MTA Details Proposed Historic Cuts to Muni; 2011-2012 Deficit Even Worse

706641019_a01716b7d4.jpgFlickr photo: Mike Monteiro

The MTA released detailed plans (PDF) today for how it would eliminate ten percent of Muni service –  the most severe cuts in the Municipal Railway’s 97-year history. As promised, almost every line would see service reductions, a draconian measure MTA staff is proposing to help close the agency’s $16.9 million end-of-year budget deficit. The MTA also revealed today it faces projected deficits of $52.7 million and $45.3 million for the next two fiscal years – even after calculating in the proposed service cuts and other deficit-closing measures.

Most of the staff recommendations made to the MTA Board last week are still included in an updated end-of-year budget presentation (PDF) to be given tomorrow, though a $3 increase in the F-line historic streetcar fare has been jettisoned following opposition from several of the members of the Board. That proposal has been replaced by a plan to increase citations by $2 instead of by $1.50, which would make up the $0.2 million that an F-line fare increase would have produced. MTA staff is continuing to recommend that the Board approve plans to raise fares for discount passes, require a premium monthly pass for cables cars and express route buses, wrangle labor concessions, and charge city employees for parking.

The Board will hear the fleshed-out proposal for service cuts at its meeting tomorrow. MTA staff analyzed performance data by hour for every route from June through November 2009 and January 2010, and came out with plans to spread the ten percent reduction in service hours across the city’s routes. Even the city’s most-packed routes would see reductions. For example, the 22-Fillmore would now see peak frequencies reduced by a minute, and midday frequencies reduced by two minutes. The 14-Mission would drop from ten-minute peak frequencies to 12 minutes between buses, and from 10-minute evening headways to 15-minute headways.

Nor was rail spared. The K-Ingleside/T-Third line, for example, would see a three-minute increase in peak headways, from nine to twelve minutes, and evening frequencies would reduce from ten minutes to 15 minutes.

Local bus routes were hit with even bigger increases between buses. Travel between the Mission and the Richmond would get even harder, as the 33-Stanyan would see a ten-minute reduction in frequency at night, with buses running only every half-hour. Peak frequencies would see a five-minute hit on the 33, from 15 to 20 minutes, as would midday frequencies. The 3-Clement and the 18-46th Avenue would also join the ranks of lines with only two buses an hour in the evening.

Overnight owl service would be reduced across the system to 60-minute headways, from the current 30-minute headways on all overnight lines except the 108-Treasure Island, which currently runs every 45-minutes. It would also be reduced to one trip an hour.

In spite of the historic severity of the proposed cuts, certain alternative measures remain off the table at the Mayor’s insistence, including extending parking meter hours. The parking meter proposal, which staff says would improve parking availability and could raise close to $10 million annually, had some support from three directors at the last MTA Board meeting, prompting MTA Executive Director Nat Ford to say he would have to bring it back for the Board’s consideration. In spite of that bold stance from some of the directors, political pressure may be silencing that plan yet again.

Upcoming Budget Deficits will be Worse

Even with the cuts, the agency would still face budget deficits of $52.7 million and $45.3 million for fiscal years 2011 and 2012. With the currently proposed ten-percent service reduction projected to save $28.5 million annually, the agency will need to find other ways to close the gap, or face even greater service cuts that could leave Muni a shell of its current self, with obvious consequences to congestion and to the city’s economy, as well as to elected officials.

The main forces driving the worsening budget for the next two years are a projected increase in the cost of benefits including health, retirement, and other benefits, adding up to about $37 million over two years; an increase in incremental operating costs from capital projects, including TransLink, onboard video cameras, and NextMuni, adding up to $29 million over two years; a slew of economy-related decreases in income from fees and fines; and $42.2 the agency had in its funds this year that won’t be available in coming years. Perhaps the most significant factor in the agency’s recent budget crises, however, as been the state’s raiding of transit assistance funds. The MTA has lost $179.1 million in State Transit Assistance funding over the past three fiscal years as a result.

The MTA Board will hear the updated budget presentations and recommendations at a special meeting tomorrow, followed by a public hearing on the service cuts (officially, "Muni Service Modifications") on February 16. The MTA Board could vote on the cuts as soon as that February 16 meeting, earlier than the original March 2 proposed date. There will also be town hall meetings at MTA headquarters on the cuts and the budget for the next two years on February 6, February 9, March 10 and March 20.

To let the Mayor and MTA Board know what you think of the cuts immediately, you can send an email to gavin.newsom@sfgov.org and mtaboard@sfmta.com.

  • Virginia Lee

    So much for “Transit First.”

  • at this point, what’s the use? Clearly the Mayor and the MTA don’t care anymore about providing service or finding long term solutions, and clearly they don’t listen to the public. Why don’t they just burn the system to the ground so we can pay fares for a nonexistent system to keep the elite management no one will touch well paid and make sure our Mayor’s gas guzzler SUV is well staffed.

  • soylatte

    Why no parking rate increase? Because despite the hype, SF is not that different from the rest of the country. We too will destroy both our infrastructure and living environment, in order to maintain the ease of motoring for as long as possible. This is the quintessential American Way.

  • Fran Taylor

    Read about the 1955-56 Montgomery Bus Boycott. If African Americans in Alabama can boycott the buses for over a year to protest segregation, why can’t we organize to protest the class warfare the mayor is waging against Muni riders?

    http://www.watson.org/~lisa/blackhistory/civilrights-55-65/montbus.html

  • We are going to continue to live car-free, no matter how hard the city and the MTA tries to put us behind a wheel. If that means we’ll have to move, then so be it. SF has the opportunity to become something the rest of the country can only dream of, but instead we are turning our walkable/transit city into just another bland suburb. If we leave, I will guarantee you that the people who move into our apt will come with at least one car.

    Thank Mayor Newsom, may they someday give you the credit you deserve. I propose a statue of Slick standing over a broken MUNI bus as though he finally slayed the beast.

  • Damnit. It’s times like this that I wish I could ride a bicycle. . .

  • I commute to Caltrain now by bike. I’ve completely given up on the 30/45.

  • RichP

    Cutting services and raising fares is not a sustainable solution to the MTA’s budget problems. How can a city with a budget of over $6 billion fail to adequately fund basic public transit services? That Ford makes over $300k managing this joke of a system while the mayor claims he’s “transit first” really rubs salt in the wounds.

    Fortunately I rarely have to take a bus in this city, but showing up at the Castro Muni station and not knowing if you’re in for a smooth commute or a 10-12 minute wait on a crowded platform as a bunch of full one-car K trains pull up is really, really annoying.

  • @mikesonn Welcome to the bike car, next time say “Hi!”

  • James Figone

    I’m with mikesonn. My family is committed to a car free lifestyle. If San Francisco, makes this impossible, I will find another place to live.

  • @John, I park at Warm Planet since I work right off the stop in RWC. But I have been looking for a way to get a hold of you cause I see you ride from the city down the Pen pretty often. I’ve been meaning to give it a try.

  • One difference is that Montgomery City Lines was a for-profit company and lost money if it lost riders. Muni probably stands a better chance of being able to balance its budget if its riders abandon it.

  • those dudes

    ouch. the scary thing for the future is that the solutions suggested in the comments here and by transit advocates elsewhere don’t seem to have ANY political weight behind them in sf. until there is a champion (with some clout) for some serious revenue options, transit is in trouble.

  • @those dudes : I agree. I think the key is to organize people and get them to vote some people out of office. I dig writing my blog, but that’s all it is. It’s a starting point but MLK didn’t start the Civil Rights Movement with clicks on a Facebook page and snarky antagonism 🙂

    the Straphangers Campaign in NYC is a well organized group and they have elected people to office who are transit advocates. yes, NYC is different, but what the Hell is wrong with people here who run around acting all holier than thou, and yet when it comes to putting principles into practice, SF becomes a city of overprivileged me-firsters who preach PC words like “sustainability” yet balk when they can’t park their hybrid 19mpg SUV right in front of Whole Paycheck?

  • David Chiu could be our guy, but he doesn’t have the political capital yet.

  • Kevin

    SFMTA is just doing anything they can to deal with the mess handed to them by California. Blame the state policies that have yanked huge amounts of money from under local transit agencies’ feet. The money isn’t going somewhere else – it just isn’t there. Let’s get our pro-bike board of supes to Sacramento for a showdown with the Governator, maybe trap him in an elevator shaft at the capitol building, Terminator 1 style.

  • Nick

    Looks like college students have figured out that cycling is faster than MUNI. The past week has seen a 1500% increase of cyclists in the neighborhoods around CCSF and SFSU. No kidding.

  • This is the state’s fault, but you can draw that line further back to Prop 13. Property tax is a source of local funding and it has been artificially low for 30 yrs. Now the state relies on sales tax and income tax to run itself (both highly volatile) and give money back to the cities/counties.

    But you can’t take funding options (ticketing isn’t a funding source) off the table and expect cuts/fare increases to solve the problem. The Gov needs to stop talking green and start acting. Newsom needs to stop talking green and actually work.

  • James Figone

    Yes, Muni has been severely damaged by state budget cuts. However, the system operates very slowly, less than 7mph. Such an inefficient system is unsustainable even with full state funding. You simply cannot hire enough operators and purchase enough buses to have reasonable headway and reliability with such a slow system. This is well documented in the SPUR report on the subject at http://spur.org/publications/library/report/munisbilliondollarproblem_022806

  • sfkayak

    @Fran Taylor AMEN!

    I’m starting in February when I don’t buy my monthly pass.

  • James, also correct. I don’t see why stop consolidation isn’t mentioned either. I’d rather walk an extra block but know a bus will be there then have a stop with no bus in site.

    Also, the correlation between increase in the number of registered cars in SF and the slowing of MUNI’s average speed should be studied.

  • Diane

    When I lived in Seattle 15 years ago, bus arrival times were posted at every stop. Bus drivers were not allowed to arrive at a stop late OR leave it early. I ride the 43, which is sometimes super-crowded and other times not. Several times per week I log on to NextMuni (which I love), to see that the next 3 arrival times are something like 7 minutes, 8 minutes, 30 minutes. Personally, if Muni could just ensure that buses on my line would run every 10 minutes, that would work for me.

    But yes, having to wait too long or having a really crowded bus (or one that simply passes by because it’s too full), makes people unhappy and wanting to abandon the whole thing. There are studies that have been done that show that people will stop riding if the system is too unreliable or the wait times are above a certain amount of time.

    Wow, James, that SPUR paper was published in 2006, with warnings about what’s now happening. Guess it got ignored by the Powers That Be, huh?

    And finally (this topic just makes me rant…), we’re electing a new Governor this year. Don’t vote for someone who doesn’t promise to stop raiding the transit assistance funds. Same with the next mayor. We need assurance that s/he will actually adhere to “Transit First” with action and not just lip service.

  • Alex

    I can’t wait for FY2011-12 service cuts. The proposed cuts are for the current FY, which ends on June 30th. Starting July 2010 there will be even more cuts!

    They’ll probably eliminate Sunday Service. Run limited Saturday Service (8am to 8pm) and run hourly bus service for all routes.

  • Let’s be clear– MUNI is not losing funding because it is bad or slow or not pleasing its customers. MUNI is losing funding because the state of California is losing tax revenue hand over fist, and the state political process is broken to the point that no one in Sacramento can do anything intelligent whatsoever. Instead they grab funds and rob pockets wherever they can. MUNI funds were pretty much stolen, but there is no cop to call to get it back.

    So the loss-of-revenue pain is pushed down to the local level. What to do? The funds don’t necessarily have to come just from the MTA budget. The city could decide to cut all salaries and wages of every employee 10%. They could cut funding to museums. If they really don’t want to increase parking meters, they could cut funding to all sorts of things. I’m fine with giving transit workers a cut in pay, I’m fine with some stop consolidation, I’m fine with the SPUR recommendation of increasing MUNI throughput by creating dedicated bus lanes (requiring the sacrifice of parking spaces and car lanes.) But for the health and stability of this city, transit has got to work.

    I don’t take MUNI all that much. I’d really rather ride my bicycle. But it is so clear to me that for the sake of our planet’s ecosystem, we’ve got to be coaxing people out of their cars, not back into them. And for the sake of our faltering economy, we’ve got to give people a way to get around when owning a car becomes too costly. Boycotting MUNI will solve nothing–it will just give politicians an excuse to cut MUNI further. Call, write or email your city supervisor and COMPLAIN. Call, write or email the mayor and COMPLAIN. They need to feel the heat.

  • Sprague

    I’ve heard that the former SPUR transportation expert Dave Snyder wants to start a bus riders union. Organized opposition ought to enjoy some success. If you’re reading this, Dave, please sign me up.

  • Russell Stevens

    Muni has been having this problem since the 60s. It never ran on time. It never will run on time. Live with it.

  • the greasybear

    What about a lawsuit? Can we sue for an EIR on these draconian proposals that, if passed, are certain to dump thousands of former transit riders into taxis, bicycles, scooters, motorcycles and private automobiles?

    In any case, the political battle must be explosive–and effective. Local and state politicians must be put on notice: preside over the death of San Francisco’s public transit system, and lose not just your job but also your career. An organized Muni Majority must be willing and able to burn down the entire system and rebuild it from scratch if necessary. The very essence of this city is at stake.

    San Francisco is, with these proposals, perilously close to a tipping point. “Transit first” is a political lie, but there’s no doubt when most residents ride the bus and train, most residents have a vested interest in supporting and growing the system. If these cuts tank ridership enough, there won’t be a vested electoral majority to protect Muni from total, permanent decline. We’re right on the edge.

  • Tony

    I have discovered a mode of transportation that:
    – takes me door-to-door wherever I want to go
    – is always available to me whenever I want
    – is now safer, than taking MUNI or BART
    – and it is immune to ‘service cuts’, ‘fare increases’ and bad decisions

    It’s my bike. And I use it everyday, rain or shine because I can count on it.

  • Paul

    One of the greatest characteristics of San Francisco is the community and its foundation is set on the people’s ability to stay connected. They stay connected by public transit. I hope that the decision makers involved realize that this drastic decline in service fundamentally begins to dissolve the San Francisco community, possibly driving them away. Without community San Francisco becomes just another empty shell of a city with no real reason to attract potential citizens, businesses, etc.

  • About the street speed of Muni: it’s not just since the 1960s.

    The 1913 Report on the Improvement and Development of Transportation Facilities goes on about how the average transit speed downtown is just 4.4 miles per hour and even out on the fringes is 11.3 miles per hour, and that the only way it can go faster is to increase the spacing between stops. Probably in another 100 years reports will still be saying the same thing.

    The interesting twist is that in 1913 the speed limit laws allowed higher speeds for transit vehicles than for other vehicles. Transit could legally go 10 mph downtown, 12 mph beyond Larkin or Division, and 15 mph beyond Divisadero, Castro, or 18th, while cars were limited to 8 mph downtown or 12 mph elsewhere.

  • “Read about the 1955-56 Montgomery Bus Boycott. If African Americans in Alabama can boycott the buses for over a year to protest segregation, why can’t we organize to protest the class warfare the mayor is waging against Muni riders?”

    Are you really comparing the Montgomery Bus Boycotts to shitty service on Muni that was spurred by cuts at the state level? Holy crap.

  • Class warfare? Haha, you do know that the freeways are crumbling too, right? You do know that few freeways have actually been built in the last couple of decades? You do understand that your ride on Muni is heavily subsidized, a justified subsidy, but a subsidy nonetheless, just like highways?

    Maybe the transit problems in the state are based on incompetence or lack of foresight, but class warfare? Hahaha. Bullshit.

  • Spokker, it isn’t much of a stretch to see class warfare in nearly everything coming from the MTC. The rich suburbs rule over the poorer/dense urban centers. BART to San Jose? BART extentions while station infill would help lower income neighborhoods in Oakland and the Mission.

    Yes, all infrastructure is lacking at the moment, but to systematically destroy our public transportation without regard to other funding options (i.e. parking meter increases and hour extensions) is pretty close to criminal.

  • To be sure, some of the Muni stop spacing is absolutely ridiculous. On some stretches there are stops every block, and I can think of at least one location where there are two stops on one block. Having traffic lights give Muni precedence (especially on the T and N between the Embarcadero and the train station) would also be a very good idea that wouldn’t take much technology or effort. But to be somewhat fair to Muni, private cars in San Francisco don’t average much more than 12 mph. And the more successful Muni is–the more passengers it picks up–the slower it goes, especially the buses.

  • mikesonn

    On that same note, the less muni picks up the more people drive so the slower it goes.

  • I guess if we emptied San Francisco out of people altogether, Muni would work great!

  • Horray to empty streets!

  • MO PEACE

    Muni really burns me. I feel myself getting red each time I come into a terminal the buses are notoriously late and I am continuously being let off or dropped off in the rain or the cold of the night to walk home which is not that close by the way..All the money they have spent on wages security gadgets that beep, screens that are unreadable and we never have asked for anything more than a few m0ore buses and the buses they have to be on time uncrowded and enough seats for seniors and the disabled. which by the way is not the case, the youth take seats and look down and or away instead of engaging and asking if ” would you like a seat?’ they just plug in and tune out….

  • chobakasan

    For a city (and a mayor) who wants to be perceived to be ‘green’; SF Muni is embarrassing. Poor service record; occasionally on time; and always more expensive. At this point, it seems as though SF needs to do some serious money adjustments. Perhaps with some of Muni’s upper management. Or better yet; a sales tax on gasoline (citywide); or a business tax areawise. There has got to be long term solutions, b/c this band aid treatment is starting to hemorrhage.

  • Just wait til they cut off their arm with the central subway. I know people hate it when I bring up the CS during operating cost discussions, but I have seen NO evidence that they are going to be able to afford adding that thing and not have it sink MUNI. The only way it won’t sink MUNI is if MUNI is already at the bottom and couldn’t go lower. Maybe turn the CS tunnel into an underground bike/ped path.

  • Dan Volski

    This is a wrong channel for express anger over MUNI cuts. While the City carries part of the blame of the mess the MUNI is in, it was Sacramento that cut our funds w/o much of a notice or justification. Thus, Sacramento is the right venue for this discussion. San Francisco is, after all, in the tree top contributors of tax dollars in our state, which all seem to go disproportionally to counties like Fresno with per-capita spending 5 times as high.

    http://articles.sfgate.com/2009-02-06/news/17189630_1_rural-counties-fresno-county-district

    And to add insult to injury visit fresno.teapartynexus.com.

  • Dan, I can see how those suburban communities use up tax dollars at a higher clip. All those 50′ roads, with the sewage/water piping, police patrols, school buses, etc etc aren’t cheap to build or maintain. And when you add in the fact that density is so low, the amount of of actual taxpayers per mile of all that crap is extremely low. Soon enough they won’t be able to drive the pick-up 4 miles for a gallon of milk and they’ll be crying for gov’t subsidies. The American “dream” won’t go softly into the good night.

  • josé

    as someone who owns a car in sf, but hardly ever uses it, i don’t see why the city can’t pass a serious vehicle registration fee. if it were over $1000 per year, i’d probably sell my car, but if it were less i’d probably just pay it.

    and keep riding the bus.

  • Andy Chow

    The counties mentioned are mostly rural counties (most of Fresno County is rural). The main industries are agriculture, military bases, and prisons.

    There are poor and senior folks living in these counties because of the low cost of living, and therefore access to hospitals and other services are essential (even though transit there only operate a few trips a week). Although most of us can’t even imagine living in those places since there’s little diversity and culture.

    However it does highlight how stupid the “cut spending” mentality is.

  • BUm

    sm1 tell me how the problem started and whos fault is it?

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