Muni Decision Hangs by a Strap

Decision day for transit workers, SFMTA board on fare hikes, service cuts

By Jackson West
|  Monday, Mar 1, 2010  |  Updated 3:00 PM PDT
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Muni Decision Hangs by a Strap

Bart Vis

Supervisor Sean Elsbernd, clearly not a Muni rider, has threatened to take it to the Transit Workers Union, and if the TWU doesn't compromise, he has Mayor Gavin Newsom's backing.

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By Tuesday, San Franciscans should have a sense of how the most recent fights over Muni will turn out, but until then, the games of brinkmanship continue.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency's board voted Friday to reduce service and raise fares on new classes of the monthly Fast Pass.

But more decisions could come today, and amid less criticism, thanks to some bureaucratic sleight-of-hand that leaves room for the SFMTA board to reconvene and possibly hold another vote.

However, the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Institute outlined plans last week that would have closed the agency's budget deficit without reducing service or raising fares.

One suggestion: rescinding the San Francisco Police Department's $11 million "word order." The SFPD is hardly providing much security on Muni as it stands, and it's unlikely anyone would notice if they stopped. That would account for nearly 15 percent of the projected deficit.

Many of the proposals also would raise the cost of parking, by eliminating some exemptions; expanding meters to Sundays and adding more meters, especially near SFMTA facilities; and actually enforcing parking rate ordinances for city garages and expanding the ordinance city-wide.

All of which would be music to the ears of UCLA Professor Donald Shoup, author of "The High Cost of Free Parking," who appeared in San Jose last week and maybe surprisingly wasn't run out of town on a rail car.

SPUR's plans also would have changed the employment structure at Muni, including reducing overtime, hiring part-time drivers for peak service and possibly layoffs.

None of which makes the beleaguered drivers of Transit Workers Union happy. The TWU feels that Newsom and the SFMTA are negotiating in bad faith by "holding a gun to our head" in the form of a ballot measure proposed by Supervisor Sean Elsbernd to take Muni pay out of the city charter and instead collectively bargain for a contract.

Muni riders are expected to rally at City Hall at 5 p.m. this evening, amidst talk of forming a rider's union to organize against service cuts and fare increases.

Photo by Bart Vis.

Jackson West is truly torn between jumping on the rider backlash bandwagon and supporting a hard-working union.

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