By Tim Redmond
Nobody likes the folks who drive around and issue parking tickets, those poor souls who used to be called "meter maids" and are now known much less lyrically as "parking control officers." It's a tough job -- PCOs get assaulted, abused and sneered at. But they bring in a lot of money for San Francisco.
And frankly, it's not their fault that it's hard to park in this city. There are too many cars in too little space -- and too many San Franciscans who came from more suburban areas think that they ought to be able to drive anywhere and find a free spot to park. But it's not like that in this city.
Anyway, I was intrigued to see that the SF MTA is now planning to lay off 24 PCOs. That's along with four mechanics, 10 people who clean trains and buses (eew, that's going to make things nice on Muni) and handful of others.
First of all, I understand that the MTA has a budget problem and nobody wants to raise Muni fares any more. We could have solved a lot of this by extending parking meter hours, but the mayor didn't want to do that. So now we're looking at cuts.
The problem with cutting people who write tickets is that, in the end, I think less tickets will be written. And however joyful that may be to the free parking set, it will wind up costing the city money in the long run.
The overall problem with all of this? Muni, for all of its problems, is one of those public agencies that just get better when you throw money at them. That doesn't always work; the solution to every public-sector problem isn't more money. But when it comes to Muni, I've followed budgets and performance over the years, and I think it's pretty clear: When Muni is better funded, the buses run more often, are on time more, are cleaner and come closer to providing a valid alternative to driving.
When you make cuts, the system gets worse, more people drive, and everyone complains that Muni is no damn good.
Something to think about, Mr. Mayor.