Muni services cut, no new fare increases
February 26, 2010 5:59 PM
The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency board of directors, faced with an angry public, backed down Friday from further raising monthly passes for seniors, youths and persons with disabilities.
The marathon meeting ended with a partial victory for opponents of the fare increases. Monthly passes for seniors, youths, and persons with disabilities are already set to increase from $15 to $20 on May 1. The board also voted in favor of a 10 percent service reduction and will now require patrons to buy the premium "A" pass to ride cable cars and most express lines.
"These decisions have not been popular among the public," San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Chairman Tom Nolan said.
The room in City Hall was packed with angry patrons, many of them seniors, who blasted the board for its proposed fare increases and service cuts.
Commuters can expect longer wait times as the frequency of buses and rail cars will decrease on many lines, including the M-line, 28, 29, and 17. The board grappled with closing a budget hole of at least $12.1 million for the fiscal year, according to Judson True, an SFMTA spokesperson. Both votes, approving the service cuts and rejecting the fare increases for "vulnerable" groups, were split 4-3.
All of the lines that serve SF State will have changes to their schedules. For instance, every other M-line train coming from downtown during peak hours will turn around at SF State, meaning that commuters going to Ingleside or Balboa Park will have to wait an additional seven minutes. Commuters will have to wait an additional three minutes for the 28 bus during peak hours and it will stop running at midnight, an hour earlier than before.
Riders will also have to use the premium "A" pass--the one riders currently use to access BART within San Francisco-- to ride express line buses and cable cars. The 8X, 8AX, and 8BX lines, however, were exempted.
"When you're in this sort of budget nightmare, you don't wake up right away," True said.
The service cuts could have been avoided, some board members said, if the Transport Workers Union had accepted concessions to their contract. Nolan expressed disappointment that an agreement wasn't reached between the agency and the union.
"None of us likes to vote on increases," board member Bruce Oka said. "However, if TWU does not come through there are no more rocks under which we can find money. As much as I hate to say it we have no choice."
Irwin Lum, president of the Transport Workers Union Local 250-A said it was unfair for the board to blame his union for the current financial situation.
"To blame the union is blatantly wrong," Lum said before the board. "You need to cut wasteful spending."
Walter Scott III, secretary and treasurer of the TWU, told the board they could save money by reducing the salaries of administrators and high paid employees.
"Before you cut services, you need to cut from the top," Scott said. He added, "Leave the senior fare alone!"
Nearly five hours of public comment culminated in a packed room in City Hall with hundreds more watching the meeting in an overflow room. All public testimony was against the changes and it would appear that sympathy was garnered by the board for at least one aspect of the public's outrage: fare increases.
"I'm looking for leadership and I don't see any leadership in this room," City College of San Francisco student Glo Pereira said before the board. "I'm here representing the students because I don't see anyone here, it pisses me off. We're not taking care of our future."
Pereira said she has to take the bus everyday but is frustrated at the lack of reliability.
"It takes me three hours to go three miles," she said.
The board meets again on March 2 to continue Friday's meeting, but also to begin discussions on the $53 million budget deficit projected for the 2011-2012 fiscal year, according to True.
Even before the vote, one patron said that he'd had enough with the transit agency. "I'm putting my 45 year old car back on the street," M.P.R. Howard said. "Do what you want, your agency is no longer worth it anymore."
Howard, a resident of San Francisco for 28 years, said he plans to drive his 1965 Dodge Dart again.
"She may not be pretty, but at least she gets me from point A to point B." he said. When asked how he was going to get home from the meeting, he replied, "I'm going to walk."
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