Muni Must Spend Money to Save Money

By Matt Baume
|  Tuesday, Dec 7, 2010  |  Updated 12:45 PM PDT
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Muni Must Spend Money to Save Money

soupstance via Flickr

Riders crowd onto a Muni line.

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It's a scheme that can't fail. Muni wants to lure back paying riders by restoring service. But in order to do it, it'll need to spend millions.

A new report has plenty of ideas for spending more money at the aspiring transit agency. But ideas for raising money are in shorter supply.

Earlier this year, Muni cut service, following a series of rapid fare-hikes. Since then, they've restored some of the eliminated runs, but the buses are still even less frequent and dependable than they were just a few years ago. Transit leaders want to institute even more runs, but they'll need to raise $22 million in order to do it.

No one is sure where that money will come from. Among the ideas are saving money by eliminating stops, thus allowing drivers to travel more rapidly. Currently, the buses inch along at about 8 miles an hour, slightly slower than the average speed of 8.5 mph back in 1912.

The agency could also speed boarding by letting people in through the back door, but of course, that opens the possibility that nobody will pay.

More traditional ideas include raising ticket prices for people who block transit, wrapping the buses in more ads, and creating new taxes. Because the City doesn't have enough of those.

Or the City could try to squeeze more money through negotiation with the drivers' union, notorious for its inefficient work rules and high pay.

The money shortage comes at a sensitive time for Muni, which is smarting over revelations that a driver involved in a crash at West Portal had a long history of crashes and disciplinary actions. Aside from the safety problems, he was cited for skipping passengers' stops and for low marks on an inspection. His crash cost the agency millions.

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