MTA Releases Revised Budget Proposal, List of Muni Service Cuts

2293719539_4b188bbe89.jpgFlickr photo: Steve Rhodes

The Municipal Transportation Agency has released a revised budget proposal for the 2009-2010 fiscal year that calls for eliminating up to nine bus routes, and scaling back service on as many as 29 routes, including some popular lines, in a series of cost-cutting moves that would help Muni close a $129 million budget gap.

The document, released late Thursday, narrows down the list of options to be presented to the MTA Board at its meeting on Tuesday. It proposes a 50 cent fare hike for adult single rides beginning September 1st, from the current $1.50 to $2.00, eliminating the option for a lower 25 cent increase. The cost of a monthly fast pass is already scheduled to go up from $45 to $55 on July 1st, and the latest proposal would tack on another $5, making it $60 beginning in January 2010.

In addition, a proposal is on the table to charge 50 cents for all transfers, an option brought up by some members of the MTA Board.

MTA staff has also proposed three scenarios for eliminating routes and segments of routes and reducing service. Option 3 proposes the deepest cuts — a 6.3 percent reduction in service hours — amounting to $17.8 million in savings. (Download this PDF for the complete budget document and list of proposed service reductions and modifications).

"There’s no doubt that these options, especially option three, would significantly reduce service to Muni customers," said MTA spokesperson Judson True, who added that where possible, alternative service has been identified and will be improved to make up for reduced service.

Many of the routes proposed for elimination in Options 2 and 3 mirror options that have already been outlined in the Transit Effectiveness Project (TEP). Those routes are the 3-Jackson, 7-Haight, 16AX Noriega A Express,  20-Columbus, 26-Valencia, 53-Southern Heights, 74X-Culture Bus and 89-Laguna Honda. The 4-Sutter would be eliminated in Options 1 and 2 but the 3-Jackson would remain.

"The proposed service cuts do not represent the implementation of the TEP, which was designed to increase service on the busiest corridors in the Muni system," said True. "The proposals, though, are informed by data and public input collected in the planning phase of the TEP. These are more informed cuts than any previous cut package developed by Muni." 

In addition, segments of routes would be eliminated on some lines, including the N-Judah (weekend service on the Embarcadero), 1-California (south of Market on weekdays only), 2-Clement (between Park Presidio and 33rd), 29 Sunset (in the Presidio north of Baker Beach), 36-Teresita (Monterey/Forester to Balboa Park BART), 41-Union (between Lyon and Steiner), 67-Bernal Heights (on portions of Crescent and Mission), 88-BART Shuttle (west of I-280), and 108-Treasure Island (between Transbay Terminal and Caltrain).

The budget proposal also outlines potential cuts within the MTA. Instead of freezing positions, the latest proposal calls for the elimination of up to 370 jobs to save $32 million annually, but the agency would continue hiring front line positions. Some workers could also be forced to take a one-day-a-month furlough, designed to save up to $24 million a year. 

"Fundamentally we do not want to move in this direction," said True, who stressed the agency will continue looking at better service delivery practices and reducing transit delays, despite budget constraints.

"Everything is still on the table and we don’t know what the final budget balancing package will look like." 

The MTA Board will consider declaring a fiscal emergency in order to implement the cuts and service reductions this year, a formality that would allow the agency to get around environmental review.  

Here are dates and locations for the upcoming hearings and meetings:

  • Tuesday, April 7, 2 p.m., MTA Board of Directors Meeting and Public Hearing, City Hall, Room 400
  • Tuesday, April 14, 9 a.m, MTA Board of Directors Policy and Governance Committee, One South Van Ness Avenue, 2nd Floor Atrium Conference Room
  • Saturday, April 18, 10 a.m to 2 p.m, MTA Information Meeting on Proposals to Balance Budget, One South Van Ness Avenue, 2nd Floor Atrium Conference Room
  • Tuesday, April 21, 2 p.m., MTA Board of Directors Meeting and Public Hearing, City Hall, Room 400
  • Thursday, April 30, 2 p.m, Special MTA Board of Directors Meeting on Fiscal Year 2010 Budget, City Hall, Room 400

  • Peter

    when we push the city council on bike improvements, we need to couch it as an emergency, no less important than the emergency the MTA wants to declare. people need a way to get around, and the MTA and the governor and the city and ‘the powers that be’ have told poor and working class people to ‘go screw’, so actually making it possible for normal people to ride their bikes around town would be a very effective way to offset some of the trauma that will be caused by MTA service cuts.

    this is an emergency — we need these street changed NOW.

  • You all scoffed when I characterized the TEP as the “less with less” plan but now we see that the MTA is implementing the cuts without the improvements.

    The 50c transfer is an absurd idea, unless Muni is going to come up with a bunch of new L-shaped lines. If I have to pay $5.00 to ride the 22 to the N to go somewhere with my wife, we’ll always choose to take a taxi ride instead, and save ourselves the 45-minute headache.

    Cutting the 2/3/4 isn’t going to help anyone, because the supposedly overlapping services on the 1 and 38 lines are already at capacity. Can you imagine trying to squeeze all the rush hour riders on the 2/3/4 onto the jammed coaches of the 38? Me neither.

    Finally I will note that the “eveything” which is still on the table does not include congestion pricing.

  • sf4fun66

    Expect further cuts and delays as these measures will not solve the financial crisis. These are band-aid approaches to a far more serious problem with the transit agency. In a couple years the MTA will raise fares to $2.50, fast passes to $75, etc. Meanwhile, LAMTA is still $1.25. I wonder how LA manages when SF cannot.

    The MUNI system isn’t worth the money we shell out to use it. I haven’t owned a car in 15 years because I took pride in the transit systems in DC and NYC where I lived. 8 years in SF and I never had the same feeling of pride or satisfaction with the quality of service and accessibility. The system is incredibly slow, inefficient and mismanaged.

    If the agency is set on raising fares and cutting service it better not proceed with the Central Subway boondoggle.

  • @sf4fun66, (sarcasm) but the Central Subway already has money allocated for it.

    I totally agree with all three of you. Where are you going to put these people? Into cars? Our downtown streets are already packed. On bikes? On what bike paths?

    The state has really screwed the city (and all public transportation). This money shouldn’t be ripped out of our pockets, we already paid for service in state taxes that were allocated by law to go to PT.

  • jdub

    Here is a way to reduce costs while retaining existing frequency and potentially improving reliability: cut the number of stops on every route (except Metro routes) in half.

    This is a service cut but one that will be welcomed by the vast majority of MUNI riders. One of the major reasons for poor MUNI performance is the excessive number of stops. The fiscal emergency is a great way to finally get past the political hurdle of removing stops.

  • Stephen

    Just to clarify, yes LAMTA is $1.25 for a one way segment… but transfers are not offered anymore. Each segment costs $1.25, and most trips end up requiring a transfer, bumping the cost to $2.50. There is also a $5 day pass offered. Additionally, Metro’s monthly pass is $62, $17 more than Muni’s. And prior to that since the 80’s, it was $52.

  • Far be it from me to say SFMTA doesn’t have issues to work through — the “far more serious problem with the transit agency” that sf4fun66 mentioned — but it’s simply not fair to assign all blame for proposed fare increases and service cuts to the MTA itself. Nor is it fair to say that these proposed cuts (without a corresponding increase to service on primary routes) was what was envisioned by the TEP. It’s important to include in the conversation a discussion of the magnitude of what the State has done, by depriving transit agencies of considerable STA funds for the remainder of this fiscal year, and then the more serious problem of yanking those funds away completely in upcoming years. And at the same time, these are needs that we cannot use stimulus funds to fulfill. The unfortunate irony is that the kind of incremental improvements TEP ultimately stood for, had we had gotten the chance to implement some of them, are also those that would allow for resources to be used more efficiently.

  • CBrinkman

    Poor Muni riders. I’m so lucky to be able to ride my bike and not worry about Muni to get to work – but what about the people who do have to depend on Muni; who can lose their jobs when they’re late, who leave work late at night and have no options? Meanwhile, arrogant drivers speed through our city streets and frighten people off bikes and out of crosswalks. Tax the darn cars to pay for Muni. Where is our congestion charge?

  • thegreasybear

    With the annual cost of a FastPass hitting $720 a year, cycling will only become more economically appealing to large subsets of current Muni riders.

    For those who forego the increasingly expensive FastPass, a $450 commuter bike pays for itself in less than a year, and continues to provide reliable transportation for several subsequent years without regular monthly outlays. Bikes can also be resold for cash.

    The city must immediately complete the Bike Plan improvements to better handle the boom in SF cycling this transit cut-and-hike proposal will almost certainly engender.

  • Where’s the anger and the campaign against our own MTA Doomsday? How much of the money they’re being forced to save would have come from Prop A funds? What options does the city have to withhold money from the state to offset the STA money grab? Maybe it’s just my initial reaction, but heads need to roll for this!

    @ jdub

    I have to object to the idea that Muni lines have too many stops. Remove the amount of stops you propose and ridership will drop as well. Raise fares like this and ridership will drop, too. It’s a positive feedback look with very negative results.

  • @Josh

    You are right. Should we get Transform involved? This needs to be brought up on a state level and immediately. They robbed us blind.

    Maybe the city needs to set up tolls to the south and hit up the Peninsula crowd since they have been getting a free ride in all these years.

  • Gillian Gillett

    “Maybe the city needs to set up tolls to the south and hit up the Peninsula crowd since they have been getting a free ride in all these years. ”

    And use that money to fund the electrification of Caltrain!

  • Maria

    Okay then. I am learning to drive.
    I just hate it, how they are screwing us. Public transportation is getting more and more unmanageable; yet it’s a constant bla-bla-bla about environment, get-out-of-the-cars, stupid paper bags in supermarkets and such. I kind of understand people who go to suburbs for all their shopping and entertainment.

  • Schtu

    We just raised the sales tax why can’t there be an immediate increase on the gas tax of one dollar per gallon. California uses something on the order of 20 billion gallons of gas per year. 20 billion dollars would go a long way towards funding public transit and bike lanes….

    I have a car and a scooter and I was paying a dollar a gallon more to Chevron not too long ago, I would gladly pay that to public transit.

  • Howard Wong, AIA

    The Budget Crisis is the tip of the iceberg. Despite increasing ridership, Muni’s $129 million deficit is just a precursor—with a series of deficits in upcoming budget years. Existing trains and buses already have a $609 million deficit for basic maintenance. The New Muni Metro East Maintenance Facility has no budget for the foreseeable future. The Central Subway’s EIR/EIS predicts further cutbacks in surface buses/ trolleys of 76,400 hours annually—if not more, for increased operational/ maintenance costs for perpetuity.
    Before the real economic crisis, the MTA Commission should demand an accurate Ten-Year Muni Strategic Financial Plan.
    Like Alaska’s “Bridge to Nowhere’s” funding shift, the Central Subway’s $1.4 billion can be reallocated to fortify existing infrastructure, economic stimulus projects and street revitalization for transit, bicycles and pedestrians.

  • jdub

    @Josh – Many people do not ride Muni because it is too slow, largely because it it stops every block. Making it stop every other block will speed the ride, attracting customers. Having to walk a maximum of an extra half block to a bus stop will not stop people from riding Muni.

    We can debate this but what really needs to happen is for Muni to do a pilot to see what stop spacing does to speed, reliability, ridership and customer satisfaction.

  • @sf4fun66, LA has a larger tax base to draw funding from than San Francisco does (4-5 times our population) and a lower percentage of tax payers to transit users.

    @Josh, Prop A would have added about $27 million to the SFMTA budget, but that’s already been raider by other city agencies is the form of work orders. The SFPD is taking $19 million out of their budget, but doesn’t explain why and is not patrolling Muni twice per shift.

    @Schtu SFMTA can’t add a tax on gas themselves, they’re pretty much limited to putting bonds on the ballot to raise additional funding. They’ve raised some fees and fines to bring in additional revenue, but car owners throw a hissy fit any time they raise parking fines (which can be easily avoided by parking legally) and pro-car state laws that limit how much they can charge, such as the residential parking permit program. The SFMTA isn’t allowed to charge more than what it costs to administrate the program which is why a one-year parking permit costs just a little more than a one-month Muni pass.

  • I think we are not quite recognizing just how vast a transformation we are experiencing right now. The earth is shifting, the ground beneath our feet is moving, and we are arguing about parking fees.

    Let’s look at what we face: 1) catastrophic climate change if we don’t drastically reduce our greenhouse gas emissions well before 2020, 2) a society that is suddenly a lot poorer than it thought and doing its best to make itself poorer by the day, and 3) a world oil supply that is optimistically projected to deplete by 6% a year while two billion Chinese and Indians would like to match the American dream and have a gas-burning internal combustion engine of their own. (Tata Nano, anyone?)

    Three years from now, gas will be $7 a gallon. Five years from now it will be $10. The expense of owning a car will eat into median income to the point that in 2014 there will be a third less cars on the road nationally, and 50% less cars in San Francisco. Climate change will accelerate to an extent that people will actually become unnerved and ready to accept some measure of lifestyle alteration. To prepare for this future in a sensible manner, even a fabulous system of bicycle lanes is not enough. We must have an adequately functioning transit system that is both frequent and pleasant to use. (Just to be clear: being crammed like a sardine into a falling apart bus fits no one’s definition of pleasant.)

    The odds are high that the Central Subway is not going to be built. Our country’s wealth having gone to fraudulent credit default swaps, the money just won’t be available for further boondoggles. (Especially when a much quicker and cheaper option exists to improve service by just closing Stockton Street to private cars. Heck, you can’t realistically drive down Stockton Street anyway.) Instead, the priority will be the Transbay terminal so that ever-growing volumes of people from the Peninsula can work and play in our fair city without carting 3000 pounds of steel along with them. In addition, I wouldn’t be surprised to see light rail lines slapped down the center of the Golden Gate Bridge for the Marin folks—that’s how significant a change is ahead of us.

    The good news is that San Francisco will be a culturally and economically vibrant city that pulls out of the recession (depression, whatever) ahead of most places precisely because it is possible to live and work here without a car. With less cars, there will be more room for bike lanes, public spaces, dedicated Muni lanes, and our quality of life will substantially improve. We will, however, travel by air only on rare occasions, and we will mostly be eating food grown within a hundred mile radius.

    As for Muni: forget the argument that it is a lifeline for our most vulnerable populations, the poor and the elderly. Forget the argument that it benefits car drivers because if current passengers were to abandon Muni for single-occupied vehicles, the streets will be so clogged that no one would get anywhere. Forget that it’s laughable for a city to call itself green while slashing its transit budget to the bone. What we face is much graver.

    If left on its current trajectory, climate change will cause geo-political stressors so severe, much of civilization as we know it will collapse as a result. (Two billion refugees? Three billion dying of starvation? Fifty percent of all species going extinct? SFO under six feet of water is minor in comparison.) Though it may seem hyperbole to say that the future of the planet hangs on Muni functioning adequately, in a way, it’s true. If San Francisco, the greenest city in the greenest state, cannot figure out how to run transit effectively (and pay for it), what hope is there for the rest of our car-infatuated country? If we cannot create a viable carbon-free way of life, how can we expect anyone else to do so?

    Now bikes are good, bikes are lovely, I ride my bike more than I take Muni. I seriously envy Copenhagen where 40% of the population rides a bike everyday on biking infrastructure I would give my eyeteeth for. The thing is, even in Copenhagen, the top bicycling city in the world, another 40% take public transit. We bicyclists cannot say, poor Muni riders, too bad the city hates you. We have to make public transit work just as much as we have to make bicycling safe and pleasant. Implementing the TEP cuts without the TEP improvements is not just wrong-headed and shortsighted; it is a crime against the entire blue marble in space we call home.

    How to pay for it? For the next five years, collect a statewide carbon tax on all fossil fuels, with the money going to public transit, insulation and weatherization of homes, and subsidizing affordable housing along transit corridors. I would be delighted to pay a $1 per gallon carbon tax if everyone driving a Hummer had to pay it too. Yes, our representatives in Sacramento will say there is no political will for this, but it’s the right answer, the best answer. If instead we take no action and allow Muni to falter and greenhouse gases to increase, thirty years from now, when there is no oil, and the world is littered with failed states and failed crops due to climate-induced drought, the babies of today, the thirty-year-olds of tomorrow, will wonder incredulously how we could not have come up with the small sum that would have avoided so much suffering. We still have a brief window of time to act. Let’s step up to the plate and do what history requires of us.

  • Sprague

    Gas tax increases (plus VMT implementation) would surely help in so many ways on a regional and statewide or national level. But MUNI can and should also think outside of the box. In some other cities, like Albuquerque, annual transit passes are available and these are priced very attractively (they cost well less than ten times the monthly pass rate). There should also be greater inter-agency cooperation, so that Golden Gate Transit and other system riders can cheaply transfer to MUNI (and vice versa) using TransLink. Unless one commutes from Marin/Sonoma to downtown SF or the Lombard and Van Ness corridors, bus travel to SF is not a very attractive option. Inter-agency fare and transfer agreements would help to grow MUNI’s ridership. Apparently, progress has not been made in this area because of MUNI’s unwillingness.

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