MTA Proposes Cuts to Every Muni Line to Close $16.9 Million Budget Gap

4254526368_18462e94ef.jpgFlickr photo: Justin.Beck

The MTA is proposing broad-ranging service cuts to Muni in order to close a $16.9 million projected budget gap through the end of the fiscal year. The cuts – far greater in scope than the service changes implemented in December – will reduce frequencies on every Muni line and, if they’re approved by the agency’s Board, will be coupled with fare increases on services including the F-line, express routes, and cable cars. Numerous additional changes are proposed, including charging MTA employees for parking and seeking labor concessions.

After alluding to possible further service changes on several occasions, the MTA made the proposal for cuts official with the release of a budget document (PDF) that will be presented at Tuesday’s MTA Board meeting. Under the proposal, peak service headways would increase by somewhere in the range of one to two minutes on rapid and express bus lines, one to five minutes on local bus lines, and five to ten minutes on community bus lines, with rapid rail frequencies unchanged. Midday and late evening headways would increase by anywhere from one to five minutes on rapid and express bus lines, one to five minutes on rapid rail lines, two to ten minutes on local bus lines, and five to ten minutes on community bus lines.

MTA spokesperson Judson True said the cuts would go in place as soon as May 1 if the agency’s Board approves them at their March 2 meeting. All told, the cuts would save the agency $4.8 million in the current fiscal year, and $28.5 million annually, by eliminating 313,000 service hours each year.

"The economic downturn has taken a tremendous financial toll on the
SFMTA and transportation agencies around the country," said MTA
Executive Director Nat Ford. "There are no easy solutions."

The rest of the $16.9 million gap would be made up with a package of changes that includes a $3 increase to F-Line historic streetcar cash fares, new requirements for express bus and cable car riders to use a premium $70 monthly pass instead of the cheaper $60 pass, increases in discount pass prices to $30, and an increase in the residential parking permit fee to $96 from $76. The agency is also hoping for labor concessions that could save $10 million annually and $700,000 this budget year, which would also include changes to work rules.

MTA employees would start paying for parking at work, bringing in $200,000 for the agency this fiscal year, and Muni customers would pay an credit card fee for online transactions, while customers visiting the MTA’s customer service center would pay transaction fees for services that are also available online. Citation costs would also increase by $1.50 across the board, and the MTA will seek $7 million in Prop K sales tax funds from the SFCTA "maintenance and state of good repair to ensure FTA compliance and system performance," according to the budget presentation.

The glaring omission from the proposals was an extension of parking meter hours, something MTA staff presented on last year, and which a staff study said could bring in millions to the agency while improving the city’s parking management. "It’s not part of the staff recommendation for Tuesday," said True.

The proposed cuts are the second round of the agency’s effort to address a projected mid-year budget shortfall that started at about $45 million. Staff whittled that down to the current $16.9 million figure through measures that included cutting 110 positions, leaving another 140 positions unfilled, using federal stimulus funds to cover operating costs, and making other cuts that didn’t require authorization from the MTA Board.

This round of proposed changes will require MTA Board approval, and some of the changes require Board of Supervisors approval. None are a done deal, so there should be a significant amount of
debate in the coming months on how the MTA will proceed. Some further
details of how each line will be affected should be available on
Tuesday, said True.

The budget proposals will be presented at the next MTA Board meeting on Tuesday, January 19, at 2 p.m. in San Francisco City Hall, Room 400. The budget discussion is Item 11 on the agenda, and there will be a chance for the public to comment.

  • friscotowner

    @SFResident: could it really be run in a more inefficient manner? This city and the establishment than mis-manages it purports to be “transit-first”. Are they? Muni isn’t, by all accounts, operated for the benefit of those who use it; it basically amounts to a jobs program with busses. If this town were seriously “transit-first” it would allocate the resources necessary and good oversight. Instead, we have, in part, a union contract mandating that the operators be the second-highest paid; 5 or 6 days per quarter, if I’m not mistaken, whereby they can simply abstain from work without reason, excuse or notification. When was the last muni audit?

    SF has had, by-and-large, a roughly stable population for the past 30-40 years- somewhere in the neighborhood of 800.000 people. 30 years ago, there were 10.000 city employees; today they number closer to 30.000. Is the city cleaner, safer or better run? Do you think you get your money’s worth?

  • BCon

    Really!? More hikes and service cuts already!? Yet Nate Ford remains the highest paid official in SF and all the drivers get $3000 bonuses? This is a JOKE! Not to mention the State robbing all the cities of their transit funding, while claiming to be green and innovative. The people running this city, and Muni in particular, are beyond incompetent and have their priorities so out of whack. Before you raise fares and cut service AGAIN (for the third time in a year!), why don’t you look at raising parking meter/permit rates, cutting the salaries of the highest paid employees, and demanding some concessions from the drivers (who are the 2nd highest paid drivers in the country)… not to mention taking out redundant stops… do you really need two stops on the same block? No!

    Why are the riders (“customers”) of Muni such easy targets for them? We seem like a burden to them that they’d rather not have to deal with. If you raise fares and cut service, you’re going to turn people off from riding, reducing the amount of passengers, and therefore reducing revenue, leading to even more cuts and fare hikes, since apparently there’s nobody smart enough running this city to think of any other creative ways to save money.

    As others have mentioned, at this rate of constant service cuts and fare increases, in a few years every line will only run twice a day and cost $10 each way.

    And don’t even get me started on the Central Subway, which won’t even go to North Beach for gawd knows how may decades… when they’ve been promising a subway or light rail line for the Richmond Dist since BART was built! And now all they’ve got it BRT, which might not even happen because of a few misguided and vocal local merchants.

  • Joanne

    We don’t have a special parking district where I live in Hayes Valley. I don’t know how much people pay for their sticker. But it seems to me it should be expensive. After all, it is convenient, saves lots of money in parking fees and tickets, and gives them priority. I doubt that the Board of Supervisors will raise the fees, because they fear they will not get re-elected, or elected to the next office. It is in the best interest of the City, but that will make no difference.

  • Derakus

    It’s an odd logic that expects me to pay for even more scant service on busses packed with filthy scum-toting bums that ride for free. I already walk 40 minutes to work to avoid it. If this comes to pass, I’ll start walking home as well.

  • Timothy Dobbins

    Here’s a thought…why not try to make up some of the shortfall by actually charging EVERYONE who rides MUNI? Most times when I ride, I lose track of how many people enter free through the back doors. And YES, I know some of them have passes/transfers, but a lot of them don’t, and they even joke about riding for free. Enforce everyone paying…and I don’t mean the ridiculous ‘fare police’ that ride on the underground. Put some of them on busses!

  • SF_Resident

    Not one thing said about those $3k muni bonuses that all muni employees get just for breathing.

  • sf4fun66

    I just have to laugh at all this. $5 for the Rice-A-Roni trolley that takes nearly an hour to get from the Castro to the Wharf. I have no problem fleecing tourists, but this is a joke…the beautiful view of Mid-Market crack hoes and derelict buildings with trains stopping every friggin’ block…yeah, I’ll encourage my out of town friends to pay for that.

    Maybe this is something for Newsome to ponder next week while on his 5th Hawaiian vacation…

  • @friscotowner – The problems you mention are all problems, but they’re problems of leadership (first among them our terrible joke of a mayor). What we need to demand is accountability.

    Unless somebody can show me instances where truly private mass-transit is able to serve the needs of a large urban population I’ll remain skeptical of the possibility. This is because of the basic economics of how mass-transit adds value to a community.

    Just FYI, the poster SF_Resident up above is a different individual than me. Not that I necessarily disagree with his/her sentiment.

  • TransitFirst

    1. Raise the price of meters
    2. Raise the price of yearly parking stickers/permits — if it costs 70 dollars a month to take the bus, and 200 dollars/month (or more) for a parking spot in a building, then wouldn’t it make sense for a parking permit to cost at least 80 dollars per month, instead of 76 dollars per year?
    3. Raise the price of parking tickets
    4. Run more express buses, PLEASE!!! It’s only 2010 — how is it that there is no limited bus that runs along Van Ness?

  • joan wood

    There is an organization trying to input suggestions for improving Muni – . Nat Ford at one time said he welcomed such suggestions. I hope he has read all the above comments. Whoever said we need to tackle the union problem is right on, but that will never happen in this town – it could be dangerous. The idea of a one-day boycott of Muni however is appealing. It happened here about 30 years ago and was successful, although the reason was that 20 or so union employees had a grievance and the bus drivers’local was showing solidarity with them. Everyone walked to work and those with cars picked up many of them on the way. Until management bites the bullet and phases out middle managers who are redundant and stops its own version of affirmative action, we will just have to live with it. Color me cynical.

  • Biggus Diggus

    MUNI, you are hated and reviled. Just in case you didn’t know. You are incompetent boobs who create your own problems. Most drivers don’t care, let all the freaks on for free. Planners who have busses stopping practically every 10 feet. Bad attitudes all around. Nice gig and benefits if you can get ’em, eh MUNI?

  • Jeff Jones

    See the velonazis are at it again… Why don’t you people pay for your use of shared resources too. Too many chain their bykes wherever they want, ride down sideWALKS, and ignore traffic rules. Your sense of entitlement is sickening. You’re as bad as militant Vegans, and don’t realize that not everyone can byke. So stop projecting your desires on the majority. I’d rather see Nat fired, a mass staff reduction in management heavy MTA/Muni, and a crack down on disabled tag/plack abuse.

  • marmot

    I would say boycott Muni, but obviously people have already done that. Hence, ridership is down. I think a lot of people, myself included, are so disturbed by Muni shortcomings and violence, that former riders stay in their own ‘hoods or forego activities that require a Muni ride, e.g., shop/work out-of-town, shop/work online, or skip events. So I think Muni is targeting what’s left: SF commuters/students and tourists, both which have higher tolerances for inconvenience, i.e., commuters need to get to work/school and tourists are outta here soon enough. Muni has already pushed the envelope for a lot of former riders, and will do the same for future former riders. I (and a lot of others) simply don’t ride Muni and developed alternatives. I have no grandiose solutions, but maybe sell Muni to a private company. Good luck to everybody.

  • Gregorio

    I think I recall hearing that, in London, drivers are charged the equivalent of $8 for every day they want to drive their car in the city. Wish we could get something like that in San Francisco.

    I’m not a Muni hater because I lived in San Francisco for two years, and now live in San Jose. For as frustrating as Muni is, it seems like a dream transit system when compared to VTA. I just hope it can avoid the death spiral it seems intent on finding.

  • The “F” line fare should be the same as the MUNI fare. Somone decided to fleece the tourists years ago and raised the cable car fares so that they are greater than the regular MUNI fare. What happened? Tourists still ride it but locals do not (unless they have a FAST PASS). The “F” line is a way for someone to see much of San Francisco and pay a regular fare. That someone may be from the East Bay or Pennisula and come in on BART and be willing to pay the regular fare but not the extra tourist surcharge. The “F” line leads to high cash for MUNI. Let’s not kill the goose that lays the golden egg.

  • velonazicommieredneckliberalpunkveganfixsterhippie

    i’m not just a velonazi, i’m a commie redneck liberal punk vegan fixster hippie. before the $2 fare increase in july, i would alternate between riding my velonazi and muni to my plush artsy 501c3 hi-tek “job.” man, muni was a luxury, with the inception right at my doorstep, very cool fellow riders (albeit crowded several stops after i boarded), and actually quicker getting to my sleaze job, and i arrived clean and not soiled with sweat. after the increase, i did more velonazi, and after dec. 5 i lost my line. i’m totally a commie punk now, and i never ride muni anymore. that’s how bad it got for me, muni went from luxury to junk. thanks nat, gavin nuisance, sf bored, SFM(o)T(herf**k)A(z).

  • Liam Sheridan

    Im glad I got a car. I was tierd of dealing with all of the MUNI problems. It made my life a whole lot better. I dont think i ever want to ride muni again. Im sure a lot of other people will do what I did.

  • velonazicommieredneckliberalpunkveganfixsterhippie

    jeff jones blows. i don’t care about you asexual republikaans.

  • patmac

    Break the muni union.

    Split up the muni and the dpt.

    the supervisors,the mayor,the mta boss and friends should take a big pay cuts.

    Start ticking all the double parking deity worshipers.

    Stop paying dpt to stand around and pull over people taking left’s on Market street.

    Stop doing construction to put plants the middle of streets that will not be taken care and block on coming traffic.

    Start pulling over bad bus drivers, cab drivers and most car drivers in the city and give them tickets and take away there licenses and make them go to driving school.

    Start pulling over for bike’s for breaking the law and charge them.

    Stop giving money and care to all the non productive people of San Francisco.

    Oh by the way 80% of the people that live in the city don’t work in the city and you think muni suck try getting to work some where else.

  • John C

    I don’t understand all the anger directed towards Muni when it was the short-sighted state government that robbed us of $152 million.

    How would you expect to run a stable organization when one of your major funding sources gets axed?

  • jwb

    Modest proposal: peg the residential parking permit fee to the assessed value of the property at the address where the permit is issued. 1/1000th of the assessed value perhaps.

    I estimate this innovative, progressive scheme would plug muni’s budget hole and then some.

  • those dudes

    @mikesonn:

    because they live where they can afford housing (read: in the outlying suburbs where realistic transit options aren’t available), or because their shifts start about 4am, when reliable transit isn’t available.

  • To be sent to all San Francisco City Supervisors, and all MTA Board Members:

    I am furious about the current state of San Francisco’s Municipal Transit Agency, and I appeal to you to help make this the turning point at which we stop destroying the city’s transit system and start to heal it.

    This is a petition to undertake the following actions:

    An audit and public review of all payments and allocations from Muni funds, including funding of special programs, and invoices for services from other city agencies or departments.

    The elimination of salaries paid from Muni funds to city employees who are not part of the operational staff of Muni.

    The immediate removal of Muni Executive Director and CEO Nathaniel Ford for overseeing the systematic destruction of the transit system, misappropriation of funds, and lack of accountability.

    Amendment of the city charter to remove all guarantees toward Muni employees.

    The cancellation of union contracts, due to failure of the union to provide services commensurate with salaries and compensation, and disregard for the solvency of the city. New contracts drawn up with realistic terms for the city. If unions strike or fail to agree, then hire new non-union employees.

    Immediate termination of Muni operators who have caused accidents or otherwise jeopardized public safety and/or caused the agency to be liable for judgments or settlements by disregarding traffic laws or safety protocols.

    A review of all management positions and salaries within Muni, from the top down, by an independent panel, to determine actual services are rendered to the agency and whether compensation is merited. Findings to be made public and agency held accountable to restructure and eliminate or consolidate positions, per the best interests of the city.

    Consequences including unpaid suspension and termination of Muni employees who receive public complaints or have high absence rates, and compensation and reward for those with positive feedback.

    Solutions for specific ongoing mechanical and functional issues impacting Muni performance. These include repair of open and close mechanisms on all train doors to eliminate stalls and blockages, and overhaul of train dispatch systems to increase frequency of in-demand trains at peaks times and reduce wasteful train groupings.

    Repair of fare boxes on buses and trains which have problems accepting bills. Installation of fare boxes at crowded bus stops and above-ground train stops.

    A freeze on fare increases and cancellation of plans to pursue any further service reductions or route eliminations. A poll of residents and riders to determine routes and regions most needing increased or restored service. Incremental expansion and restoration of services and routes.

  • I am also going to that MTA Board meeting and putting this petition in front of anyone and everyone.

    I just got through writing an article summarizing all things Muni:

    http://sanfranciscodays.wordpress.com/2010/01/12/muni-all-things-considered/

    And now this. Unbelievable.

  • Fran Taylor

    Bashing Muni workers and blaming riders who board through the back door plays right into the hands of the forces attacking us all. The only way to fight this latest assault on public transportation is to work with the union, include all the riders, and develop strategies that transform the disruption these proposals represent to us as individuals into disruptions to business as usual for our attackers: the mayor, the Chamber of Commerce, the Chronicle, etc. We can testify till we’re blue in the face, but their contempt for transit users makes our words like the buzzing of insects to them. We need sit-ins, pickets, serious actions, and we need the Muni workers acting with us. Stop insulting them — they’ve got a tough job and deserve every penny they get.

  • Nick

    Concerning: “MTA will seek $7 million in Prop K sales tax funds…”

    Is this money that will be diverted from the Traffic Calming program (also Prop K funds)?

  • Human Transit’s article on this announcement is here:

    http://www.humantransit.org/2010/01/san-francisco-the-fuse-has-been-lit.html

  • Tommy

    The important thing is Gavin’s friends are making big bucks. Why cry about this little service cuts.

  • You really have to hand it to Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Democratic Legislature. Rather than deal with the budget honestly, they stole from the gas tax (which guaranteed 20% of its revenue to transit) and now the MTA has to take the heat and deal with the fallout. Until we find a way to make up that huge hole (and not with nickel and dime measures like parking fines and fare increases) nothing is going to really stabilize.

    Maybe if we had politicians who really believed all that stuff they say, they’d put a local version of the gas tax on the ballot or something, anything, that can be counted on, and dedicate the proceeds to a well run Muni (not a “give away money to executives Muni) and to keeping roads repaired and safe for those who drive, those who ride transit, or ride a bike.

    Also, we need to get Muni to stop calling us “customers’ or “consumers” – we are the OWNERS of Muni and the whole idea of Muni was to have a system run for the benefit of the people of SF first, not any one entity or office.

  • I wonder how much savings could be achieved by stop consolidation… that’s a cut I could support.

    I would love the opportunity to vote on a source of stable funding for muni.

  • DV

    reading through the comments here it’s pretty obvious what’s wrong with muni. it’s not them, it’s us. room 200 is responsible, but not the only one to blame. our fiscal rigidity and “direct democracy” are the main culprits. there’s no a single public system or program that’s not facing annihilation right now and we left our representatives w/o any framework of dealing with these problems.

  • Ron

    Who’s being taken for a ride?

  • Stuart

    People did vote on stable funding sources for MUNI. Unfortunately, the City keeps siphoning off more funding on the back end through interdepartmental service charges and redirection of funds that were traditionally for MUNI. The problem is governance at the top levels. Elected officials aren’t holding bureaucrats accountable for spending efficiency. They kowtow to the various interest groups, mostly the City’s employee unions and various non-profits which subsist mainly on city money.

    I’m surprised at the mildness of the layoffs. Fewer service hours mean fewer vehicle hours and less maintenance work. I’m sure the balance of the deficit could be made up by laying off more operators and maintenance staff who won’t be needed. Like it or not, in this economy, most of those staff will still be around to rehire in FY2011 (June) if need be. 300 staff at 50k a pop fully loaded turns into $15M. What gives MUNI? Mayor and supes: appoint some real managers and grow a little spine!

  • transit troublemasker

    How about BOS order the merchants collecting these taxes to pass the mandated transit assistance portion directly to the CCOSF rather than to the state. Perhaps the Franchise Tax Board could have a chat with the Legislature about obeying the law.

  • David Reardon

    Raising parking meter rates is just another chump change diversion. What’s needed is serious tax money from corporations and businesses that depend on MUNI for shoppers, workers and tourists. We need dedicated Transit Assesment Districts such as (1) Union Square, (2) Financial District, (3) ATT Park/SOMA and (4) 3rd Street Bio-tech. The City, MUNI and Union bosses are too cowardly to take on the local ruling class which controls the money and power in this city.

  • Dan Volski (DV)

    Voters voted to depoliticize MUNI funding, which was the right thing to do and is still to be achieved. However, it’s not the biggest problem of our system. It’s not political (although certain blame goes to everyone) – it’s the speed. MUNI’s average speed is around 8 mph (http://articles.sfgate.com/2007-10-10/bay-area/17264220_1_transit-effectiveness-project-municipal-railway-buses-and-streetcars). This is way to slow, one of the slowest in the nation. It’s bleeding our system in money and resources. The slower the buses move, the more cars you need, the more drivers you need, the bigger the delays, and on and on. If we were to increase MUNI’s speed to just 10.5 mph the efficiency would improve nearly 20%! This is also an area where we haven’t done much of anything. Unfortunately, there are no easy solutions to this here due to our topology. There are very few corridors and they are backed up. The only real solution would be to give MUNI right of way in the main corridors via Rapid Bus systems (BRT) or subways. Neither of this can be easily done w/o capital investments in our infrastructure and w/o making a good amount of people unhappy. The decline of Mid-Market street is still blamed on BART excavation… Hence the deadlock, uncontainable costs, this whole thread, …

  • Joe

    What is it with the MTA that they constantly screw the people of NY/NJ/CT with these rate hikes?
    I am getting sick and tired of it, they have more money than god and can’t seem to balance a budget.

    Here’s an idea on how the people of NYC can get even with them…

    Now we know we can’t all boycott the subway or busses because “no work” then “no pay” right?
    and none of us want to waste our vacation days for some silly boycott…

    but…

    What if we (everyone in NYC and the Outer Boroughs and CT/ NJ ) picked one day a week, say Friday because the commute into the city on Friday is horrible anyway…and all of us telecommute to work? In other words, those that have remote capabilities to dial into the office using a home computer and work from home, do so? Of course it depends on your job function.

    For the record, there are thousands of us who work as Computer Professionals, Financial Industry, Executives, etc who already have this ability to dial in remotely…with all the new technologies to hold meetings online it would be a no brainer .

    Think of the massive protest and message we can send to the MTA and Port Authority thieves, and other gov’t agencies…also…
    there are monetary savings for commuters, benefits to the environment, ease of congestion on the roadways…

    more specifically:
    o think how much commuting costs people can save, by not taking the Path, Subway, or City and Express busses, for me it would be $2.25 x2 (subway but 10.50 if I take express bus service)
    + $1.30 x2 PATH
    + 1.75 highway toll
    + $10.00 gasoline (37 miles each way)
    o and gasoline savings for those who have to drive to a train station, this could bring down demand for oil .
    o and bridge and highway toll revenues that the highways wouldn’t receive…
    o and what about all that pollution and smog, this could help the environment as well.

    and here is some food for thought …

    what about doing this for the entire country…

    • what if we extended this to all 50 states…? granted not everyone has a subway system, but they do have busses, and bridges, and highway tolls…and all use gasoline? talk about making an impact…

    • and what if we did this more than just once a week?

    shall I keep going on?

    – joe

  • Joe

    Oh… I forgot to mention…i work at home a day, I don’t need to spend additional funds for day care for my twins…

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