MTA: Layoffs, service cuts, rate increases 

Sweeping service reductions, increases to monthly fares for Express routes and Cable Car service and more expensive rates for residential parking permits were approved by the Municipal Transportation Agency’s Board of Directors in a budget-balancing move today, although a controversial proposal to double the costs of Fast Pass fares for senior, youth and the disabled was shelved, at least temporarily.

The service reductions will go into effect May 1, and will result in the layoffs of 170 transit operators, a move that will save $4.8 million this fiscal year for the agency, which was facing a $12.1 million mid-year shortfall before the vote. The package of cost-saving and revenue-generating measures approved by the MTA board is projected to generate $14.4 million this fiscal year, although some of those projections are very tenuous, including a $7 million funding request from the San Francisco County Transportation Authority, which manages The City’s transportation tax. The board actually elected to recess the meeting, not adjourn it, a procedural step that allows it reconsider the measures they approved Friday, which passed on narrow, 4-3 votes.

“We’re not done with the year yet, but the board took an important step today,” said MTA spokesman Judson True.

Many of the double-overflow crowed that attended the six hour meeting spoke against the proposal to double discounted Fast Pass fares from $15 to $30. Although that move was rejected, the Fast Pass fare for seniors, disabled, and youth still stands to go up to $20 on May 1 under a move that was approved last year by the MTA board.

In lieu of the discounted Fast Pass fare increase, MTA board member Malcolm Heinicke said the agency should immediately consider pilot projects for meter extension hours on Sundays in several neighborhoods, and at least one pilot project for meter extension hours during weekday nights.

The meeting featured plenty of political gamesmanship, with MTA Chairman Tom Nolan starting the morning by saying that the board would abandon the proposal to raise the discounted Fast Pass fares, provided that the Transport Workers Unions Local 250-A enter back into labor negotiations with management.

TWU president Irwin Lum, whose organization’s members rejected a proposal that would have saved the MTA $14.9 million, said the union would not vote again on concessions so long as a ballot measure being backed by Supervisor Sean Elsbernd that would reform their pay structure is abandoned. It’s currently written in the City’s Charter that they receive the second-highest transit wages in the country.

Among the measures approved by the MTA’s board was a $20 increase to residential parking permits, a mandatory $70 Fast Pass, the more expensive of two options, for passengers who use Cable Car and Express lines, and the elimination of free parking in city garages for public employees.

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Will Reisman

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