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.