SFMTA Board Extends Fiscal Emergency, Eyes Parking Meter Extension

mta_board.jpgSFMTA Board Director James McCray, Chair Tom Nolan and Director Shirley Breyer Black at today’s meeting. Board secretary Roberta Boomer in foreground.

The SFMTA Board of Directors voted to continue the agency’s declaration of fiscal emergency today, but took a proposal to charge a premium for cable cars and express bus routes off the table, and promised to use some of the $36 million expected from a state windfall to help "defray or delay" a 10 percent service cut scheduled to take effect in a month

SFMTA Chair Tom Nolan said he wanted to make the scheduled service cuts "less burdensome on riders" by using some of the state money, and directed staff to come back with "a series of proposals to do that." Specifically, $17 million would be used in this fiscal year, and $19 million carried over to 2011-12. A much smaller portion would be used to lessen service cuts.

"Seventeen million dollars will cover $12 million in existing deficit that we have for the current year, and then there’ll be approximately $5 million after that we could use to put some service back on the street, at least until July 1st, in terms of the service cuts, and/or rollback or delay the service cuts until July 1st," SFMTA Chief Nat Ford said in an interview.

Director Cameron Beach called the state money "alleged," because the SFMTA has not gotten a check yet. Indeed, the timing of the funds remained unclear. The SFMTA is struggling to fill a $55

million budget gap in the next fiscal year and a $45
million hole the year after.

Ford said he was hopeful about some impending stimulus funds for capital projects that could be diverted into operations. "We’re trying to buy time and let some of these things mature before we cut the service, frankly." He said while the next budget cycle promises to be full of
"difficult choices," he sees things improving in 2012.

"We’ve got one more year of stiff belt tightening.
However, in year two [2012], we have a very manageable deficit and
light at the end of the tunnel."

nat_ford_and_wayne_friedman.jpgSFMTA Chief Nat Ford is interviewed by ABC7 reporter Wayne Freedman at today’s meeting.

Director Malcolm Heinicke said the partial rollback in service cuts should be focused on high-demand routes like the 38 and 14 lines. "We should be restoring in areas where riders are most affected first."

The board meanwhile voted 5-2 to extend the fiscal emergency declaration for the
next fiscal year, something CFO
Sonali Bose described as "setting up an insurance policy," with
directors James McCray and Shirley Breyer Black
opposed. The declaration allows the SFMTA to implement fare hikes and
service cuts without California environmental review. 

"It gives us some flexibility as we go into uncertain times," said Nolan. 

The vote came after a few hours of public testimony from at least 45 speakers, many of whom decried the cuts, and criticized fare inspectors for allegedly harassing some of the transit system’s most vulnerable riders, including non-English speaking and undocumented riders. 

Ford, asked to respond to the complaints by Nolan, denied the agency is profiling riders, and said their main goal is to target areas that have high incidents of fare evasion.

Many speakers were also doubtful the Muni crisis would improve anytime soon.

"This is not going to get fixed in two years. It’s just not, and I think some of you know that, and it’s going to require making some really hard political decisions," said transit advocate Sue Vaughan.

Parking Meter Extension Pilot Moving Forward

The SFMTA Board also seemed to be supportive of a 90 day pilot project that would begin June 1 to extend parking meter hours to Sundays in six business districts across the city. Though CFO Sonali Bose said not one neighborhood group has stepped forward to publicly support it, many individuals and merchants have backed it.

SFMTA Director Malcolm Heinicke seemed the most enthusiastic. "I think we should move forward with this pilot project and resist any temptation to back away from it simply because we’ve got new money." His only question was how much the pilot would cost, to which Bose explained that it was being done in conjunction with SFPark, one of the most innovative parking management pilots in the US., and costing the agency very little.

The pilot demonstration areas for enforcement on Sundays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. would cover a portion of downtown San Francisco, Fisherman’s Wharf (where Port meters are already on until 7 p.m.), Chestnut/Union Streets, the Inner Richmond, Hayes Valley and West Portal. Those areas were chosen because they already have SFPark sensors or are about to get them. In Fisherman’s Wharf, the meters will run until 9 p.m. on weekdays, and until midnight on Fridays and Saturdays, according to the proposal:

As part of this pilot demonstration, existing time limits at normal metered parking spaces will be increased to four hours in Fisherman’s Wharf, Chestnut/Union, Downtown, and Hayes Valley areas (time limits at yellow and green zones will remain unchanged). In addition, those areas (not including Union Street) will also receive new parking meters that accept credit cards in addition to coins and the SFMTA Parking Card. In the West Portal and Inner Richmond  areas, parking meters and time limits will remain unchanged.  

Though Mayor Gavin Newsom has opposed extending meter hours across the city, he recently said he might be open to doing it on Sundays, perhaps next year. As we’ve reported extensively on Streetsblog, many cities — Los Angeles, Long Beach, Glendale, Pasadena and Montreal among them — have implemented parking
enforcement on evenings and Sundays.

Although some merchants have expressed concerns, the SFMTA points out in its pilot proposal that "parking meters are an effective tool for promoting business vitality by helping to create open parking spaces so that customers can easily find a parking space." The agency plans to do a lot of outreach and preparation for the pilot.

Ford, after getting an opinion from legal counsel, told the board that he has the authority to implement the pilot and does not need any further approval.


  • david vartanoff

    One wonders if Heinicke ever reads the Daily Reports. The 14 and 49 routes on Mission are usually the worst victim of the no-shows. Before pretending to restore cuts, getting the current schedule on the street would be a major accomplishment. (6 out of 20 Tues AM and 7 out of 39 Mon PM failed to appear on Mission St. Did Anyone mention that total LRVs have been short all but 3 days in March?

  • patrick

    I’m glad to see the extended parking meter hours is still on the table, and I hope it doesn’t get cut at a later date.

  • The N Judah is a must to be made fully ADA compliant, Accessable and Inclusive as it is and remains for the full ridership on the electric tram for everyone, except the Disabled and the elderly. From 19Th Avenue to Sunset Boulevard, it does not allow the Disabled, the Elderly to enter or disembark from the N Judah Transit System for well over 40 years!
    Allowing only some of the Citizens of San Francisco to have public transportation, NOT All Citizens, IS Discrimination at best!
    Please San Francisco, support our Access, our needs to be included in / with Ssn Francisco ‘s continuance in meeting those of us wishing to feel and be Fully Accessible / Included!, ADA IS A MUST !

  • JohnB


    A nice idea but bear in mind that the N is the most-heavily used service in the city and already suffers horrible delays as I believe it is also the longest line.

    If you computed the fully-loaded costs of making that provision AND of all the delays to service it would cause, you may find it would be cheaper to put on a special bus or taxi service for the disabled.

    At least do the math.

  • I think North Beach should be in this study, or is it a control area? And why does parking get a year’s worth of studying, but cuts are dropped down like a hammer every 3 months? This is becoming a sad joke, and we are all the punch line.

    And I’ll buy each one of the board members dinner if they all truly believe that voting for a fiscal emergency is only an “insurance policy.” On that note, if they are in a fiscal emergency, can they increase meter rates/hours without any kind of environmental review? Or are only cuts and fare increases allowed that exemption?

  • Alex

    What about the premium pass for BART in the city? Unless the MTA has more than tripled their payouts to BART, the premium BART pass will cost the MTA money. Likewise what about the street cleaning cuts? That’s $4 million a year that the MTA is simply pissing away.

    @David That’s three days in the morning where there were enough LRVs. No PM rush was met with “enough” vehicles. It would be interesting to see what the demand is during the middle of the day…

  • Joseph

    “Ford said he was hopeful about some impending stimulus funds for capital projects that could be diverted into operations. ‘We’re trying to buy time and let some of these things mature before we cut the service, frankly.'”

    If this were to occur would it cannibalize funds from maintenance and LRV replacement? Central Subway? I’m curious…

  • @Alex But you also have to consider the impact to Muni as they further disincentivize all these people from using BART to get around the city

    If you raise prices through the roof get rid of the BART FastPass option altogether maybe some people will just start paying the $3.50 a day on top of their regular FastPass and so Muni will save some money, but a further downward spiral on Muni will be inevitable as people who simply can’t afford or won’t pay that much begin crowding LRVs and buses even more during commute hours. I don’t think Muni can expand their service to handle those people with the amount of money they will save by not paying BART.

    And overall BART offers San Franciscans vastly superior on-time performance and speed for trips within the city in the corridor they serve, so it’s a shame to not offer them good options to use it as part of their transit trips

  • Every company has taken parking problem seriously each and every company is trying to resolve the problem of parking in the city.I hope the parking problem will be solve very early.


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