Seniors, Youth and Disabled To Get Reprieve on Muni Fast Pass Increases

Mayor_in_post_P2P_q_a.jpgMayor Newsom fields questions from reporters today at Showplace Triangle. Streetsblog reporter Michael Rhodes in foreground. Photo by Bryan Goebel.

MTA Board Director Bruce Oka has confirmed to Streetsblog that a proposal to increase monthly Fast Pass prices for seniors, youth and the disabled will not be considered to help solve the MTA’s budget crisis after the outcry from those communities.

"If push comes to shove I would rather do fare hikes in a way that will hurt the least number of people. But we heard from the public that seniors, disabled and youth cannot afford what they’re paying now," said Oka, a longtime disabled rights advocate, who added that he would rather see a hike in the monthly Fast Pass price for adults than service cuts. The proposal was to raise the discount Fast Pass prices by $10. They are already scheduled to go up to $20 in May from the current $15.

Streetsblog has learned that the fare hikes proposal has actually been unofficially off the table for a few weeks, but as Oka explained, the Mayor’s Office still wanted it on tomorrow’s MTA Board agenda. The Board will vote on a series of proposals to
bridge the agency’s $16.9 million budget gap, including a ten percent
cut to Muni service and various monthly Fast Pass increases. A broad coalition of groups is expected to turn out to oppose the measures.

Oka said he will not vote in favor of service cuts tomorrow, and believes there might be enough votes on the MTA Board to reject them. He added that he plans to continue pressing for extending parking meter enforcement, but might be the lone director to support it.

Mayor Gavin Newsom confirmed as much about the fare hikes this afternoon while speaking to reporters after the Pavement to Parks announcement at Showplace Triangle. Newsom, responding to a question from Streetsblog, said it’s possible $1.7 million of the $17.5 million the MTA is expected to receive in redirected Oakland Airport Connector (OAC) funds could be used to fill the gap left by eliminating that proposal.

"We could use that, but that would be a temporary reprieve, because it doesn’t annualize to address that concern next year," he said. "But it doesn’t take TWU off the hook to step up and do the right thing."

Newsom said that of all the proposals to reduce the MTA deficit, the proposed Fast Pass hike for seniors, youth and the disabled "is the one thing I want off the table, and I’m confident we’ll get there." He said he had a meeting planned on the issue later this afternoon, presumably with MTA Chief Nat Ford.

Earlier this week, Ford told supervisors, acting in their role as the board of the San Francisco County Transportation Authority, that the $1.7 million would be used for operations, mostly for maintenance. The MTA has not officially clarified whether that money could alleviate fare hikes.

In his remarks to reporters, Newsom, while acknowledging the drastic statewide cuts to transit, said service cuts and other painful budget remedies before the MTA Board tomorrow rests on whether Muni operators are willing to give up a raise.

"We’ve asked the labor union, the Muni drivers, the Muni operators, to step up. They’re due a raise and we’re saying, please don’t take a raise in this environment, don’t make things worse, help us out, help the riders out. Help seniors, youth and disabled out. If you do, we won’t raise the fare for seniors, youth and disabled, we won’t make the service cuts as acute as we otherwise would."

Newsom said the choices the MTA Board makes tomorrow will be "conditional choices, subject to what the union does next week." Transit Workers Union members rejected a recent package of concessions, with many operators saying they weren’t properly informed about the proposal. Newsom, as he has before, vowed to press ahead with Supervisor Sean Elsbernd’s proposed charter amendment if drivers don’t agree to concessions.

Newsom said extending parking meter enforcement to Sundays was still under consideration, but that it wouldn’t happen anytime soon.

"What I am adamantly, vehemently against, is extending the parking meter hours in this economy, and hurting small businesses. For those who are eager to do it, take a look at what happened in the East Bay, and how that was received," he said, prompting cackles from some reporters and TV photographers. "Meters have been increased over the last number of years, people forget that, substantially increased since 2004. It’s not as if parking has not become more punitive."

Still, Newsom admitted that some businesses have contacted him, urging him to do it because it would actually be favorable for business, with higher turnaround.

Oka said the Mayor is so opposed to extending parking meter hours that Newsom refused a request to do it downtown where Oka believed he could get support from merchants.

Update: In response to this story, MTA spokesperson Judson True
called to clarify Oka’s remarks, and said the discount Fast Pass
proposal is not off the table, and will be decided by the MTA Board
tomorrow. "Clearly, this is a painful proposal and we want to find
another alternative but the proposal is very much on the table until
our board decides otherwise in public, and there is no guarantee that
will happen tomorrow.”

  • They wanted it on there to distract people from cutting 10% of the service. What a joke. But at least they won’t have to pay more for a bus that’ll never come.

  • andrew

    Of course. But working riders still get screwed.

  • 17-year-olds get monthly Muni passes for $15? Man, what a deal.

  • And Newsom just needs to leave. NOW!! His ignorance (when he does pay attention to city issues) is disgusting. He even has merchants calling and telling him that the turn over would help them!

    “What I am adamantly, vehemently against, is extending the parking meter hours in this economy, and hurting small businesses.” Ok Newsom, but cutting ALL service by 10% is going to help small businesses? You are going to have to make a decision, sitting on your ass (or is it his hair?) will not cut it anymore. You have to look at the choices and choose the one that will do the least bit of damage to the city as a whole. Yes, extending meters will hurt some people, but what about the 700,000 one way trips on MUNI?

    This guy is a joke, and I know it has been said a million times but he needs to go. No more of this half-assed bullshit. We need someone in there who can make a decision based on what the city charter – which clearly states that we are transit first city. Just because someone on the public dime is driving your SUV, that does not make it public transit!

    On a positive note, where would we be without Bruce Oka?!

  • Bruce Oka daring to show the kind of independence that the SFMTA was created to exercise. Mayoral support or opposition to a line item ought not to be a publicly acceptable reason for an SFMTA Board member to vote a certain way. Board members who do ought to be removed from that position in any way possible.

  • OK, we beat back the $5 F-line and raising the fares on grandma. Whew! Now back to the regularly scheduled service cuts.

  • Was there anyone here who thought even for a moment that they were going to be evil ogres and raise the student/disabled/senior fare another $10 since it is already going up 50% anyways??? No way!

    Now that hero Newsom saves the students/disabled/seniors (and of course cute puppies and kitties) we can move on to the inevitable gutting of Muni. Reduce the work orders to 311 or the police? No way. Have drivers pay a bit more for parking. No way. Time to cut Muni again.

  • patrick

    This just highlights the incompetence of the MTA leadership. Did they learn nothing from the recent service cuts? Those went by with relatively little outrage because they were targeted and for the most part made sense (at least from what I have read). Now, they are doing broad cuts across the entire service, while at the same time they have been delaying the TEP, which could help inform them as to where to make targeted cuts.

    They are also unwilling to eliminate stops. My block has two stops, if the closest one were eliminated it would be a very minor inconvenience, and would result in a faster journey for many of the riders of the bus, instead they cut frequency, which means more crowding on the bus.

    Newsom refuses to increase rates or enforcement times, even though some of the merchants he claims to be looking out for want it.

    On the upside, hopefully this will create a powerful riders union that will give muni riders a voice like the SFBC has done for cyclists.

  • Bob Rogers

    My understanding that the mayor is against extending parking metre hours based on what happened in Oakland’s Grand Lakes District. He’s the difference: that area depends on people driving to those businesses. The nearest BART station is quite a walk. San Francisco is not the same as Oakland.

    So let’s put this on the table for da Mayor. He keeps the parking metres off the table, and we make sure San Francisco and Muni riders will not vote for him when he runs for LT Gov.

    Let’s move to another point. Why are parking permits only $90 something a year? I don’t have that option and pay $250/mo. Why don’t Outer Sunset and Richmond drivers not have to pay anything for parking permits? Let’s starting making sure drivers are paying their full share.

  • Residential parking permits can only cost as much money as it takes to issue them – state law. Hopefully SF goes to the state and changes that (I believe they are working on this).

    Also, I like how Newsom is opposed to parking meter extension because of what happened in Oakland. Let’s see – Oakland wanted to do a city wide increase not based on any data. The SFMTA did a systematic study and will only increase rates in limited business districts. However, Newsom is for system wide, across the board service cuts to MUNI. Disconnect anyone?

  • Sue

    I’m glad to hear that the senior and youth fares will not be going up. But what about service cuts?

  • As an adult, I’m still ticked at Muni proposing to reject passengers on express and Cable Cars with the “M” pass. It’s not fair to those who take the express bus for a short “local” hop and even worse for those who depend on the 8X to get around the city, especially when it drives in the lower income neighborhoods.

  • DT

    Akit, when I was younger there was only ONE Express Fare. You paid it or got off immediately. To use an express for a local hop defeats the purpose of an express. Back in those days, there were no discounted fares during peak commute hours. Perhaps this should be re-established.

    I don’t do the 9-5 any more and am not old enough for a Senior Pass although many merchants assume I am old enough for one. I’m willing to let the commuters commute while I sip my morning coffee. I also enjoy supermarketing while they are at the office. Can’t we all accommodate each other?

  • eddie

    Is it free to ride the bus at night? NO. Is it free to park a car at night? YES.
    Is it free to ride the bus on Sunday? NO. Is it free to park a car on Sunday? YES.
    Is it free to ride the bus on holidays? NO. Is it free to park a car on holidays? YES.

    NO FREE BUS — NO FREE PARKING!
    NO FREE BUS — NO FREE PARKING!
    NO FREE BUS — NO FREE PARKING!

    this must be our chant, and we need to get people to chant this at the MTA Board hearing, at the Board of Supes, and in front of the Mayor.

  • Nick

    If MTA doesn’t balance their budget, what happens? Do they operate with a deficit or are they forced to declare bankruptcy? And why is Nat Ford considered a CEO instead of an administrator? Typically if you are the CEO of an organization and it gets driven into the grounds you get shown the door. Why then was his contract renewed?

    I see bus zones all over the city that were painted gray so people could park in them. Is there no accountability? I was on a bus today that had 2 stops within 50 feet of each other. It’s like none of their staff spends any time out in the field.

  • Tony

    DT, I agree with you that using an express bus for “local hops” should not be the way we use them. However, the way certain express routes are laid out encourages people to use them for local hops. If you are at the Geneva/Mission stop heading to Balboa Park BART, you can either take the local 29, 43, 54, or the express 8X. People just take which ever bus comes first, or the hopefully less crowded articulated 8X. I think having a different fare structure for other express bus routes might make more sense, such as the 38AX/BX, because they actually provide more of a direct express service. The 8X is more of a odd exception since it has a large local service area connecting various neighborhoods and later hops on the freeway.

  • Dave Snyder

    I wish Newsom wouldn’t refer to paying for parking as punitive. Plays into the idea that we’re trying to punish people for driving when really it’s just about paying your fair share.

  • Alex

    @Michael Why should we cut work orders to 311? 311 is serving as the primary interface between the public and the MTA. 6-SF-MUNI didn’t work particularly well, and the employees that were staffing the phones can now do more productive work for the MTA. Policing the buses does not comprise the majority of what the SFPD does. Dealing with MUNI calls is the majority of what 311 operators do.

    @Akit I suppose it would be nice to see a breakdown of how many FastPass users actually ride the cable cars (and if so how often). At a cost of over $7 per trip, the cable cars are the single most expensive mode of transportation that the MTA offers by a wide margin.

    Hell, as unpopular as a premium price would be for the F-line, I think it’s a good idea. The F takes another expensive mode of transportation and staffs it with old, unreliable vehicles (2428mi MDBF for the LRVs fs 1311mi for the F cars). Make the F $5 (or maybe just eliminate the F, and run the historic cars along the Embarcadero), and then provide trolley coaches to provide non-tourist service.

  • Andy Chow

    Express fare for Muni is a bad idea. Implementing express fares would push a portion of the riders onto limited or local service, which worsens the crowding on those lines. Lines like 8X have local portions. 8AX and 8BX replaces the 8X service during peak hours in peak directions.

    When Muni is not able to enforce its current fare policy, trying to enforce a tighter policy will only be a recipe for failure.

  • Katherine Roberts

    I agree with Dave, it’s important NOT to refer to parking fines as “increasing MUNI revenue” (even though they are). Then people see them as a tax, and they get resentful.

    Instead, it’s important to emphasize that when people park illegally, they will have to pay for it. The fact the money goes to MUNI is just a pleasant side-effect.

    This has a lot better chance of making sense to the driving public.

  • poncho

    Raise the damn senior/youth/disabled fares and passes more, I have never seen such a giveaway than the fares and passes for these groups. 75 cents now, like only 5 years ago it was 35 cents. $15 monthly pass!?!?! (while the standard adult pass is $60!) $15/month, is this 1975?

    Muni is all about people taking advantage of the system… backdoor bandits, riding on expired transfers, everyone riding on reduced fares which are absurdly low, ridiculous work rules, etc. There is no law enforcement or accountability. Why pay if no one cares if you pay? Muni has become an outstanding example of the tragedy of the commons, where everyone tries to milk as much out of the system as the system collapses. No wonder transit service is so bad when fares are ridiculously low and no one checks your transfer and every union demand is accepted. Muni buses are the most vandalized in the US and look it.

  • Sprague

    One reason why youth fares should remain low is to keep Muni as an affordable travel option for families in SF. If youth passes jump to $30/month, the automobile becomes an even more attractive mode of travel in this city. Most residents in SF own cars but many choose instead to use Muni if it is convenient. A family with, say, two kids is far more apt to discontinue buying youth fast passes and instead drive their kids around more often. Transit riders are being penalized for this lousy economy. Our car owning friends should share the burden.

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