Riders squeezed by transit cuts 

Muni passengers will have longer wait times at bus stops and more-crowded vehicles as the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency closes its budget shortfall with service cuts.

The proposed move would increase the time between buses on more than half of Muni’s lines. The change will result in fewer vehicles on streets, which will lead to more jam-packed buses.

The wait times on Muni’s express routes — the most frequently traveled lines — would increase by up to three minutes. Smaller “community” and “local” lines would see wait-time increases of five to 10 minutes.

By implementing the changes by May 1, the SFMTA, which operates Muni, would save $4.8 million this fiscal year and $28.5 million on an annual basis. The transit agency currently faces a $16.9 million shortfall this fiscal year, which ends June 30.

The cuts would come less than five months after the most drastic service changes to Muni in decades. On Dec. 5, the SFMTA changed the frequency of, reduced or consolidated several lines, and six bus routes were completely eliminated.

In January, the cost of a Muni Fast Pass increased from $55 to $60, and passes with BART service included increased from $55 to $70. It was the second time in six months a price increase was imposed on the monthly ticket. In July, the Fast Pass increased from $45 to $55, and cash fares went up from $1.50 to $2.

Overall, Muni plans to reduce its operating service by 313,000 hours per year, a 10 percent decline. Much of its fiscal savings would come from eliminating positions, including the dissolution of 170 operator positions, a move that’s been strongly opposed by union officials.

Increasing the wait times on Muni lines will surely be a point of contention for riders, who already suffer from lower-than-expected on-time performance.

Muni posted a 73.3 percent on-time performance rate last fiscal year, the transit agency’s best performance in decades, but still well below the voter-mandated rate of 85 percent.

“We deeply regret that these painful decisions will affect our customers,” SFMTA Executive Director Nathaniel Ford said. “But if we don’t act now, next year will be even more difficult.”

The transit agency’s board of directors will vote on the service-reduction proposals at its March 2 meeting.

The SFMTA also has proposed a series of fare hikes, fee increases and labor savings as a way to balance its $16.9 million shortfall for this fiscal year, which must be reconciled by June 30.


Wait times extended for Muni service

The headway time, or duration between arriving vehicles, will increase from 30 seconds to three minutes on 19 express bus routes, according to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, The City department that runs Muni and is in the midst of dealing with a
$16.9 million deficit.

Express buses are Muni’s most frequently run lines. Some routes that could soon feature longer wait times include the 14L-Mission Limited, which will run every 12 minutes instead of 10 minutes, and the 47-Van Ness, which will arrive once every 10 minutes as opposed to eight minutes. Light-rail service also will run less frequently, with intervals extending from one to three minutes on several lines.

Wait times will be increased  by as much as five minutes on the lesser-traveled “local” bus lines, such as at the 23-Monterey, and by as many as 10 minutes on the smaller “community” lines, such as the 17-Parkmerced. The wait time for Owl service, which runs during early-morning hours, will be extended the most, with headways increased from 30 minutes to an hour.


Rough budget times ahead

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which operates Muni, is projecting a grim two-year budget outlook. The SFMTA is considering fare increases and service reductions that would cut its two-year deficit from $199 million to $98 million, and wipe out its current $16.9 million midyear deficit, which must be reconciled by June 30. Fiscal years begin July 1. Still, the transit agency faces deficits in the 2010-11 and 2011-12 fiscal years.

Deficits forecast
FY2010-11         FY2011-12
$102.7 million    $96.3 million

Proposed savings with cuts
$50 million    $51 million

Unresolved deficits
$52.7 million    $45.3 million

The transit agency has lost $230 million in the past two years in state and local funding sources. To make up for that shortfall, the SFMTA already imposed fare increases, altered service and reduced staff.


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Will Reisman

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