Muni runs a surplus, talks fare hikes (update)

muni_fare_hike_surplus
Photo by wallyg

Update (8:23 a.m., Friday): Per SFBay report Jerold (below, in comments): The surplus is $22.2 million this year and $15 million the following year. There is also a recommendation to increase Muni service by five percent this year and five percent next year.

Original post: We linked to an SFGate story in our transit news roundup the other day. The story talks about several different proposals being shopped out concerning SFMTA’s budget for the next couple of years, and something gave us pause: a cash fare hike from $2 to $2.25, and a 300-percent increase in the single-ride cost for F-Market streetcars.

But that’s not all! Missing in SFGate’s report is the fact that SFMTA is actually running a surplus, its first in recent years. ABC 7 has the details:

“The Metropolitan Transportation Agency that runs Muni is facing a surplus and there are many different ways the public could benefit. At the hearing [on Tuesday], the agency was asking the public where some of that extra money should go.”

ABC 7 does not mention the amount of the surplus. Proposals for how to spend the money, however much it is, include:

  • Expanding free Muni for youth from 16 to 18
  • Expanding free Muni for seinors
  • Expanding free Muni for low-income residents

Color of money, blah blah blah, is surely at play here: One pot of money is dedicated to one thing (golden parachutes for the top levels, JUST as an example) and another pot is empty and screwed. The proposed fare increase is being tied to inflation. And SFMTA is justifying the massive hike in the cost of riding the streetcars by saying that many tourists use the line and it can be considered a premium service.

*cough* I and my coworkers work near Pier 39, making us and others like us a class of residents who would be dinged by such a massive increase. Perhaps tourists are also the ones staffing the massive tourist operation in the northeast end of town, by that logic. Who knew?

What are your thoughts on these proposals? Should Muni be using its surplus to keep costs down for all riders? Should they be looking to increase service (one example would be to couple the F-Market fare hike with resumption of the 10-Townsend bus line to serve residents who live and work in the northeast corner of the city)?

Read the rest of the ABC 7 story for more details.

Share your thoughts and ideas here in the comments. And consider trying to attend the next budget hearing, at City Hall on March 4.

14 comments

  • JC

    This. Is. Nuts. If MUNI is running a surplus, its first investments should be in improvements in service, restoring the scores of cuts which have been made. Put simply, more frequent runs on busy lines. Figuring out ways to speed up BRT. Opening up access to an already-teetering and often unreliable system is too counter-intuitive even for here.

    The F idea is similarly nuts. Prepare to see F ridership plummet off of a cliff. SFMTA has already done away with routes which used to service the Northeast part of town (10 Townsend runs down North Point, 42 Loop, etc..) with the argument that the F was a substitute. Now they want to price non-tourists off of the F?

  • SFMTA has floated the idea of charging a premium for the F-line and the gist is there are so many local riders there would have to be a parallel bus line. In cases of a subway shutdown the F-Line cars have the most capacity to absorb stuck customers and a premium would only complicate matters, etc.

  • A Vuncular

    Yes, the F was also supposed to substitute for the local service provided by the old “8-Market to Castro” electric trolleybus. This proposal would leave no standard surface service on Market from Haight all the way to Castro.

  • What about buying extra coffee for Muni employees? They often seem to need it.

  • peeweesf

    This just feels like the so-called middle class getting screwed yet again — I don’t qualify for free rides but I can’t afford anything but public transit either. I thought everyone had acknowledged this was a problem, Mayor Ed. Gotta quit making us carry more of the load here…

  • derp

    Yeah, this is pretty infuriating. I’ve been living in SF for a decade and have seen fares go up and service/reliability go down. The excuse that is consistently given is not having the money hire/train new drivers and mechanics… so what exactly is the excuse now? Just not giving a fudge about loyal customers that have been paying more despite lessening service?

    If their excuse for a fare hike is “inflation”, then we should be able to demand better/more service given the population of SF has grown substantially in the last decade… right along side of the cost of living. Supply needs to meet demand.

  • The surplus is $22.2 million this year and $15 million the following year. There is also a recommendation to increase Muni service by five percent this year and five percent next year.

    • Thanks, Jerold. Any word yet on how these 5-percent increases in service will play out? Is that still up for public debate?

      • Hi Jeff,

        It’s hard to say right now what the SFMTA board is thinking about. One director said he wanted to wait for more public input about some of proposals like the $6 F-Line increase. No one said anything at the Feb. 18 meeting about the possibility of increasing transit service, but it’s there listed as a possible expenditure for the next two years.

        It seems like the board waits to hear more from the public first before it decides on anything. Next public hearing is at their March 4 meeting at City Hall, 1 p.m.

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