MTA works on deep Muni service cuts


By Nima Maghame

San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which operates Muni, has pushed back a City Hall meeting (originally set for today) to make a decision on budget-related plans for cutting transit services by 10 percent across the city and raising prices on monthly passes, setting it for Friday 26th at 9 a.m. instead.

The proposal seeks “a savings of 313,000 annual service hours, which would result in $4.8 million in savings for the fiscal year 2010. The annual savings would be $28.5 million.”

At the Feb. 8 meeting, where the MTA formally announced its new plans, representatives from disability and senior citizen communities voiced their frustrations with the monthly pass price increase. Both groups not only rely on public transportation to get around the city, but many are members of organizations that subsidize passes for those in need. Many of these organizations can't budget the new price hikes, which could mean that people who depend on these hand-outs may not get them.

“The people of San Francisco need transit. We were there to stop the MTA -- 99 percent of the people at the meeting were there to say don't cut services, don't cut rates, there are other ways,” Forrest Schmidt, an organizer for the ANSWER Coalition, told us.

The 10 percent cut in service would hit the residents of Treasure Island hard because many rely on buses to get on and off the island. Several came to the meeting to voice their Muni needs and point out that the 108 bus is the only alternative to driving a car. They criticized MTA calculations that determine the appropriate amount of service that can be cut without causing too many problems for commuters.

“Alternative means don't exist when you live on Treasure Island. They have to acknowledge that we have unique factors,” Treasure Island resident and art student Drew Williams said at the meeting.

The MTA board heard the plea, MTA spokesperson Judson True told us: “The board has decided to reevaluate their plans for the 108 line.” It was one of several factors that has caused the MTA board of delay its budget decisions.

Critics are infuriated at the MTA for not taking a proactive approach at dealing with its fiscal challenges. “It's a damn shame it came to this. The severity was not predictable but the deficit was predictable,” said longtime transportation activist Dave Snyder, who recently formed a new transit riders union to advocate on behalf of Muni riders. “The revenue panel met a couple of years ago and the MTA declined all their recommendations.”