CA: Municipal Transportation Agency Rolls Out Budget

Feb. 17--Everything from free Muni rides for senior and disabled riders to shutting off parking meters on Sundays will be on the table when the Municipal Transportation Agency considers its budget for the next two fiscal years.

The agency, which oversees all things related to transportation in San Francisco -- transit, traffic, parking, taxis -- has proposed a basic spending plan of $915.4 million for the budget year that starts July 1 and $943 million for the following year. The budget covers the anticipated costs of operating existing transportation services.

A separate capital budget proposes spending $646.6 million and $749.1 million on physical improvements, including Central Subway construction, replacing Muni Metro rail cars and some buses, building more bike lanes and pedestrian safety projects, and installing new traffic signals.

The budget also calls for an automatic scheduled fare increase to $2.25 for single-ride fares paid in cash.

What's not included are the proposals to raise, reduce or eliminate some fares and fees, increase service, build pedestrian and bicycle improvements, and improve technology.

A major new expense, however, is also a big unknown: increases in contracts with Muni's labor unions, which are being negotiated this year. A potential big cost reduction is a proposal to reduce or eliminate work orders: that is, money paid to other city departments for services.

Setting those priorities will be the job of the MTA Board of Directors, which officially receives the proposed budget and hold its first public hearing at 1 p.m. on Tuesday. A second hearing will be held on March 4, with a series of less formal town-hall meetings also planned.

The board is scheduled to adopt any service changes by March 28 and approve the budget by the end of April, probably at its April 1 or April 15 meeting. The Board of Supervisors can accept or reject, but not alter, the budget. It must approve a final MTA budget by the end of July.

Two proposals by Mayor Ed Lee could have major effects on the transportation budget. In his State of the City address, the mayor suggested eliminating Sunday parking meter charges, a plan that would cause the agency to lose $9.6 million per year in revenue budgeted for operations. The mayor has also called on voters to pass a bond measure, Charter amendment and vehicle license surcharge that would raise more than $500 million for transportation projects.

Increasing the number of Muni service hours by 5 percent each of the next two years would cost $4 million in the 2015 budget year and $4.1 in 2016. Continuing the free Muni fares for low-income youth under 16 would cost $2.7 million this year and $2.8 million the next. Expanding the program to give free rides to low-income users under 18 would add about $2 million to the cost. Adding free passes to senior and disabled Muni riders would cost an estimated $4 million a year.

"They're just proposals as to what's possible in finalizing the budget," said Paul Rose, an MTA spokesman. "At this point, it's certainly nothing confirmed, and they're not established priorities."

New revenue plans under consideration include charging a $6 fare, as on the cable cars, for people riding the F-line historic streetcars. That would bring in $4.9 million. Boosting the cost of visitor passports would raise as much as $1.6 million.

Michael Cabanatuan is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: mcabanatuan@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @ctuan

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