Muni asks for outside help with deficit 

The public transportation agency in The City is turning to private companies to help balance its budget.

With nearly $22 million still needed to close a projected budget shortfall, the Municipal Transportation Agency is asking its commercial vendors to help ease the transit agency’s debt burden.

The department, which oversees Muni operations, is requesting that private businesses voluntarily reduce their contracts with the agency by a minimum of 3 percent. The transit agency has already diverted federal stimulus funding, laid off employees and reduced pay benefits in an effort to make up its projected shortfall for this fiscal year.

In a letter written to its 500 vendors — which include such companies as the one that sells fuel to the agency — MTA executive director Nathaniel Ford asked that the businesses go forward with the 3 percent reduction for the next 2½ years, or until their contract with the agency expires.

Judson True, spokesman for the agency, anticipates that the contract reductions will save the agency “several million dollars.”

In October, the agency announced that it was facing a $47.1 million projected shortfall for this fiscal year. The MTA has so far identified $25.5 million in cost-saving measures. The agency must come up with an additional $21.6 million by the end of the fiscal year in June, and the contract-reduction request is the first of many measures the department is pursuing to reconcile that shortfall.

“We need to be as creative as possible to find solutions to our financial problems,” True said. “We appreciate any help we can get from our partners.”

The MTA has already raised transit fares, increased parking rates and reconfigured service on its bus and train lines to deal with past budget problems. The fare and parking increases went into effect last July, while Muni implemented its service changes in December. The agency’s monthly Fast Pass was raised again Friday.

Despite those measures, the department reported its $47 million deficit just one quarter into this fiscal year.

“Unfortunately, transit customers and motorists have been asked to pay higher fares, fees and fines to address our deficit,” Ford said in his memo to the MTA’s vendors. “We are now asking our contractual partners to assist us in closing our funding gap for this fiscal year as well as the next two years.”


Cash crunch

$816.7 million Annual budget for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency
$47.1 million Projected total shortfall for fiscal year
$25.5 million Identified cost-saving measures
$21.6 million Savings agency must identify by June

Source: SFMTA

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