SFMTA still looking to cut costs 

Fare increases and extended parking meter enforcement could be in store for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, in addition to the 10 percent Muni service reduction set to take effect in May.

As the agency grapples with a $109 million projected shortfall during the next two fiscal years, the SFMTA’s board of directors could file for a fiscal state of emergency at its board meeting today. The procedural step acknowledges that the agency is considering more fare increases, hikes to various parking fines and further cutbacks to service.

Proposals to increase fares and extend parking meter enforcement into Sunday also could be on the table to help close the monumental deficit. SFMTA officials already proposed a crackdown on parking policies for its public employees, a measure that’s expected to garner an extra $4 million annually.

Under the direction of board member Malcolm Heinicke, the agency is investigating the potential of a pilot program to extend parking meter hours into Sunday in four neighborhoods, and late-night weekday hours in one location. Heinicke said depending on the study’s findings, the SFMTA could start enforcing the meters at six-month intervals in time to generate revenue for the 2010-11 fiscal year, which begins July 1.

The agency is projecting a $57.2 million shortfall for the 2010-11 fiscal year and a $51.4 million deficit for the 2011-12 fiscal year, although agency officials have conceded that those numbers could grow.

Along with the fee and fare increases and further service modifications, the SFMTA likely will look at reducing its work-order allotments and reimbursements from fellow city departments for services provided. The agency is projected to spend $64 million on work orders next fiscal year, although several members of the Board of Supervisors have urged other city departments to cut down on their funding requests.

On Friday, the SFMTA board approved a series of revenue-generating and cost-saving measures, including the 10 percent service reductions, in order to make up a $12.1 million shortfall for this fiscal year, which ends in June. The new service will result in longer waits and more-crowded vehicles.

A proposal to double the cost of discounted Fast Passes was narrowly avoided, although the SFMTA board could revisit that proposal since it did not technically adjourn Friday’s meeting. Hundreds of members of the public showed up to oppose the proposed fare increases.


SPUR pitches plan for transit budget

Not only can the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency balance its $57 million shortfall for the upcoming fiscal year, it can actually finish with a $9 million surplus — all without raising fares or reducing  service — under a financial plan being proposed by a respected local think tank.

Eliminating $12 million in work orders to the Police Department, charging $300 a year for disabled placards, hiring part-time operators and rerouting 311 calls to the regional 511 Web site are some of the major budget-balancing plans being proposed by the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association (SPUR).

All told, the group has come up with 20 cost-saving or revenue-generating measures that would add $66 million to the SFMTA’s budget for the 2010-11 fiscal year.

Other possibilities proposed by SPUR include the advent of Sunday parking meters, wraparound advertising on Muni buses and the elimination of nonenforcement for city workers parking near public buildings.

SPUR Director Gabe Metcalf said his organization has met with SFMTA officials about the proposals. Metcalf said he was “cautiously optimistic” that SPUR’s suggestions would be considered.

— Will Reisman

Details of SFMTA’s budget struggles

$57.2 million Projected shortfall for 2010-11 fiscal year*

$51.4 million Projected shortfall for 2011-12 fiscal year*

$784.7 million Total budget for 2010-11 fiscal year

$789.2 million Total budget for the 2011-12 fiscal year

10% Reduction in service set to take effect May 1

$25 Increase in Fast Pass cost since July 1**

Dec. 5 Date Muni implemented major service changes

* Includes cost-saving and revenue-generating measures that have yet to be realized

** Includes BART service within San Francisco


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Will Reisman

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