Today’s Headlines

  • BART Board to Negotiate with GM Dorothy Dugger on Her Departure (SF Gate)
  • SFMTA Will Face $1.6 Billion Deficit Over 20 Years (SF Gate, SF Examiner)
  • Supes Committee to Vote on Legislation to Crackdown on Illegal Cabs (SF Examiner)
  • Software Glitch Causes 30 Minute Caltrain Delays (SF Examiner)
  • SFMTA Fare Inspector Attacked (SF Examiner)
  • SM Daily Journal: Mayors Frustrated by Plan to Close Caltrain Stations
  • Important Meetings in Oakland This Week on Transit and Bike/Ped Issues (Living in the O)
  • Obama’s Transpo Budget Includes Money for Fresno BRT Project (Fresno Bee)
  • High Earners in London Demand Bike Parking at Work Before Changing Jobs (Evening Standard)

More headlines at Streetsblog Capitol Hill

  • I know capital and operating costs are two completely separate things, but the $1.6B number is just too perfect. How much does the CS cost again?

  • If urban transit funding were 100% devolved to the county level, there would be no difference between capital and operations: it would just be money budgeted for transit that could be spent in whichever way made the most sense, rather than having to throw good money into questionable projects to get grants. In this reality you certainly would not see projects like the million dollar ticket booths or the OAC getting approved while Muni and AC transit are falling apart.

    And in general I must say this direction from the MTA is absolutely pathetic. Throw out some revenue measures which have little to no chance of passing (and for good reason: why should voters believe that Muni will invest their money wisely?), and then set a target for cost savings without any plan on how to realize a dollar of it.

    I notice that it is never even considered that one way Muni can increase revenue is by increasing ridership and therefore collecting more fares: this would require providing better service to attract more customers, which the leadership at the MTA clearly don’t consider to be in the realm of possibility.

    So, being realistic and assuming that voters will reject giving the MTA one more cent and that city hall will fail to get much of anything from the public employee unions, could they at least put things like a large scale signal preemption system and immediate implementation of all-door boarding on the table, which would reduce cost and improve service to the benefit of all stakeholders?

  • Alex

    What? No mention of the POP cop who got assaulted in the Mission last week? And no mention that he was simply cited and released? Ugh.

  • jd

    I don’t know what it’s going to take for Americans to realize that we have to pay higher taxes to get the things we want. We have just about the lowest tax burden of any industrialized country. That in itself is a major problem, yet to complicate matters we also support a military whose budget is 20% of our own budget and which is bigger than the military budgets of the next 15 biggest military budgets *combined*. So how do Americans want good schools, healthcare, cops, fire fighters, social security, good transportation infrastructure, state/national parks, etc., etc., on *top* of an enormous military budget which no other country has to deal with, and not expect to pay for it? Given the size of our military budget, we should be paying more taxes than other industrialized countries. If you don’t want these things, then shut up and don’t complain why the country crumbles. But if you want those things (and I think most people do), then you need to pony up. You can’t have it both ways.

    It drives me nuts that we’ve become so short-sighted and so used to getting dirt cheap products by externalizing costs, namely taking advantage of workers in developing countries and taking advantage of the environment. Our path is unsustainable and the debt we’ve incurred (not just literally, but figuratively due to the destruction of our planet) must be repaid. It’s time to start acting like adults and take the issues we face seriously.

    When it comes to public transit, we need to start prioritizing it over cars. We need more people out there to start doing studies which will reveal all the externalized costs that we are paying to keep supporting cars at the expense of all other forms of more efficient, more healthy, and better for the environment transit. When the budget goes to hell, it should never be on the table to cut public transit and pedestrian/cyclist measures to the point that they are in jeopardy.

  • icarus12

    To StevenS and JD: I don’t know if SF voters will vote in additional taxes for the SFMTA. The main reason is not resistance to taxes, but rather distrust of the agency empowered to use that tax revenue. The SFMTA:

    1) issues tickets that are crippling, and too highly priced for the infraction (25x the cost of an hour’s metered parking, for example);

    2) has a sham appeals process that anyone with a busy life cannot possibly spend the time and money navigating to conclusion.

    3) has wedded itself to parking tickets as a key revenue source, rather than as a service to businesses and motorists in need of parking turnover;

    4) up til now has not instituted truly dynamic pricing, so that hardly used parking is used, and yet still they will ticket a lone car on a street full of empty spaces at meters.

    5) has relied on another service, street-cleaning, to descend on unwary motorists.

    6) has issued many bogus or questionable tickets, none of which is easily appealed.

    In theory, I am all for a regularized revenue stream, rather than the cost to motorists of sporadic ticketing assaults that cost them crippling fines and far too much pain for the infraction. But the SFMTA doesn’t have any credibility for me and many others. So I don’t know how I’ll vote on these revenue measures, since they come at us without any promises of necessary reforms.

  • Mario Tanev

    icarus12,

    I agree with you that to some extent, dynamic pricing is a fair way to solve the problem you describe. At one extreme, if there are too many open spaces, the parking fee should be zero (or small but large enough to encourage transit instead). At the other, if there are no or few open spaces, the fee should be very high to really encourage turnover and transit use. That means that parking meter fees should be applied on evenings and weekends as well. The problem, I think is that drivers are unwilling to accept a higher up-front baseline price for driving in the city. They are more willing to accept higher penalties, because they think they can avoid them. That forces the SFMTA to use punitive means to collect revenue, which affects some classes of people more than others (fairly or unfairly). It is similar to the way banks used to provide free checking and gouge those who didn’t keep track of their balance. Unfortunately what I hear on these forums from drivers often times is that they want free or very cheap parking altogether, without caring about turnover, the congestion they cause, the environment, or transit. I wish all drivers approached this issue in a rational fashion like you have in your post. SFMTA board has many times expressed desire to move away from punitive revenue. For example, SFMTA lost revenue when street-cleaning was reduced, and the city decided that it is not right to revert it to previous level simply to fund the SFMTA.

    But I disagree that the cost of all infractions should be low. It should just be hard to perform an infraction unwittingly. If a driver parks on a sidewalk, they have done it knowingly and need to be penalized heavily to prevent them from recidivism. If someone has over-stayed their meter by 2 minutes, they should be allowed to simply feed the meter to catch up rather than charged a fine. In fact, they should probably be charged when they leave, rather than when they park. Then the only way to overstay a meter would be to overstay the X-hour limit, which is hard to do. But if the public right of way (including sidewalks) is blocked, or danger is created (straight tires on a hill), the penalty should be high.

    The way pay-on-departure can work is that to park you have to tag your Clipper card, or use a credit card, which will be debited for the full X-hour stay allowed at the meter. When you are ready to drive off, tag again and the difference will be refunded (perhaps rounded up to the nearest Y-minute increment). If you over-stay the limit at the spot, the penalty should still be high since you are in effect monopolizing the space and hurting turnover. One could argue that pre-paying some amount and knowing you have to return in that time encourages turnover, but I think the price of the meter is a better way to encourage it – if you need to take your time you don’t have to choose between overpaying and underpaying (which if caught, also means overpaying).

  • icarus12

    Mario Tenev,
    Yours was a really interesting and creative way of thinking about paying for parking. I had never heard of the idea of pre-paying, and then paying again before exiting for any extra minutes one used. Maybe those “smart meters” will get smarter. It would be really cool, for instance, to be able to pay via one’s cell phone while still in the restaurant or shop but taking longer than expected.

    I think drivers will get used to dynamic parking payments and get used to the idea that public space taken up by cars needs to be paid for. My hope is that drivers educated as to the true costs will gradually adjust our expectations as to what is a fair set of payments. But the governing bodies, SFMTA in this case, will need to adjust their collection of revenue so that parking is a service fee system, not a lottery of $1 million in exorbitant fines per year financing other people’s transit needs and SFMTA members’ unrealistic expectations for wages, benefits, and lax work rules.

  • Morton

    Icarus

    Agreed, and another reason SF voters won’t approve new revenue measures for Muni is the widespread perception that pay and benefits for muni worker is too high, and their working practices too archaic and inflexible.

    I’d like to see some real concessions from the Muni workers before I even think about giving them an extra dollar of my hard-earned pay in tax. And of course a management that actually appears competent. Throwing bad money after good, just so nothing ever has to change, seems a poor option.

  • Alex

    icarus12: I think that there’s a certain amount of leeway for ticket prices. While people hate paying them (hey I just got one for not putting money into a jammed meter…), they are punitive by design. OTOH, the top to bottom resistance to any sort of operational or procurement improvements makes people leery. Look at what the past few MTA/MUNI propositions have done (hint: nothing). I don’t think anyone’s stupid enough to believe simply throwing money at the MTA will fix anything.

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