Supes Approve Wiener’s Population-Based Transit Funding Measure for Ballot

The Board of Supervisors voted 6-4 today to put on November’s ballot a charter amendment that would increase the share of general funds devoted to transportation, based on population growth.

Photo: Takashi Hososhima/Flickr

Supervisor Scott Wiener introduced the measure as a backup plan to generate transportation revenue — 75 percent of which would go to Muni, 25 percent to pedestrian and bike upgrades — after Mayor Ed Lee dropped his support for putting a vehicle license fee increase on the ballot this year. If passed by a majority of voters in November, Wiener’s charter amendment would provide a $23 million budget boost in the first year by retroactively accounting for the last ten years of population growth. Annual funding increases, commensurate with population growth, would follow.

“For too long, City Hall has been slow to prioritize transit funding,” Wiener said in a statement. “We are a growing city, and we need to take firm steps to ensure that our transportation system keeps up with that growth. Improving transit reliability and capacity, and making our streets safer, are key to that goal.”

The six supervisors who voted in support of the measure were David Chiu, London Breed, David Campos, Malia Cohen, and Jane Kim. The votes against came from Supervisors Katy Tang, Norman Yee, Mark Farrell, and Eric Mar. Supervisor John Avalos was absent.

At a recent committee hearing, Supervisors Tang and Yee voiced their “discomfort” with the measure, because it could siphon off general funds that could be used for other city services. Tang also said asking voters to pass the measure, in addition to the $500 general obligation bond for transportation, may be too much of a burden. According to reports from staff at City Hall, Mayor Lee also opposed it for those reasons.

When asked for comment on the supervisors’ approval of Wiener’s measure, mayoral spokesperson Francis Tsang only said, “Mayor Lee’s transportation priority for November is for approval of the City’s first ever $500 million general obligation bond for transportation.”

Wiener’s measure includes a provision that would allow the mayor to nix the charter amendment, if the vehicle license fee increase is passed in 2016.

  • voltairesmistress

    It is sad that in Mayor Lee’s San Francisco, a measure that simply keeps transportation funding at its current per capita share can barely pass the BOS and be disdained by the mayor himself. Even it it gets the nod from voters, Wiener’s measure will fund the status quo, nothing better. Transit will remain slow, crowded, unpunctual. But at least it won’t get worse. Don’t get me wrong — I am grateful Wiener is doing everything he can to structure a better San Francisco. But this is poor porridge to feast on.

  • rickbynight

    Amen to this. Tying funding growth to population growth literally maintains status quo—anything different is a decrease. I’m glad we’re setting this baseline though. It’s time to move forward with funding.

    A fascinating model is the Versement Transport in France—a payroll tax based on mid-large-sized businesses that varies based on transit access. We’re in an economic boom for business, but many residents are struggling to afford the city. The Versement Transport is a great way to recognize the service a public transit agency provides to businesses getting employees to and from work. South bay tech companies pay a much higher per employee cost to get their employees to/from work in their buses than the this would cost—and the benefits extend to the public, not just to a private company.

  • helloandyhihi

    Now the public must be pursued to vote for it. I wish the SF Transit Rider’s Union or another group had the money and expertise to sell voters on why this is important right now.

    As a transit activist, when I talk to people they agree that Muni needs more money. But with all the crazy stuff that will be on the ballot, including the soda tax and another initiative that will bring more money to transportattion, without a good campaign this amendment could easily blur in in people’s minds.

  • Jamison Wieser

    It was only five years ago when voters last approved more Muni funding, Prop A… which was then used to balance the SFPD budget (and other departments, but primarily to the SFPD) with a 10% cut in Muni service following shortly thereafter.

    Only a few months ago the SFMTA Board of Directors approved a budget that drained millions from Muni to fund free parking, premised by the Mayor on the idea that Muni doesn’t need the money because voters will approve replacement funding this fall.

    This time voters didn’t even have a chance to approve more funding for Muni before it was raided, and to subsidize driving of all things. The money might be dedicated to transit and pedestrian projects, but we’ve only just seen how easy it is to shift money around. Like Volatairemistress pointed out, this measure only maintains the status quo, which leaves little wiggle room to raid it again without impacting negatively Muni riders again.

    Will approving this measure turn out any different than before?

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