Jerry Brown May Rescue Muni

By Matt Baume
|  Wednesday, Jan 12, 2011  |  Updated 6:45 AM PDT
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Jerry Brown May Rescue Muni

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SAN FRANCISCO - FEBRUARY 02: Rows of electric MUNI buses sit idle February 2, 2009 in San Francisco, California. A report by the San Francisco Planning & Urban Research Association concluded that the city's infrastructure and buildings are unprepared for a major earthquake. The study suggests that owners of nearly 2,800 so-called "soft-story buildings" be forced to retrofit their property to avoid an estimated $1.5 billion in damages should a big quake happen. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Muni may get a slight nudge from Jerry Brown, but even if it happens, the emphasis will be on the "slight."

Brown's new budget gives transit agencies access to money that they've been promised for years, but couldn't access under policies enacted by Arnold Schwarzenegger. Even though the State Supreme Court ruled that Schwarzenegger's policies were illegal, he kept trying to use the money for his own projects instead of for transit riders.

Over the last few years, transit service has been cut and fees hiked due to funding shortfalls.

But now, hundreds of millions of dollars will be released to agencies around the state. Of that, San Francisco's aspiring transit agency will get $30 million. That's enough to keep the agency, which costs about a billion dollars a year, funded for ten whole days.

Obviously, more money is still needed. That may not happen for a few years, while transit agencies use the released funds to play catchup and establish a stable footing.

One potential source of funding: shifting highway funds to transit. A new study shines light on the taxpayer drain caused by the highway system, which experts estimate has cost the country $600 billion.

The reason for the drain is that highways cause citizens to use cars more than they otherwise would, causing traffic burdens that aren't nearly offset by America's unusually low gas taxes.

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