Recap: MTA Town Hall Meetings
Photo by Whole Wheat Toast
Last Saturday and this last Tuesday, SFMTA held “town hall” meetings to inform the public of upcoming proposed service cuts and fare hikes, as well as to offer the public a chance to give MTA feedback on the cuts and hikes. Here’s a recap of the meetings from the vantage of everyday transit riders who attended:
At Saturday’s meeting:
Julianne Nigro, 22, worried that her commute from Treasure Island, where she works at the nonprofit drug treatment center Walden House, to her home in Potrero Hill would take hours. (Via The Examiner‘s report on the meeting)
Howard Woo, 79, pointed out that while the price of his Muni Fast Pass increases, his social security benefits stay the same.
“Does the director of Muni ever take Muni himself?” Woo asked. “Do they know what we need as a rider? I don’t think so.”
The room was filled, all chairs filled and then the overflow standing against the walls. Elderly people, people in wheelchairs, people coming to this meeting after a full day at work, regular people. There was a short presentation by Judson True and his colleague Julie Kirschbaum. I did not envy them standing up there, explaining the requisite pie charts and bar graphs and telling the people in the room who both love and depend on Muni how difficult these changes would be, and how much the people at Muni were between a rock and a hard place. People shifted in their seats. Some grumbled and some shush-ed each other.
Some people had suggestions. Good ideas. Get businesses that use the city’s infrastructure to help support Muni. Use buses with back doors that only let people out, not in, to squelch the fare evaders. Fix the broken fare boxes so drivers can collect fares.
And then the tenor shifted: Salaries. They’re too high. Muni management gets paid too much money. Where is Nate Ford?!
One man spoke up: All of us need to come together. The seniors, the disabled, the youth, the commuters, the Muni drivers… protest together against the city, against the bad management at the top who doesn’t care. I wondered what it would take to make that happen. A scapegoat or a symbol is needed. I’m not sure if we can collectively assemble in force to make our voices matter. We would need a Marie Antionette of Muni, laughing from a balcony and waving expensive Muni fast passes at the rabble below. I’m not even sure that Nate Ford is that person.
Muni Diaries is doing our best to get the word out: Changes are coming, and they ain’t pretty: Runs are being eliminated on almost every line. And yes, as of now at least, youth, senior, and disabled Fast Pass fares will go up dramatically.
On the upside, MTA seems dedicated to reaching out to the public to talk about these complicated changes: Holding these meetings at times that made them more accessible to the public and giving the public an opportunity to give feedback are both good signs.
But MTA simply must close its $16.9 million deficit, and that will require tough choices. Changes are going to be painful no matter what. For people who depend on public transit every day to get to work and everywhere else they need to be, here’s hoping that we aren’t the only ones bearing the brunt of these changes.
post-script: Just as this post was about to publish, we came across this thoughtful-as-hell post, from Streetsblog SF: What Can Be Done to Fix Muni? And Rescue Muni reminds us that the next MTA board meeting (open to public comment) is next Tuesday in Room 400 at City Hall.