CA: Muni Quickly Scraps 25-Cent Transfer Fee

Faced with projected deficits of $34 million next year and nearly $46 million the year after that, San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency commissioners said Monday that all revenue options must be explored.

"Everything now has to be on the table," said Bruce Oka, who serves on the governing board.

Well, almost everything. Commissioners moved quickly to scrap the idea to charge Muni riders 25 cents for transfers, saying it would run counter to the setup of the city's transit system that takes into account the need for some people to ride two or more lines to reach their destination.

Other than that, the agency's governing board gave the executive team approval to explore a host of other revenue options, including extending parking meter operations to Sundays and into the night in commercial districts where street parking is scarce; raising parking citations by $3; charging Muni riders 25 cents to pay a cash fare instead of using the Clipper fare card; and making more money off of taxi medallions.

Other ideas call for charging businesses an annual $1,000 fee for each parking space in courtesy lots; raising the cost of monthly Muni Fast Passes to keep pace with inflation; imposing a $200-a-year parcel tax on local property owners; and making drivers who use disabled placards pay for metered parking. Some proposals would require voter approval or an OK from the state Legislature to proceed.

Agency staff will spend the next few months analyzing the potential benefits and shortcomings of the various moneymaking options and whittle the list for consideration by the board of directors early next year. The board is set to vote on a new two-year budget in April.

Board member Joel Ramos said the budget going forward needs to better reflect the city's Transit First policy, which discourages the use of the private automobile and promotes transit, walking, biking, car sharing and taxis. "It's time we let go of subsidizing parking and driving," he said.

He and others said San Francisco has to get serious about finding sustainable revenue sources to make Muni more reliable. What the board isn't eager to do, said member Leona Bridges, is to "nickel and dime" people to death. Instead, she and several colleagues said they would prefer higher-impact solutions, if feasible.

Their comments came during a special session Monday that included extended briefings on the upcoming budget cycle and the agency's draft strategic plan.

Transportation chief Ed Reiskin also revealed a proposed "vision" for the agency, in effect, a new motto. "San Francisco: great city, excellent transportation choices." Maybe Muni should stencil that on T-shirts to sell around town for extra income.

- Rachel Gordon

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