Muni fare shakedown

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SF Examiner photo by Melissa Barnes

Update: Just a day after the release of this article, advocacy group POWER announced that Google pledged to pay for Free Muni For Youth for two years. “This validates both the success and necessity of the Free Muni for Youth program,”said Bob Allen, leader in the FreeMuni for Youth coalition, in a press release. “We need tech companies in San Francisco and throughout the region to work with the community to support more community-driven solutions to the displacement crisis.” 

The funding though is promised only for two years, and when that timeframe is up the question will still remain -- will Muni's operating budget pay for something Mayor Ed Lee could find funding for elsewhere? Additionally, Google hasn't announced funding for free Muni for seniors or the disabled, another program up for consideration in the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency's new budget. That may change if and when it is approved by the SFMTA for the next budget year. 

"I think it’s a positive step in the right direction," Superivsor David Campos, the sponsor of Free Muni For Youth, told us. "But there are still questions about what it means in terms of the long term future of the program. It’s only a two year gift." 

"We have asked for a meeting with Google and the mayor’s office and the coalition to talk about long term plans, to find out more information about what this means." 

There's a tie that binds all Muni riders. From the well-heeled Marina dwellers who ride the 45 Union to Bayview denizens who board the T-Third Sunnydale line, we've all heard the same words broadcast during sleepy morning commutes.

"Please pay your fare share."

The play on words (also seen on Muni enforcement signage) would be cute if it didn't perfectly represent how Muni riders may now be stiffed. A slew of new budget ideas hit the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Board of Directors last week (Feb. 18), and who will pay for it all is an open question.

The first blow to riders is a proposed single-ride fare hike from the current $2 to $2.25.

Other proposals include expanding the Free Muni for Youth program, rolling out a new program offering free Muni for seniors and the disabled, and a fare hike to $6 for the historic F streetcar.

The odorous price jumps (and costly but promising giveaways) are moving forward against a backdrop of a Muni surplus of $22 million, which the board has until April to decide how to use, and a controversial decision by Mayor Ed Lee to make a U-turn on charging for parking on Sundays.

The meter decision would deprive Muni of millions of dollars.

"We're not proposing anything here, just presenting what we can do," SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin told the SFMTA board at City Hall last week.

There's still time to change the SFMTA board's mind on the proposals between now and final approval of the budget in April. But who will end up paying for a better Muni?

 

FARE HIKES NOT FOUGHT

In 2010, the SFMTA instituted a policy to raise Muni fares along with inflation and a number of other economic factors, essentially putting them on autopilot. The SFMTA board still has to approve the fee hikes, which may rise across the board.

fares One-time fares may jump to $2.25. Muni's monthly passes would see an increase by $2 next year and more the following year. The "M" monthly pass will be $70 and the "A" pass (which allows Muni riders to ride BART inside San Francisco) will be $81.

Muni needs the money, Reiskin said.