Chron complains of “brinkmanship” re MTA budget, but BoS should reject it

May 12th, 2009

SFMTAThe Chronicle today editorialized against the Supervisors rejecting the MTA budget, claiming that the supervisors would cause “political gridlock” by exercising their power to reject a budget that we and others have raised serious concerns about, specifically concerning the inflated work orders to other departments that have more than wiped out the increased funding promised to the MTA by Proposition A (2007).

But it’s not “gridlock” to demand that MTA take a strong negotiating position with the city. If the work orders aren’t reduced to a more reasonable amount, in line with inflation from last year and the actual value the MTA gets from other city departments, the Supervisors should reject the budget. Once it’s rejected, the MTA should look again at parking fees (e.g. Sunday meters) and reduced work order amounts to avoid some of the service cuts that are currently being discussed.

Caltrain proposes deep service cuts including canceling weekend service

May 8th, 2009

Muni’s not the only regional transit system facing a fiscal emergency due to the economy. Caltrain (run by the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board) is also facing deep cuts in funding and is considering various options to address its $10M deficit, including possibly cancelling service on weekends. This isn’t likely to be approved, nor should it be – thousands of SF and regional riders count on Caltrain during “non-commute” hours to get to work, shopping, and entertainment, and the loss of weekend service would mean a huge inconvenience for these riders. (The Giants might have something to say about this too.) Fare increases are also on the table, as is a proposed $1 fee for bike commuters.

Public hearings are scheduled for Wednesday, June 4, at 10 am, at Caltrain headquarters, 1250 San Carlos Ave, San Carlos (near the San Carlos train station).

Supervisors likely to reject MTA budget

May 7th, 2009

SFMTAAfter a long public hearing yesterday, Supervisor Chiu signed up six co-sponsors for his resolution to reject the proposed MTA budget, something that requires 7 votes under Proposition A (2007). This was in response to the very high cost of “work orders” from the MTA to other city departments, which is contributing to major cuts in service and a proposed $2 cash fare, as well as increased parking fees citywide.

If the BoS rejects the budget, we urge the MTA to follow our recommendations for a revised version that spends less on wasteful work orders and also minimizes service cuts. In particular, consolidating stops (often two to a block today!) citywide and converting Locals to Limiteds will allow MTA to provide faster service to more riders for a lower cost.

Sup. Chiu: “I don’t want Muni used as an ATM”

April 22nd, 2009

SFMTASupervisor David Chiu is preparing legislation to reject the MTA’s budget due to the very high amount assigned to work orders to other city departments, notably the SFPD ($18 million for how many cops on buses?) and 311 ($1.96 per call). This follows weeks of hearings in which riders opposed service cuts and urged the MTA to reject the work orders, and Sup. Dufty’s initial push to get them reduced.

As long as the rejection doesn’t lead to more deferred maintenance and unplanned, random service cuts, this could be a good way to force other City departments to stop raiding mass transit to cover their own deficits.

MTA board meeting on budget Tuesday, 4/21, 2 pm; Rescue Muni recommendations

April 20th, 2009

SFMTAThe SFMTA will be holding another meeting and public hearing on the budget deficit and proposed fare increases/service cuts on Tuesday, April 21, at 2 pm, at City Hall, room 400. We urge everyone who can attend (of course it is scheduled during the work day) to comment on the proposals.

In addition to opposing the inflated “work orders” from the various city departments that are now being contested (thank you Sup. Dufty!), Rescue Muni has some specific recommendations:

  • As with every time budget deficits come up, we support increasing meter and garage rates to market level, to make sure that SF maintains its transit-first policy and to encourage transit use.
  • We reiterate our longstanding opposition to cutting maintenance as a way to close the deficit. In other words, Muni must not allow service to deteriorate into unplanned service cuts.
  • Service changes should include stop consolidations systemwide in order to minimize the impact of the cuts. While this won’t prevent service cuts altogether, when vehicles make a run in less time, Muni can make more runs with the same vehicle. The fiscal emergency should present an opportunity to avoid an EIS/EIR for this sort of rational service change.
  • Similarly, the MTA should convert more Locals to Limiteds as proposed in the TEP, which will serve more riders with the same service hours and also provide faster service.
  • We oppose charging for transfers as this will slow boarding and inconvenience cash fare paying riders who happen to need to take multiple vehicles. Similarly, we oppose charging for expresses – this was unsuccessful previously.
  • No cuts to Owl service – though ridership is low, this is a lifeline service that discourages drunk driving, particularly on weekends.
  • But the Culture Bus should be discontinued immediately due to low ridership and very high operating cost.
  • Concerning the Work Orders, we have several objections:

  • SFGH Charges to Muni must stop. In addition to being unrelated to MTA operations, these charges are also possible City admissions of liability.
  • If MTA is really paying $2 per 311 call, the MTA should encourage riders to use 511. Particularly if/when Muni puts signage up ID’ing stop numbers such signage should encourage 511 calls as appropriate.
  • SFPD: Police MUST submit complete work orders for the charges, not budget estimates. Also, the city should put the traffic cops under direct MTA control (a proposal that looks like it might happen).
  • We also suggest that MTA consider the following proposals for long term improvements:

  • Cash fare should be payable by Translink, perhaps at a slight discount from full cash price, to encourage purchase and faster boarding. At long last Translink appears to be working well, and the MTA should promote it.
  • Lifeline Pass: Riders who are eligible for Medi-Cal or Food Stamps should be eligible for the Lifeline Pass at South Van Ness. There is no need for MTA to hire the Human Services department to separately check eligibility for a $20 monthly discount.
  • If you attend, comment here or let us know on Twitter!