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Wiener’s Prop B Yields More Money Than Expected for Muni, Safe Streets

4:43 PM PDT on March 16, 2015

SF voters may get more money than anticipated for better transit and safer streets from the passage of Proposition B, a measure crafted by Supervisor Scott Wiener to increase the share of general funds for transportation based on population growth.

Supervisor Scott Wiener. Photo: Aaron Bialick

With city coffers boosted by tax revenues resulting from a booming economy, Prop B is expected to yield $26 million in the next annual budget, 75 percent of which would go to Muni, with the remainder dedicated to pedestrian and bike safety upgrades. Originally, only $22 million was expected.

Of the nearly $19.5 million expected for Muni, most will cover the purchase of 18 new buses. The other $6.5 million will fund various street safety measures in pursuit of Vision Zero.

"It's a really strong list," said Wiener, "and it's doing exactly what we intended Prop B to do -- to improve Muni's reliability and capacity in the face of a growing population, and to make street safety improvements as our streets become more crowded."

Prop B instituted a city charter amendment mandating annual increases in the share of general funds set aside for transportation, based on population growth. The first increase of $26 million, which the Board of Supervisors must approve as part of the annual budget by July, accounts retroactively for the last ten years of growth. Commensurate increases are expected in the years to follow.

Wiener proposed the measure last year after Mayor Ed Lee dropped his support for a ballot measure to restore the local vehicle license fee to its longtime level of 2 percent. That was expected to yield an estimated $1 billion over 15 years, restoring a revenue stream cut by former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Mayor Lee can repeal the Prop B amendment if a VLF increase is passed by voters in 2016.

Mayor Lee has said he would punish the supervisors who voted to put Prop B on the ballot, but so far there has been no discernible retribution. Prop B won with 61 percent of the vote, without any organized fundraising effort or campaign committee to promote it.

"The voters resoundingly said yes, we want you to invest in the system's reliability," said Wiener. "The MTA is doing just that by increasing the number of vehicles and making targeted investments in improving the safety of our streets."

Transit and street safety funds will also be boosted by voters' approval of Proposition A, the $500 million general obligation bond for transportation pushed by Mayor Lee. Although the next annual budget for Prop A funds hasn't been presented yet, over the next 15 years it's expected to bring in $142 million for street safety, $68 million of which is for pedestrian safety measures. Another $191 million would go toward transit upgrades, including many transit bulb-outs.

All told, Props A and B still fall far short of funding the $10.1 billion in transportation improvements that the Mayor's Transportation 2030 Task Force estimates will be needed by 2030.

Here's a list of street safety projects the SFMTA has proposed to finance by general funds through Prop B in the next fiscal year starting in July:

WalkFirst Pedestrian Safety Projects -- $1.0 million
Bicycle Spot and Facility Improvements -- $1.0 million
"Follow the Paving" Safety and Traffic Calming Upgrades -- $1.5 million
Signal Controllers -- $1.5 million
Red Light Camera Upgrade -- $1.0 million
School Related Improvements -- $500,000

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