SFMTA Board Urges Board of Supervisors to Put Revenue Measure on Ballot

IMG_1248.jpgPhoto: Myleen Hollero/Orange Photography

For the first time in its 10 year history, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Board is officially pushing for a ballot measure that could bring a revenue infusion to Muni — to the tune of over $16 million annually in the form of a 10-percent increase to the commercial off-street parking tax.

By a 4-1 vote, the agency’s directors approved a motion today urging the Board of Supervisors to put such a measure on the November ballot, and explore the possibility of an increase in the vehicle license fee, if state law changes to allow such an increase. In going through the supervisors instead of putting the measure on the ballot directly, the SFMTA will reduce its cut of any new revenue, but will also face a much less daunting political scenario, since the measure will require simple majority voter approval instead of the two-thirds supermajority of voters required for SFMTA-dedicated measures.

While a 10-percent increase in the commercial off-street parking tax is projected to bring in a total of $20.4 million annually to the city, the SFMTA currently gets 80 percent of such tax receipts, meaning the increase would net the agency about $16 million of that. That’s not a huge sum compared to the agency’s $700 million annual budget, but it could, for instance, help the agency avoid future Muni service cuts or even increase Muni service, since each five percent of Muni service costs the agency about $14 to $15 million annually.

"[The SFMTA Citizens’ Advisory Council] has wisely suggested there be a nexus between whatever we put on there and transportation," said SFMTA Board Chairman Tom Nolan, who pointed to the commercial off-street parking tax and the vehicle license fee as the two revenue options that best match that description.

The one director who voted against the resolution, Malcolm Heinicke, said he wanted to see more analysis of a commercial off-street parking tax increase’s impact on businesses.

Tim Leonoudakis, Chief Executive Officer of City Park, said parking operators would oppose the measure. "It’s punitive, it discriminates," he said. Instead, Leonoudakis suggested looking to demand-based on-street parking models for revenue.

Nolan called the SFMTA Board’s vote an "advisory" recommendation to the supervisors. "My intent is it would go to Board of Supervisors with a strong recommendation that they support it," he said of the commercial off-street parking tax increase. Nolan called the SFMTA Board’s vote on supporting the revenue measures "a historic moment."

"I think we’re exercising our responsibility put forward in Prop. A to put a ballot measure in front of people," said Nolan.

If the Board of Supervisors accepts the SFMTA Board’s "advisory" resolution on the commercial off-street parking tax increase, it has until June 8 to introduce a motion in support of putting it on the November ballot.

If they don’t bite, Nolan said the SFMTA Board isn’t likely to try to put the measure on the ballot itself. "I don’t think we can get two-thirds" of the vote, he said.

Fell St. Arco Station Treatment Approved

The SFMTA Board also approved a temporary solution for the hazardous situation at the Arco Station at Fell and Divisadero Streets, where long queues of drivers waiting to get cheap gas often obstructs the bike lane on Fell.

As we reported in April, SFMTA traffic engineers decided to convert the two parking spaces closest to the station from residential parking to a 24-hour tow-away zone. The next four spaces to the east will be a 7 a.m.-7 p.m. tow away zone, reverting to residential parking at overnight. A green bike lane may go in eventually once the city finishes collecting data and testing different options to improve the queuing situation.

"We’re excited to see the city moving forward with these changes, which are important first steps to fixing this dangerous situation on busy Fell Street," said SFBC’s Marc Caswell. "The green pavement is a bold treatment that could help ensure that people walking and biking have a safe path of travel."

  • chris reyes


  • Chris, your thoughtful analysis is eye opening.

    But it is good to see the MTA start to do something they should have been doing for at least 3 + yrs now as soon as those state funds started disappearing. And why isn’t the MTA pushing this and only asking the supes to do it?

  • Inching closer to reflecting the distant true cost of driving and parking…

  • Moley


    Do you have figures that show what the “true cost of driving and parking” is?

    I often see the statement that drivers don’t pay the full cost of the roads. But without a cost analysis, how can anyone know?

    I pay vehicle license and registration fees, sales tax on a car purchase, gas taxes and parking fares, fees and fines. Much of this revenue goes to build and maintain roads. So how do you know I’m not already paying my full share?

    And isn’t it in fact those who don’t have a car that get free use of the roads e.g. bicycle and transit users?

  • I think we need a set of links on the side so each time someone from SFGate comes and says something that has already been discussed, we can just point to an article written or study done.

    Actually Moley, bike users pay taxes that also go to pay for roads, all while putting about 1/100th the wear and tear on the pavement. But this is an argument that has been had a million times and the burden is on you to look up the numbers, not on us.

  • Seriously, just read up.

  • Actually, Moley – for starters, if you’ve been reading Streetsblog for more than about week, you might’ve seen this recent article on the health aspect: http://usa.streetsblog.org/2010/05/20/apha-tallies-hidden-health-costs-of-transportation-status-quo/

  • tNOB


    How about the people that do own a car, and choose to commute within the city by either bicycle or MUNI? I pay all those same costs you mention, minus the parking fees and fines, which I do not incur since I choose alternatives to using my car daily.

    I agree an analysis would be good to review, but I find it unlikely that the taxes you mention cover a majority of the road construction and maintenance costs.

  • Here’s some data on whether car drivers pay their fare share of road costs (from http://www.seattlepi.com/opinion/331734_firstperson17.html ):

    “Trier, like a lot of misinformed folks, seems to believe the only road taxes we pay are motor vehicle licensing fees and fuel taxes. But the truth is that those fees largely pay for state and federal highways, and even then only a portion of them. The rest of the costs of those roadways are borne by all taxpayers generally, including bicyclists, through local, property and sales taxes. Local roads, where you find most cyclists, are another story altogether.

    “Indeed, most bicyclists in fact also own cars, so they’re also paying the licensing fees and gas taxes as well. But by using their bikes in place of cars, the wear and tear (and subsequent maintenance costs) they inflict is exponentially less than that caused by cars and trucks.

    “A 1995 study titled “Whose Roads?” by cycling advocate Todd Litman laid all this out in detail. The study estimated that automobile users pay an average of 2.3 cents per mile in user fees, including fuel taxes and vehicle registration fees, while they actually impose 6.5 cents per mile in road service costs. Who pays the difference? It’s picked up by general taxes and property assessments. So while bicyclists pay an equal share of those taxes, they impose costs averaging only 0.2 cents per mile in road service costs.

    “The amount bicyclists overpay leaps out when you look at the costs of local roads, the roads cyclists use most. Litman found that only a third of the funds for their construction and maintenance comes from vehicle user charges; local property, income and sales taxes pay the rest. Automobile user fees contribute only about 1 cent per mile toward the costs of local roads but simultaneously impose costs more than six times that amount.”

    Remember: the federal gas tax of 18.4 cents has not increased since 1993.

  • Oops. Let’s try “fair share” and 18.4 cents per gallon.

  • If it Changes behaviors, great (though that won’t help SFMTA’s overtime tab). Congestion charges … Let’s get those rolled out sooner than later.

  • ryan holman

    I’m all about fully funded and efficient transit, but am absolutely opposed to this. How can they even consider increasing fees/taxes (whatever you want to call it) when Muni hasn’t even BEGUN to look at resolving its operating inefficiencies?

    We still have a transit agency where overtime pay and absenteeism are through the roof and there are heaps of other serious problems. Muni can’t manage the money it gets now. How on earth would you expect it to properly manage more of YOUR money?

  • marcos

    The MTA oversees more than just Muni, parking revenue goes into the big pot. Even with labor factored out beyond anyone’s wildest dreams, there is still a looming structural deficit because we’ve not opted to invest “all in” with transit.

    I don’t think that anyone would claim that the pedestrian or bicycle programs at the MTA were overfunded, and they could be the recipients of these funds if the MTA Board so desired.

    If the split shifts, major drivers of labor costs, are switched from overtime to part-time operators, then the savings will only be incremental, as the cost for benefits eats up some percentage of the cost savings from overtime.

    The problem, as you’ve correctly identified, is that we won’t be able to get at that structural deficit until we get at the governance deficit.

    The real way to solve this is to replace many of the lines that carry the bulk of the load in the system with subways to obviate the grid and cross traffic, anything else is incremental.


  • Seal

    All we hear are “more revenue, more revenue”. We never hear about MUNI people taking actual pay cuts, layoffs, etc.

    The MUNI is like a boa constrictor: squeezing the public continuously for more money.

    Tell me something. What will happen when the economy picks up and the MUNI’s revenue exceeds expenses. Do you think MUNI will save the money for a rainy day? Fat chance. They’ll just expand the bureaucracy (and the overtime and perks) to adjust to the new reality. And the next downturn, the demand for more revenue will be resurrected.

    Why should I be forced to pay more and more and more for the same (or lesser) government service? Where will it stop? We’re already paying nearly 10% in sales tax in this city.

  • marcos

    $60K for an operator full time salary + benefits is not an exorbitant level of pay for that job.

  • Winston


    Consider that a equally qualified bus driver in the private sector makes $30k/year and that the pension, free health care and other benefits easily get muni drivers up to $90k/year without overtime and you see really clearly that operator wages are Muni’s biggest problem. In fact, it costs Muni over $150/hour to operate a bus, compared to around $80/hour for suburban (mostly contracted) bus operators. Were muni to fire all its drivers and contract out bus service, San Francisco could have nearly twice as many buses on the street for no additional cost. Of course, unlike muni’s employees, the contracted workers would actually have to, you know, show up for work.

  • How is $30k even an argument? Just because the private sector takes advantage of it’s employees doesn’t mean the city has to. And if we had single payer health care then you wouldn’t have much of an argument. Maybe you should be fighting a different battle.

  • Winston

    $30k/year is what the work a SF muni driver is doing is worth (since that’s what I could hire a more competent driver for today). They’re being paid $90k/year to do that job, thus the taxpayer is being robbed of $60k per year by every Muni Driver. As for the $30k/year in benefit costs for a muni driver, the lion’s share of this is to pay for their super-sized pension.

  • I agree with you Winston. Why should government workers be able to afford to raise families or live in the city that they serve? Poverty wages for everybody!

  • Winston


    Why are government workers so special that they should be paid more than anyone else doing the same job? It seems your position is poverty wages for everyone except those employed by the taxpayer.

  • I agree with you. Why should MY TAX DOLLARS go to support some lazy government worker’s extravagant lifestyle (you know, extravagant things like a mortgage and food and clothing for their children) when we can get away with paying them less? I’ve always said that poverty builds character (for other people, that is). . .

    Hell, why even pay Americans to do government jobs? We can probably hire some illegal immigrant to drive a bus for pennies on the dollar. While we’re at it, let’s outsource our military to China (they do have an excess of trained solders). I can see all sorts of opportunities for shaving a few pennies off my yearly tax bill.

  • Seal

    @SFResident: what makes MUNI drivers so special? Please, enlighten me.
    Why shouldn’t EVERYBODY get a minimum $90K/year regardless of the work they do? Why should school teachers get $30K/year ? More importantly, why should I, the taxpayer, be the underwriter for someone else’s lifestyle?

    You enjoy $15 pizzas. A cab ride from Mission to North Beach for $20. A haircut for $25. A burger for $5. If you are OK with paying 3x for the same work (as in paying MUNI drivers $90K for $30K of work), then are you willing to pay $45 for the same pizza? $60 for the same cab ride? $75 for the same haircut? $15 for the same burger??

    The hypocrisy of leeches like you knows no bounds. You will seek out bargains; frequent restaurants where the waiters make minimum wage; etc. but when it comes to the taxpayers, you see no problem in ripping them off. Shame on you.

  • Seal

    Just for comparison: a military jet fighter pilot’s median salary is $71K http://tinyurl.com/256bwt3

    Before you respond: please think about what “median” means. And think about the amount of training and effort required to become a jet pilot.

    Though to be fair, with MUNI’s driving record and the ensuing lawsuits, I think MUNI drivers cause more damage than a jet pilot.

  • “More importantly, why should I, the taxpayer, be the underwriter for someone else’s lifestyle?”

    You shouldn’t. As I’ve already said, government workers shouldn’t be making the kind of wage that would allow them to live in the cities that they serve. They’re called public *servants* for a reason.

    I’m still wondering why we can’t just hire illegal immigrants to drive our buses. It would certainly be cheaper.

  • Moley

    SFR and others,

    Yes, yes, yes. The problem with muni pay, health and pension benefits and working rules is simply one of many public sector examples. Oakland is teetering on the brink of bankruptcy because of these costs, especially with public safety workers.

    30K pa for a driver sounds about right to me. With a defined-contribution pension scheme and flexible work rules.

    Then, and only then, talk to me abouyt voting for any tax or fare increases.

  • marcos

    I don’t mind the public sector setting the pace for base wages. The approach taken by Elsebernd and Adachi is backwards–I want to see all workers pay elevated to the level of public workers, not public workers compensation racing back down to the bottom.

    Perhaps the purist devotees of libertarian capitalism want to live amongst increasingly impoverished masses, however that dystopian vision is not shared by most San Franciscans.

    Given that rent in San Francisco runs around $2,000 for a two bedroom, for housing to run at 1/3 of income, that would require a $72,000 income to service. Otherwise, our clean, green environmentally friendly transit system will be run by operators who have to drive their SOVs in from cheap housing points far flung on the periphery into the metropole, tiring themselves, to then pilot a large, heavy vehicle full of passengers, then to drive back to the sticks.

    The taxpayer should underwrite others’ income because the social function of such wealth transfers pays massive dividends in subsidy to the greater economy.


  • marcos

    And I would assert that the reason why mean wages have been falling for the past 30 years is because we are paying countless fighter jet pilots and other military those $71,000 salaries plus socialized medical benefits.

    It is time to distribute the bill for the military protection of capitalism from the American taxpayer onto the rest of the world which benefits from it.


  • Gillian Gillett

    Come hear what the MTC (our regional transportation funder) is working on regarding the sustainability of Bay Area transit:

    SPUR’s Transportation Committee will be held this coming Monday, June 7, from 12:30 – 1:30 PM at the SPUR Urban Center, 654 Mission Street in San Francisco. This month, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) will present an overview of the regional Transit Sustainability Project (TSP), which kicked off in May. The TSP seeks to establish a framework and implementation plan for a more robust, financially viable Bay Area transit system that is both cost-effective and customer-focused. The two-year project will include a comprehensive analysis of the existing transit system focused on service design and delivery, financial viability, and decision-making structures. Speakers will be Alix Bockelman, Director of Programming & Allocations, and Kenneth Folan, Senior Analyst.

  • Seal

    @marcos: “Otherwise, our clean, green environmentally friendly transit system will be run by operators who have to drive their SOVs in from cheap housing points far flung on the periphery into the metropole, tiring themselves, to then pilot a large, heavy vehicle full of passengers, then to drive back to the sticks.”

    … or they could, you know, take the public transit run by their bretheren. If public transit is good enough for the people who write their paychecks (i.e., the taxpayers), then it’s good enough for the employees, no?

    I know you are a troll, but I had to respond.

    “The taxpayer should underwrite others’ income because the social function of such wealth transfers pays massive dividends in subsidy to the greater economy.”

    LOL… why don’t you underwrite my income then? I nee $2000/month for starters. It will pay great dividends to you, I assure you. You will thank me when you’re dumpster-diving for food.

  • marcos

    Yeah, right a troll.

    The further down that libertarians would drive operator pay, the further out in the periphery they would have to live in order to pay the bills.

    The Bay Area has no comprehensive rapid regional transit system, so the time cost each way can run to two hours plus. See my article in the fogcityjournal demonstrating transit times to inner ring employment centers:


    Transit travel times from 20th and Mission to various employment centers according to 511.org.

    In addition, it makes good economic sense to keep city employees living in San Francisco so that their paychecks can get spent here. Thus, a slight increment to operator pay, if it is spent here, is an economic development strategy as those dollars will ricochet around our local economy instead of that of Brentwood.

    These entitled Reagan youth all grown up and bitterly presume that the past 30 years were normative instead of a relgio-economic experiment gone terribly wrong. The post-WWII generation beat Hitler and Tojo in 4.5 years, came home to pay a 70% marginal tax rate, and built the infrastructure that the boomers have driven into the ground. Their kids, similarly imbued with bogus economics, expect for there to be a massive free lunch in the form of the predicates for economic activity being provided by someone else, as if by magic, with no sacrifices required from them at all.


  • Hey Seal. We *do* underwrite your income. The *only* reason that you’re able to make any sort of money is because we have a stable and functioning government that ensures domestic tranquility, open markets, and the rule of law.

  • marcos

    The entire basis for civil rights laws are that the taxpaying public subsidizes the infrastructure that enables commerce and access to that commons is predicated upon equal access to business which benefit from that common investment.

    Quit yer whining and pay yer goddamn taxes!

  • Seal

    @SFResident: … “we have … open markets, ”

    … except when it comes to the MUNI employees’ salaries, of course. 😉

    Why don’t we set a city-wide minimum salary then? If a bus driver can demand $90K, why not $90K for a dish washer? $200K for a cop? $250K for a nurse? $500K minimum for a doctor? Why should MUNI employees be the only ones to benefit from this deep economic insight of yours?

    You heard it here, folks! MUNI employees propose a city-wide minimum wage rule. Every person employed in the City and County of San Francisco will be guaranteed a minimum wage of $90K per year. The MTA Union will be putting this on the ballot, with the full support of MUNI employees.

  • Chris Reyes

    @Mikesonn – as tradition goes with goverment mgmt. is if others can be used as scapegoats, so be it. it keeps the pressure of them. imagine nat ford’s office is on the corner of market & south van ness on top of bank of america. why is the city paying for outrageous rents when the city can purchase a vacant building and house such agencies. with many vacant buildings it would help boost the economy. take a look the garage at b of a. dozens of city vehicles sit there. why not implement if they need to go to meetings around the city, why not make them take public transportation so they see what the everyday operator/public goes through on a daily basis. have nat ford sit next to a smelly character who didnt pay their fare because newsome want to make sf the “city of compassion”.

  • Seal

    @Chris : Isn’t it ironic that MUNI has so many (passenger) vehicles just floating around? MUNI people should be forced to take public transportation inside the city.

  • You can spot the SFGate commenters pretty quickly. Totally uninformed, and reveling in ignorance and armchair nonsense.

    Fun fact: you can’t fix muni with cuts alone. When the state of california raided muni’s operational budget to the tune of 100s of millions of dollars, money that was ILLEGALLY stolen (and no it’s not coming back either), you can’t make that up with just more parking meters or issuing more parking tickets, and you can pay the people at muni 10 bucks an hour and you’d still have a deficit.

    more to the point: we know how much a good Muni costs – it’s been delineated very clearly by the TEP, etc. Instead of messing around with little bits and pieces, we need to make the decision: this is how much it costs to have real service, now pay for it, or shut the fuck up on all this green talk and holier than thou BS San Franciscans love.

  • I’ve gotten two parking tickets in two days, complained to my roommate this evening… turns out SHE got ticketed AS WELL AS my landlord.

    Since when can SFMTA ticket you for having expired tags? I’m not endorsing that behavior (*mine* are current tyvm) but I thought that was a state issue, not something SF could clean up on.

    Guess I’m completely ignorant because the DPTards ticketed both of them today. What am I going to get a ticket for next?

    Just how much is City Hall banking our streets are worth?

  • JDA, did you get parking tickets or tickets for expired tags? Either way, pay your registration and get up-to-date tags or don’t park where you aren’t suppose to. Seems pretty cut and dry to me.

  • patrick

    JDA, any city can, and they all do, ticket for expired tags. I got severaln tickets for expired tags while in Berkeley & Oakland.

    I haven’t received a parking ticket in over 2 years because I now park legally. Prior to that I got many tickets because I was irresponsible and frequently parked illegally. It’s pretty easy to avoid getting parking tickets: read the signs & park legally; ignorance is not an excuse.

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Parking Tax Revenue Measure for Muni Makes Its Way to Supervisors

Photo: Myleen Hollero/Orange Photography A parking tax increase that could send $19.2 million to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency moved a step closer to the ballot Tuesday, as Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi introduced the measure before his colleagues on the Board of Supervisors. Mirkarimi made the move at the behest of the SFMTA Board, which […]