Budget, Muni / SFMTA

Tweets from April 7 SMFTA Budget Hearing

In the spirit of Tom Prete’s reposted tweets from SPUR’s Central Subway talk, I collected the series of Twitter messages I posted during the April 7 SFMTA budget hearing. I missed the first part, so it’s not a complete transcript, but it gives a pretty good idea about how transit riders and the MTA Board feel about the proposed fare hikes and service cuts. Now that the MTA has absorbed the Taxi Commission, the colorful testimony that characterized the Taxi Commission has now moved in on the MTA board meetings; as such, most of the commentary at the hearing actually came from cab drivers angry about the possibility of medallion transfers, and I did not tweet quotes from that testimony. With regard to the transit parts of the hearing, we know that multiple directors (including Beach, Oka, and Heinicke) oppose charging for transfers, a policy that I have specifically highlighted as being inconsistent with Muni’s existing route layout. Director Heinicke supported price increases on fares and passports only, and that idea was not really opposed. The directors did not explain their opinions on the service cuts in great detail, and readers are encouraged to continue writing in to the MTA, to caution against implementing the most problematic cuts. Some combination of fare hikes and service cuts will ultimately have to be implemented to balance the budget. But new sources of long-term revenue will also be needed to offset the decline in TDA funds, as well as the State’s outright removal of STA funds. It is this new long-term revenue that still remains to be fleshed out; Heinicke suggested a tax for car rental at San Francisco International Airport, both to generate revenue and encourage use of taxis. Another major component of the discussion that will get hashed out are the work orders that are diverting 2007 Prop A funds away from Muni to other City departments, against the will of the voters. The work orders will be discussed at the April 8 meeting of the Board of Supervisors Budget & Finance Committee, at 1:30 pm.

And now, onto the tweet transcript:

Selections from Public Comment (timestamps lost):

  • From the MTA hearing: “Muni’s proposals are life-shortening and life-threatening.”
  • “You’re proposing to eliminate positions that generate revenue. That’s insane. Why would you do that, when you need money?”
  • “The Van Ness route — there are never buses there when I need them. When a bus comes, there are two.”
  • “To cut back on the 27 is unfair. That bus is never on time.”
  • “Take a bus route from end to the other and find out what’s really going on, instead of sitting behind a desk.”
  • “This is a service, this is public transportation that thousands of people depend on everyday.”
  • On work orders: “Muni is being robbed, and our transit-dependent riders are being robbed. Stand up for yourselves.”
  • [SFMTA Hearing: short break]
  • SFMTA hearing continues, with an endless procession of cab drivers.
  • On the 39-Coit: “Many are disabled, one woman is 100 yrs old. I beg you to retain that bus line.”
  • “Rather than exploring the matter of the subway, which many of us think is unnecessary, use the $10 million to bail yourself out now.”
  • Howard Wong reminds us that 20-Columbus was created to mitigate the disappearance of the northern branch of the 15 bus when T service began.

6:46 pm Director Beach: “I don’t support charging for transfers. We designed this system for the requirement of transfers.”

6:50 Director Oka: “I will not support anything that involves paying for or elimination of transfers.”

6:50 Oka: “The main topic of tomorrow’s public hearing is the work orders. This is a major thing we need to make whole ….

6:51 … We should not be paying for services we are not getting.”

6:52 Oka: “We’re not getting our money’s worth from the PD. They want us to pay for the PD budget? Give us more police on our system.”

6:53 Oka: “We’re not balancing the budget on the back of our taxi drivers. I don’t know what we’re going to do, but we’re not doing that.”

6:54 Director Heinicke: “This Board is listening to the taxi industry. We need to put forward a more concrete proposal.”

6:56 Heinicke: “We should charge a tax on rental car establishments at the airport.”

6:56 Heinicke asks City Atty if MTA could go directly to ballot for rental car tax at SFO.

6:56 Heinicke: “Very much opposed to sale of transfers. Create administrative headaches for drivers, let alone transit problems.”

6:57 Heinicke complements Julie Kirschbaum’s presentation. Incremental savings in Option 3 are minimal, but it forces riders to take 2 routes.

6:58 Heinicke: we don’t control street cleaning, but we need to push it, and enjoy the associated revenue.

6:59 Heinicke supports increase to single-ride fares and passports, but not the BART/express premiums.

7:03 Ford: Paid for PD for years. Incremental increase due to extra T-Third security, and recent traffic division.

7:05 Nolan: need long-term revenue to put on the ballot. Need to look at regional transit issues for economies of scale.

7:08 Budget hearing complete. Next hearing: SFMTA declaration of fiscal emergency so that service cuts will be exempt from CEQA review.

7:37 SFMTA open session meeting is complete.

7:38 Tomorrow, April 8 at 1:30 pm — Board of Supervisors, Budget & Finance Comm hearing on the Muni work orders.



5 thoughts on “Tweets from April 7 SMFTA Budget Hearing

  1. This is very sad and I don’t even live in San Francisco. I’m sure it will come into the South Bay soon enough though. The budget shortfalls from BART, MUNI, VTA, etc. are largely due to the elimination of state funding right?

    Posted by Jarrett Mullen | 9 April 2009, 4:42 am
  2. Yes, Jarrett, that is a big piece of the puzzle (this post has some numbers about money lost this fiscal year, and then STA funds are eliminated thereafter). The lack of STA funds will burden agencies throughout the Bay Area and the whole state. Muni also has the peculiar problem of other City departments sending them their bills and raiding money that voters indicated should be used to improve transit, which was the topic of a Board committee meeting yesterday.

    It’s indeed sad that transit operators are being put in this bind just as interest in transit is increasing nationwide, and it’s a shame we don’t have any federal stimulus money that could be used to offset some of these deficits.

    Posted by Eric | 9 April 2009, 7:44 am
  3. The work order nonsense is outrageous. I think much of the heat around that issue is getting lost in an Arthur-Andersonesque shuffle of numbers. But as I learned way back in my basic college physics class, you just need to look at the initial state of a system and the final state of a system.

    It may confuse some when people invoke claims that these are ‘Muni-related’ expenses, but we can ignore that argument as irrelevant. City government has a $500M+ deficit, who is making up that deficit? Through whatever inter-departmental actions, it’s Muni that is bearing the burden of that shortfall.

    If 311 is supposed to be a one-stop shop for all city services, they cannot charge Muni for transit-related calls. They are not ferrying passengers, they are providing non-emergency information. That’s a 311-related call not a Muni-related call.

    And how foes DOH justify charging muni for treating injuries where a bus was involved? Would they like Muni to charge them for the cost of getting half their patients to General on the 9?

    Thus balkanization of city services is a reductio ad absurdum. If these agencies want a chunk of Muni’s independent budget, they need to either go back to the ballot and put it back in the General Fund, or they need to sue. Muni ought not to roll over on this!

    Posted by Josh | 9 April 2009, 2:03 pm


  1. Pingback: Streetsblog » Today’s Headlines - 8 April 2009

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