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MTA Board Approves Budget But Caves on Stronger Parking Enforcement

3489709659_ae7923e265_1.jpgMTA Directors James McCray, Chair Tom Nolan and Shirley Breyer Black. Photo by Michael Rhodes.

Despite the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s daunting
deficit -- $128.9 million – members of the MTA Board of Directors
voted six to one yesterday for a surprise
amendment to the budget to eliminate a proposed extension of parking
meter enforcement on Sundays and from 6 to 10 pm on weekdays.

Revenues, instead, will be made up through the renegotiation of
work orders with the San Francisco Police and other departments,
and through a proposed $3 courthouse processing fee
for parking and Muni citations.  While directors also voted to extend
the hours of operation of community buses such as the 36 Teresita and
the 17, serving many San Francisco State University students, to 11 pm,
proposals to raise Muni fares and cut  service
remained unchanged.

Directors approved the overall budget
which includes increases in one-time Muni fares from $1.50 to $2 on
July 1, adult Fast Passes from $45 to $55 on July 1 and to $60 on
January 1, 2010, and Paratransit fares from $1.65 to $2.  Parking meter
fees will also go up 50 cents in all zones, as will parking rates in
city-owned garages.  Muni service cuts – such as increases in head time
from 10 to 12 minutes on the 31-Balboa and the elimination of the
26-Valencia and the 21-Hayes west of Stanyan – will also go
into effect.

The proposed $778.8 million budget now goes to the San Francisco
Board of Supervisors, which can only vote it up or down.  Seven
supervisors are required to vote it down. Board President David Chiu has introduced a motion that would allow supervisors to reject the budget, which he has expressed deep concerns about.

“In making the rounds
with some of the supervisors, it became very clear that [parking
enforcement on Sundays] was very important to them,” said Tom Nolan,
the chair of the MTA Board of Directors, who proposed the parking
enforcement amendment.  In particular, “Supervisor [Carmen] Chu didn’t like
the idea of enforcing parking in merchant corridors out in the avenues
next to residential areas.”  He added that the Mayor’s office was also
in support of eliminating Sunday and evening enforcement.

“There was budget room to vote for [the amendment],” said Director
Malcolm Heinicke after the meeting.  “I remain interested in it as a
revenue source…but we didn’t have a gun to our heads.  I want to err
on the side of more process and hear from more merchants.”

The directors declared a fiscal emergency April 7,
allowing the MTA to waive all California Environmental Quality Act
reviews, but perhaps because the proposal to eliminate plans to charge
for parking at meters on Sundays was a surprise, Muni riders were not
organized to oppose the amendment.  However, in conversation during a
break in the meeting, members of the public spoke.

“That’s not fair,” said Muni rider Patty Sweet.  “[If] people
choose to take their car instead of the bus, get the money from them.”

just lost a $9 million opportunity to restore service, “ said Paul
Hogarth of the Tenderloin Housing Clinic.  “Those of us who have been
fighting for transit justice have always been told, ‘We’re in a budget
crisis.’  It’s really insulting to see [the directors] turn around and
reject this proposal while raising fares at the same time.”

Director James McCray, Jr. voted against the proposed amendments
and the overall budget.  Expressing concern for 53-Southern Heights
riders in Potrero Hill and 26-Valencia riders, McCray called his vote a
protest vote, adding, “It’s difficult for me to decrease service and
increase costs.”

The budget will now be considered at the Board of Supervisors Budget and Finance Committee on May 6 at 1:30 p.m.

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