bicycle advocates claim success in working with the MTA over the past seven years as measured by on the street?

    Have advocates been successful at pressuring the MTA to live up to even the eviscerated promises, such as service standards and DPT facilitating transit, made in Prop E?

    Were advocates successful in fashioning Prop A in 2007?

    Has Market Street been reconfigured according to the 2002 study?

    Have advocates successfully forestalled fare increases?

    Have advocates been effective at shifting the burden from transit to autos?

    We can get into the “whys” but these are the key elements in the case against the nonprofit/enviro model of livable streets advocacy.

    The real test is the answer to this question: By what measure does San Francisco favorably compare with other similarly situated jurisdictions when it comes to meeting the livable streets test based on the record?

    I give us a D+

    The first step towards recovery is admitting that you’ve got a problem.

    -marc

  • @marc,

    You’re complaining about Muni objectives that exist on a different level of difficulty, politically and administratively, than fairly managing service cuts.

    None of your examples involve the MTA running rampant counter to the wishes of the voting public. So I still don’t understand where your fear is coming from.

    Some do involve MTA inefficiency, laziness, and lack of political will, but that’s par for the bureaucratic course.

    Can bicycle advocates claim success in working with the MTA over the past seven years as measured by on the street?

    Yes. Bicycle advocates have been remarkably successful in SF, to the point where they overreached (legally speaking) and got further plans frozen by the court. The bike plan EIS has been fast tracked.

    Have advocates been successful at pressuring the MTA to live up to even the eviscerated promises, such as service standards and DPT facilitating transit, made in Prop E?

    Not entirely, but things have gotten much better since the Muni Meltdowns. Legislating 98% service standards was a pipe dream anyway. Small steps.

    Were advocates successful in fashioning Prop A in 2007?

    Don’t know what that means — it was passed, and the anti-transit Prop H was defeated.

    Has Market Street been reconfigured according to the 2002 study?

    Was this ever put in law?

    Have advocates successfully forestalled fare increases?

    Yes. Despite SF’s cost of living, fares are still lower than in the rest of the country. Monthly fares, too.

    Have advocates been effective at shifting the burden from transit to autos?

    Yes, but hopelessly general. Ridership is up, without a corresponding population increase.

    When you’re tallying successes, don’t forget:

    Citywide NextBus (the country’s largest and most advanced transit tracking system, and one of the rare examples of an American transit agency doing something world-class)

    Early Google Transit compatibility

    T-Third delivered nearly on time

    311 well-executed complaint system

    Translink nearly being operative.

    I agree that you need a government that’s on your side advocating for livable cities. We have one, mostly. It’s just not fully competent yet.

    It takes organizations a while to achieve competence. Once they’ve reached it, it takes a while to attract high-quality employees who can maintain that competence (and for low-quality employees to change or leave). Muni is no TFL. No US transit agency is.

    Is there any US city you’d give above a D+? By your standards, I can’t think of any.

  • @theo,

    No proposed fare increases have been defeated

    Fares have risen 50% over the past 10 years with no corresponding increase or improvement in service frequency or reliability.

    The advocacy community was unable to fast track the 1997 Bicycle Plan EIR since the plan was enjoined in 2005, and we still await certification and relief from the court.

    No bicycle facilities have built for almost five years.

    Bicycling over the past five years has become more and more dangerous, both due to lack of new facilities, lack of enforcement, unreliable transit and general driver rage.

    Success means winning, not fucking up and delaying progress for half a decade.

    The burden of funding Muni has not been shifted to autos.

    Prop E service standards have not been achieved.

    Prop A was a sock full of shit that did much more harm than good.

    Labor got their wage floor and advocates did not get any work rule reform in return.

    T-Third suffered massive cost overruns.

    The Muni meltdown was an implementation glitch in a single system, not a structural depreciation of the system, and should not be used as a benchmark.

    Portland gets a B+ as do Seattle, Davis and Chicago. NYC gets an A. Boston, Philly and Baltimore get B’s.

    Many more jurisdictions are much more advanced than we are, and we tend to misoverestimate our own outcomes as successes. The problem is that the advocates get paid whether or not they succeed.

    -marc

  • Bottom line: The MTS board has a responsibility to balance a budget and secure new revenue. New revenue does not mean going back to the fare box every two or three years. The MTA board has failed to come up with a sound budget, and has even assumed the cuts of other departments (quite the opposite of new revenue).

    Such a flawed budget should be rejected by the BOS (Contact your supe here)

    After that happens firm, loud pressure needs to be applied to the MTA board to get it right the next time.

  • *MTS = MTA … who put those keys so close together…

  • Christopher Vandemore

    Isn’t it time just to shut down Muni? The busses are a menace to traffic, and think of all the additional parking there will be without those annoying bus stops!

  • @Christopher, have you thought of seeking a policy position with the Newsom for Governor campaign?

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