Now that ballots have been mailed out and the election is just a few short weeks away, it seemed the right time to post about the transit-related measures. This November’s ballot for San Francisco will include Proposition A, the Muni reform charter amendment sponsored by Supervisor Aaron Peskin. Proposition A was offered in opposition to Proposition H, the pro-parking initiative put forth by billionaire Don Fisher — a dangerous, misguided and purposefully misleading proposition that I wrote about a couple months ago. Proposition A is a little difficult to advertise to voters, because it includes several related yet quite distinct provisions. The overall slogan summary is “Clean Air, Better Muni.”
For those who have not been following this story, here is a rundown of the provisions included in Proposition A:
1. More Funding for Muni: Currently, the SFMTA is allocated 40% of parking tax receipts and 50% of additional parking revenues — with the rest of that money going to the General Fund. However, if passed, Proposition A would allow the SFMTA to retain 80% of parking tax receipts and 100% of additional revenues generated from changes in parking policy and enforcement. This would result in an additional $26 million every year assigned to Muni, without the need to increase fares. (Incidentally, this $26 million annual figure is set to increase in the future, as parking policies evolve.) The additional money coming from the General Fund would be used to implement the recommendations of the Transit Effectiveness Project, a large ongoing project that is compiling ridership data across the whole Muni system and will offer recommendations early next year on what needs to be done to streamline and improve Muni service.
2. Greater Financial Autonomy: Proposition A would allow the MTA greater flexibility when entering contracts, and it would allow the MTA to accept and use donations and grant money without approval from the Board of Supervisors. It would also require the MTA to approve a budget every two years (as opposed to annually), and the Board of Supervisors could reject the budget with at least seven votes.
3. Labor and Personnel Reform: Proposition A aims to create a more efficient approach to labor and agency bureaucracy. The Charter has set a salary cap, i.e. the average of the two highest paid transit agencies in the country. Proposition A would remove the cap to encourage collective bargaining. The current salary cap would become a guaranteed base for transit operators, which would give the MTA better leverage to set more efficient operation policies. In addition, the MTA could hire additional mangers exempt from civil service protection, provided that they do not exceed 2.75% of total workforce; this is an increase over the current maximum of 1.5%. Proposition A also seeks to encourage greater accountability in the uppermost echelons of MTA management by establishing pay based on performance.
4. Parking and Traffic: Proposition A seeks to expand the SFMTA’s power over parking and traffic controls in the city, although many provisions would still require supervisorial review. It also would fix the maximum number of off-street parking spaces associated with new developments to levels allowable on July 1, 2007. Decreasing this maximum would require a simple majority of supervisor votes, but increasing the maximum would require at least nine votes.
5. Reducing Transportation Emissions: For the first time in the city’s history, Proposition A would charge the SFMTA to establish a Climate Action Plan every two years to reduce San Francisco transportation emissions to 80% of 1990 emission levels by 2012.
This is a summary of the important provisions set forth in Proposition A. It really does cover quite a bit of ground, which is one reason why it is difficult to succinctly explain to voters. So much of the unreliability we see while riding Muni is the direct result of insufficient funding and inefficient bureaucracy. Proposition A takes a stab at addressing some of these fundamental issues in an attempt to turn around the troubled transit agency. Please also read my post on Transit, Not Traffic.
Above image courtesy “Yes on A” campaign.