Supervisors Vote 6-5 Against Rejecting MTA Budget

chiu.jpgBOS Prez David Chiu. Photo by Bryan Goebel
BOS Prez David Chiu gave quite a performance at last week's Budget and Finance Committee meeting, peppering MTA Chief Nat Ford with a series of hard-hitting questions about the agency's unpopular budget, and lining up the six necessary votes to reject the spending plan. Yesterday, though, at the full Board of Supervisors meeting, Chiu rescinded his motion, agreeing to what amounts to $10.3 million dollars in changes Ford can make at his own discretion, a "compromise" struck at the last minute.

As part of the agreement for new revenue and savings, planned fare hikes for seniors, the disabled and youth will be delayed next year by five months but a $5 increase will still go into effect this July. The cost of the low-income "Lifeline" pass will be reduced to $30 from the current $35. The number of fare inspector hires will be scaled back, saving about $2.5 million, along with "salary savings and other reductions" amounting to $3.5 million. Ford said a total of $8.6 million would be "reinvested" back into the transit system to alleviate the impact of service reductions.

"Our plan is to take this funding and go back and look at those routes. and where we have opportunities to increase service or increase frequency, we will do that to try and lessen the impact of the routes that have either been eliminated and/or modified, or a segment that has been reduced," said Ford. 

Ford added the MTA will conduct a 90-day study on increasing parking meter enforcement in the downtown area from 6-8 p.m., which would raise $1 million, but Sunday parking enforcement, which would have saved an estimated $9 million, was not put back on the table, mainly because of opposition from Supervisors Carmen Chu, Bevan Dufty and the Mayor.

In addition, Ford said there would be a $2.6 million reduction in the amount of money the MTA pays to other departments for work orders and Chiu announced the MTA will sign an MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) with the San Francisco Police Department, which has the highest tally of work orders, sometime "in the next 24 hours." Chiu and other officials have criticized the MTA for paying out work orders, which are draining Muni's budget to the tune of $63 million.

Supervisor David Campos wasn't thrilled: "“I don’t think it is significant progress when you’re talking about going from $83 million dollars to now just $63 million dollars going to work orders. We’re talking about 75 percent of the work orders that were originally proposed are still in there, and I do think that’s a problem."

Fare hikes and service reductions will still go into effect as part of the agency's plan to deal with a $129 million deficit. It includes hikes in Muni fares from $1.50 to $2.00 on July 1st, adult Fast Passes from $45 to $55 on July 1st and to $60 on January 1st, and Paratransit fares from $1.65 to $2.00. 

Chiu, a car-free supervisor who relies on Muni, his bicycle and taxis to get around, attempted to convince his colleagues that the MTA budget, with the new changes, would do the city some good.

"In the 21st century I think it is critical for us to build a Transit First city and I was concerned that the budget, as proposed, didn’t do that, and I am more comfortable that we’re moving in that direction. I am more comfortable that we are actually going to hopefully meet our promise of being a green city and being a Transit First city."

Supervisors Campos, Chris Daly, John Avalos, Ross Mirkarimi and Eric Mar voted against Chiu's motion to table his resolution to reject the budget. Campos seemed to take Chiu to task.

“I am disappointed, because, you know, a number of us ran to have a progressive majority of this Board that stood firm on the principal that we really have an obligation to protect the people who are the most disadvantaged and I have to respectfully say that this effort does not do that. In fact, this effort falls way short of doing that.” 

Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi added: "I don't not want to get into this practice that we must continue to reconcile Muni's budget deficit on the backs of its riders. I believe it's counter intuitive. There's just too many unknowns that exist in this particular deal."