Transit Advocates Gearing up for Friday’s MTA Board Vote

flyer.jpgClick for full-size PDF: The Transit Not Traffic coalition is distributing flyers to transit supporters.

Friday could be a dark day for San Francisco’s public transit system: The MTA Board is set to vote on a ten percent cut in service and increases to several monthly passes in order to cover a $16.9 million budget deficit. But transit supporters are organizing in force to push the Board to consider other options for balancing the budget.

A broad coalition of groups is coming together to oppose the measures, including Livable City, Walk SF, Chinatown Community Development Center, Visitacion Valley Asian Alliance, Urban Habitat, SFBC, MUNI First!, the Central City SRO Collaborative, SEIU 1021, and others, said the SFBC’s Marc Caswell. It’s a temporary revival of the Transit Not Traffic coalition that helped pass Proposition A and defeat Proposition H in 2007.

The coalition’s purpose, said Caswell, is to push for a five-point plan that includes stopping service cuts and fare hikes, charging city employees to park at work, extending parking meter enforcement hours, and not scapegoating riders or bus drivers.

"We’re saying there are revenue sources and there is a good way to make this work, but we’re trying to make sure we don’t instead pass the buck onto riders and continue to raise fares while cutting service," he said.

More than 700 people have sent letters to the Mayor and MTA Board through the SFBC’s website opposing service cuts. The bike organization is encouraging members to show up to the meeting as well.

Dave Snyder, who’s organizing a more permanent Muni riders coalition, said the new group will likely have a name by the end of the day Friday. The group’s steering committee, made up of representatives from numerous groups that support progressive transportation policy in the city, will be have its first meeting on Friday, and choosing a name is on the agenda.

In the meantime, Snyder is encouraging Muni supporters to visit the nascent organization’s temporary home on the web at muniriders.org. It’s not a permanent web site, said Snyder, but people interested in joining the group can sign up now.

"It’s not just for people who ride Muni regularly, but anyone who wants to see a robust transit service in San Francisco," said Snyder.

The MTA Board will vote on the measures at its meeting Friday, at City Hall in Room 400. The meeting starts at 9 a.m. You can also easily email the MTA Board and the Mayor through SFBC’s transit page.

  • James Figone

    I went to a SPUR presentation last night where Timothy Papandreou of SFMTA stated that each minute of delay in the Muni system costs $1m/year. There are literally hundreds of minutes of delay built into the system due to its operational inefficiency . This is where we should start to look for solutions to the budget deficit. Start with:

    1. Stop consolidation
    2. Bus lane enforcement
    3. Pre-paid boarding

    Yes, we can look at operator salaries, politics, equipment, etc. but the low hanging fruit is in the simple things that can be done to speed up the system.

  • C.J. Flowers

    …”The drives deserve fair pay and good conditions” Are they serious?? Over 20

    percent of Muni drivers are AWOL every day and they are worried about “conditions?” “Fair Pay?” They are the 2nd highest paid transit operators in the United States and they don’t contribute a nickel to their pensions…and you are advocating taxpayers pay more at the meters?? Ridiculous.

  • Joel

    @Flowers

    I absolutely agree. I would totally post that flyer at my office if it didn’t include that bit. We should only give them that kind of salary if our city has a quality transit system that is worth that much (not one that is facing a record budget deficit).

  • James: Do you know what the number one cause of Muni delays is? It’s private autos. Stop consolidation, dedicated (but unprotected) bus lanes, and pre-paid boarding won’t do anything compared to simply reducing VMT and Auto Trips in this city. Those are just stop-gap measures- increasing cost of driving, reducing cost of bus means more efficient Muni, means more people opting not to drive. It’s cyclical.

  • James Figone

    @marcsfbc. Right, autos are a huge problem but Muni does not have direct control over the number of cars where they do control the efficiency of their own operations. Fixing delays within their control is currently not on the table and it needs to be addressed. Once Muni is faster and more efficient, more people will ride it leading to fewer cars, leading to a faster Muni, etc.

  • patrick

    While I agree that operators shouldn’t be scapegoated, the work rules they now have are completely unacceptable, and would be even if Muni were operating under budget.

    On the other hand, and please correct me if I’m wrong, my understanding is that along with getting guaranteed wages at second in the nation or therabouts, the union gave up the right to strike, and that the ancillary benefits and work rules are not encoded in the city charter. If that is correct, and I could be misunderstanding, but if I am correct, then the ridiculous work rules and benefits have been given to the operators, even though they cannot strike even if no benefits were given at all. To me that means whoever negotiated the contract gave the operators these benefits, even though the operators had no real leverage to require them.

    If that’s the case, then the operators are being scapegoated, and the real party responsible is Muni management, and the politicians behind them.

    Again, I could be wrong about all that, so if anybody has better information, please correct me.

  • patrick

    @James, while you are right that muni only has control over muni, an advocacy group should think beyond that. The group should work for improvements in every place it can: The mayor, the BOS, the police (to enforce bike lanes & police muni vehicles) as well as MTA and whatever else can help improve muni service.

  • patrick

    I meant “bus lanes” rather than “bike lanes” in the above comment:

    while you are right that muni only has control over muni, an advocacy group should think beyond that. The group should work for improvements in every place it can: The mayor, the BOS, the police (to enforce bus lanes & police muni vehicles) as well as MTA and whatever else can help improve muni service.

  • Nick

    Can we print up about 20,000 “Transit First!” stickers for the new coalition? People will start to believe it if they see it everywhere. Something about changing the mindset…

    Hey, and today I saw MTA workers aggressively putting up Bus Stop ID stickers at locations that do not have NextMuni signs. Looks like they are trying to calm a backlash from service cuts by at least providing a way to find out when your next bus might be coming.

    Walking further down the street I noticed the next 2 bus stops had their red zone painted over with gray paint illegally. Parking trumps all in this city.

  • It’s a tough situation. Tax revenues are wildly down on both a state and city level, and the state political process is so broken and dysfunctional that they are resorting to stealing from transit funds rather than legitimately raising taxes or cutting programs within their purview. Still, for the city in turn to force this pain onto transit riders (especially teens and seniors) is misguided public policy, both economically and environmentally.

    The city of San Francisco is basically doubling water rates over the next five years to pay for the rebuilding the of our crumbling, 100-year-old water and sewer infrastructure. As frustrating as MUNI is, it’s as important to the functioning of our city as water. (Imagine the gridlock without it.) A functional transit system is an asset that will give San Francisco an enormous economic advantage in the coming years because it allows people during hard economic times to live and work without the expense of a car. The money not spent on gas, insurance and car payments (all to non-local corporations) is money that can instead go into the local economy–restaurants, small businesses, even rents. Good public transit is an investment that pays back local economic dividends.

    Perhaps we should put a referendum on the ballot requiring all San Francisco city and county employees (including elected public officials) to walk, bicycle or take public transportation to work. If it were to pass, bicycle lanes would magically appear throughout the city, the pedestrian-car collision rate would plummet, and funds carved from other budget line items would speedily find their way into MUNI coffers. Oh, and parking meters would be installed in Golden Gate Park before a week had passed.

  • taomom, you always provide great insight. Want to run for mayor?

    But as a car-free family, I can say that the money we save by not paying for a car, and the included costs, goes right into the local businesses. If we had a car, we wouldn’t go out because that disposable income would be completely wiped out. We’ve done the math, and we could affor a car, but what would be the point if you can’t enjoy the city? And I mean that both economically and visually – the view from behind a windshield sucks.

  • Richard Mlynarik

    Muni hates you.
    Muni is a pure welfare operation.
    Next stop: Central Subway!
    Die, Muni.

    Get on your bike if you want to get anywhere and if you give a damn about the sort of place in which you live.

  • Steve

    @patrick The whole reason we created the SFMTA is so that Muni would not just have control over Muni. The SFMTA was given the power to control streets and parking specifically so that they can prioritize transit with less city hall red tape. Unfortunately the mayor has appointed a board that doesn’t use these powers in any case where there could be the slightest inconvenience to drivers.

  • Jared

    Yea I guess “most” Muni riders work hard too. And I guess “most” Muni riders actually want to pay taxes for the services the city provides (instead of plundering the working class). Perhaps “most” Muni riders wouldn’t dare suck money from the state and the working class by collecting unemployment instead of getting a job like everyone else. And I’m sure “most” Muni riders have not and never will support spending billions of California dollars on killing Arabs in useless wars for about a decade and building prisons instead of funding safe/affordable public transportation and education in this state…

  • @James: I totally agree on pre-paid fare machines. Faster boarding times is very necessary on the heavily used bus lines

  • Fellow SB’ers,

    I am disheartened at the willingness of some of livable streets advocates to bash on the muni workers. For those of you who are scapegoating MUNI workers’ salaries for the current cuts and crisis, you may want to visit sfgate today and see that you are now lock-step with the likes of Nevius. Or visit the examiner’s site, you’re in line with them too.

    Which brings to the table a conundrum and disturbing question–is walking, biking, and transit-first advocacy no longer progressive? Is this advocacy just about making one’s own gentrified little neighborhood a little more pleasant to walk around, others be damned?

    I realize that there are definitely some conservative ideas in the livable streets movement right now–including the ‘flat’ (really regressive) congestion tax (and I really support congestion pricing, it should be progressive rather than regressive though) was fully supported by the Bush administration’s transp sec. I realize that there are going to be and should be conservative voices for getting more cars off the streets and reducing the burdens of personal car ownership, and more choice when it comes to transportation modes.

    Yet at the core of the livable streets movement there is still an idea of progressivism. This idea(l) however seems pretty flimsy when people on this forum anyhow are willing to pile on with Newsom, Nevius, and the Examiner when it comes to MUNI operator salaries. Paying people to do jobs costs money.

    Jobs and worker issues are not detachable from livable streets issues. Ending the decades-long domination of the personal auto of our public space and transit routes first and foremost helps the working classes who must often take derelict and sub-par transit services or pay a disproportionate percentage of their income to buy and and maintain an auto. Of the two million people killed each year by automobiles, the vast majority are lower class, non-car owning persons.

    This is the most important reason, for me, to push for livable streets reforms here and internationally. And if we care about these things, we need to rethink attacks on operator and worker salaries, even if there is a pervasive bias against MUNI drivers that is all to easy to tap into when the going gets tough.

    J

  • andrew

    Do you support an 8% raise when everyone else is taking a pay cut, Justin? Stand and be counted.

  • patrick

    Personally I don’t care if Nevius or the Examiner supports or opposes something, nor do I care if it’s “progressive” or not. I also don’t really care about the salary issue, I care about the work rules that are making muni more difficult to run effectively, such as the institutionalized absenteeism, restrictions against part time drivers and such. When the operators refuse to fix those rules, then I’m all for eliminating any guaranteed salary levels for them, as that seems to be the only way to get them to come to the table, especially when they provide such ridiculous excuses as their proclaimed “concern” for the young, elderly and disabled, when clearly they are only concerned for themselves.

    I’ll be the first to agree that operators are not the only ones responsible for Muni’s problems, management is very poor as well, but that does not get them off the hook for supporting ridiculous work rules.

  • Andrew,

    I’m against everyone else taking a cut.

    We should be striving for the kind of union protections for more workers that MUNI has rather than working to eviscerate the few remaining groups of workers that have union protections and who do not have to take salary cuts when banks explode and wars deplete the treasury.

    J

  • Andy Chow

    I think what the riders are fed up with is the disregard from the employee unions on their customers. I know that some of the pro-union folks say that union is on our side and that we’re all progressives. But how could anyone explain whether it is progressive when Muni workers get a 8% raise for doing the same thing, while city workers at other unions get a pay cut, and while everyone else get a fare increase ans service cut?

    Part of the progessive value is us, us, us, and not me, me, me. If Muni workers are that progessive, they would be willing to share the pain with other city workers and all transit riders. Apparently the me, me, me in the union want a 8% raise at the expense of other Muni workers (which would get laid off), city workers, and transit riders.

  • Andy Chow

    Complaining about the banks and the wars (which I agree) won’t solve the problems we have locally. The state of California (and the City of San Francisco) isn’t paying for the banks and the wars and don’t have to authority to print money, which is the only way to afford pay raise for government workers in this economy.

    We are a bit better off because we are spending some federal funds to support operations (which is financed by debt).

    I am not against unions, but I do think that public employee unions tend to exploit the political process for their own gain. The same political process can hit them hard if they don’t watch out.

  • Jared

    Yea, Andy, workers should share in the pain like what the cops and firefighters and management? Do you go on other websites and bash cops for not taking pay cuts? Why do all of you keep on insisting everyone should take a paycut for the better good of the city? Is MUNI management or the pigs at city hall taking pay cuts? Why must you insist on attacking working class people to solve problems they did not create and are not responsible for. How many MUNI riders traded a CDO on the stock exchange this past year? And who are these “riders” that are all taking cuts? None of my white, middle class SF’ican friends are taking pay cuts…not a single one of them. In fact, I know a few people who have recently got pay increases – they ride the MUNI downtown everyday.

    You’re not interested in big questions, huh? Good approach. Let’s ignore the trillions of dollars spent on killing and incarcerating people and the parties (read: plural) responsible for this approach which I’m sure the vast majority of you vote for. Let’s ignore why there is a recession in the first place – probably some magical thing that happened on Wall St. Let’s ignore a 30 yr process of the neo-liberalization of American towns and cities aimed at destroying any and all public goods for the benefit of the “free market” – sounds conspiratorial and that’s a big word with a hyphen. Let’s instead simply focus on the fact there’s this thing called a “crisis” (vaguely defined) the city of SF is broke (who cares why) and demand that the working class start paying for it. Class warfare is always easier than thinking and organizing effectively against the real problems.

    You realize this is the same logic used to justify the catastrophic raise in college fees. “I’m not against cheap, affordable eduction, but CA students have had it good for a long time – it’s they chip in during lean times.” Once you’ve accepted this narrative the battle is already lost. Before you know it you’re attacking workers, students, and poor people at the wishes of the ruling class who decided a few decades ago they were tired of paying their fair share of taxes and then we all act like it’s surprise when we have none of public services anymore. Crises don’t happen – they’re created and someone always benefits from them.

    There are still “political processes” in this country? We’ll see you in the streets on March 4th Andy – check that out – it’ll be a great political process.

  • patrick

    @Jared

    “solve problems they did not create and are not responsible for.” They did create part of the problem by agreeing to a contract with ridiculous work rules.

    Muni operators are currently scheduled to get an 8% raise, the negotiated proposal did not cut their salaries, it was focused on work rules, and redirecting the raise (for 1 year mind you) to pay into the operator’s pension plan, not a wage cut.

    This is a post about the MTA, not the police or firefighters. There have been posts about police charging muni for work orders, for services they are not actually providing, if you read that, you know most regular readers here are just as upset by that as the muni operators.

    Just because others are doing a bad job (management & politicians for example, which I completely agree they are not doing what they should) does not let the operators off the hook.

  • I was under the impression that 8% was suppose to be because the operators had to pay for part of their own medical benefits for the last year or two so that money is just giving back to them what should have been paid in the first place.

    Could be wrong though.

  • Susan King

    Great discussion, I am optimistic about the long term prospects of having an organized Muni riders group, and all the good heads in the room to help this advocacy succeed. On that note, I do not think it is good advocacy for one stakeholder group to attack another (eg. riders vs. drivers). In the meetings I have attended, there are lots of different interests represented around the table, and each has issues and ideas that others may not like. We all share the goal of an efficient transit system that meets the needs of the public, and is affordable, comfortable and reliable. I think we can get there.

  • david vartanoff

    @ Justin. Nevius like a broken clock can be right despite himself. Have a look at Muni’s Daily reports http://www.sfmta.com/cms/rdlymuni/dlymuniindx.php
    to see absenteeism and the consequences like a quarter of the not outs on Mission Street. No “worker solidarity with the downtrodden” there. I support workers’ right to unionize, but I also believe certain public services should NOT be subject to strikes and transit is right there w/ police/fire/emergency medical. As to the current wage rate/work rules, the recent backdown by the BOS when the union folk came in to object to Elsbernd’s potential ballot measure tells the tale. Citizen/taxpayers need to organize to force change.

  • the greasybear

    “Class war” rhetoric deployed against RIDERS who want RIDERS’ issues addressed first and foremost will only lead RIDERS to walk away from any nascent RIDERS’ coalition.

    But don’t take my word for it–tell concerned Muni riders who show up to a meeting that you don’t know any white middle-class San Franciscans who’ve taken a pay cut, tell them they’re indistinguishable from Republicans and union-busters and Satan if they don’t shut up and advocate for the pre-existing operators’ union agenda. Tell them they’re wrong, and then ask them to volunteer their time, energy and money. See for yourself how that works out.

    At the formation stage, it is critical to convince riders that riders alone are the focus of the new group, and that its birth marks the end of business-as-usual. Don’t pre-load the agenda with non-riders’ issues and agendas. Leave the advocacy for the operators’ union to the union itself and focus on RIDERS’ concerns in order to build a riders’ movement. Bridge-building and coalitions come later, when there’s actually a cohesive group with a coherent agenda to work with.

  • Andy Chow

    The other reason that I think riders’ agenda should be separate from the union’s agenda is that labor unions generally do not fight each other, even if they are treated differently by their employers and don’t have any other issues in common.

    Construction unions show up to support capital projects (like the Oakland Airport Connector) even though the same money would benefit transit unions, but you will never see transit unions fight those construction unions at those meetings. On the other hand, you see rider groups show up to advocate against OAC to preserve transit service.

    OAC may not be the worst project, but the same construction unions will fight as hard for money to widen freeways. Union jobs may be progressive but certainly freeway widening isn’t.

    In case of Muni, I think the labor union has forgotten the long term viability of the system. Muni doesn’t have monopoly on transportation in the city. Bicycles and automobiles are major competitors, and the automobile is the most harmful one. Even if more funding is needed, the union needs to deliver the service in a way to suggest that any increase in funding would be used wisely.

    Those who depend on transit the most don’t necessarily vote (too young or non-citizen), but a lot of choice-riders and non-riders do vote. A system that gives a bad image and bad experience to its riders don’t earn a lot of sympathy. The whole class-war thing isn’t going to work.

  • This entire conversation makes me depressed.

    Yes, muni work rules need to be changed, but the eagerness of many people to paint the MUNI fiasco as primarily a problem of unions and government workers is disgusting. The unions, at worst, can be accused of doing their job too well. Its management that agreed to these work rules, its management that’s failing to make tough decisions, and its management that should ultimately be held accountable.

  • It will be on here at 9am for those of us stuck in the office. Thank you to everyone who could make it there. Make sure your voice gets heard!

    http://sanfrancisco.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?publish_id=6

    If that doesn’t work:
    http://www.sfgovtv.org/
    It’ll be on channel SFGTV in the bottom right.

  • Andy Chow

    The economy has changed, but the union felt like that it doesn’t need to change. Riders already have to pay higher fares and receive less service. The union broke the straw when it rejected a more than reasonable agreement.

    Muni drivers are the face of Muni that riders see everyday. Most of them don’t even know who Nat Ford is. It would be foolish to assume that all the blame should go to the management when riders see missing runs and drivers yelling at people and then see them getting a 8% raise, along with increased fares.

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