Don't let board squabbling kill smart transit budget 

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency had to make some very tough decisions during the approval of its budget this year. Asking people to pay more is never popular, even if that money is just going toward recovery of new fees imposed by other government agencies.

The transit agency faced a $53.2 million shortfall over the next two years — a sum that surely would have meant deep service cuts if the agency did not stop its financial bleeding. Part of the solution was to add parking meters and extend enforcement to Sundays — a day on which San Francisco drivers have enjoyed free parking nearly everywhere.

Another part of the budget had less to do with making money than losing it. The state slapped a new $5 fee on all citations, and up until now, the agency has been taking the hit. Now that fee will be passed on to the people who are issued citations.

In addition to dealing with funding issues, the agency grappled with offering free rides for low-income youths — a worthwhile expenditure in light of the increasing difficulties kids in this city deal with in getting to school.

Throughout the entirety of the budget cycle, the agency and its officials have been clear and upfront about what they wanted to do and why. Despite bombastic claims from some critics who claimed that the agency wanted to punish motorists, the truth is that the SFMTA is attempting to better serve all the people who get around this city — whether by car, Muni, bike or walking.

The tough decisions approved Tuesday by the agency now should not be undone by political bickering at the Board of Supervisors, whose members need to sign off on this budget. Supervisors need to look at the agency’s budget holistically instead of singling out line items that happen to serve, or not serve, just their constituents. Since the board may only approve or reject the agency’s entire budget, small squabbles about line items should not overshadow discussion of the entire document.

If supervisors really oppose one of the budget’s revenue measures, then we challenge them to find an alternative moneymaker for the transit agency.

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