Transit Cuts Tied to City Raids on Muni

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    NEWSLETTERS

    A crowded muni car on the K line at Church.

    So long, Muni. It was nice knowing you.

    The agency is following up a string of service cutbacks and fare hikes over the last few years with -- you guessed it -- more cutbacks and fare hikes.

    One big drain on Muni's bottom line: other city agencies. A new audit released Friday by the city controller cites a $65.8 million tab for services like legal advice, police assistance, and medical services.

    It's a practice called "work orders," and they've been the bane of Muni's existence recently. When voters approved new revenue streams for Muni a few years ago, other city agencies decided they wanted a piece of the pie and started billing the transit agency for anything they could come up with.

    That's led to such excesses as 311 operators charging $6.2 million for answering callers' questions about bus arrivals. Alternate services like 511 are automated and have no significant costs.

    Mayor Gavin Newsom defended the practice, saying that the work orders are normal and appropriate, even as they skyrocketed compared to previous years.

    Supervisor Campos has had it up to here. "We believe that the current structure where the mayor appoints all members of the MTA Board is not working," he said.

    Meanwhile, Muni riders are looking at longer waits and shorter operating hours. Muni chief Nat Ford argues that the cutbacks are strategic, based on the agency's Transit Effectiveness Project. But the TEP was originally intended to improve service, not eliminate it; so far, TEP data has only rarely been used to increase service.

    If there's a silver lining to this, it might be that Muni can't cut back much further. If the agency reduced its service any more, it wouldn't exist anymore.