The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency is changing its direction on how to spend millions of dollars in windfall money from the state.

Transit officials and even Mayor London Breed had announced that $38 million would be set aside for the SFMTA from the Educational Revenue Augmentation Fund and be spent on the accelerate the replacement of old Muni trains with newer ones.

Instead, SFMTA Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin on presented a different proposal of spending the $38 million, which did not sit well with some board directors during Tuesday’s board meeting.

The revised proposal includes only using $19.3 million towards speeding up the arrival of new trains. Just under $14 million will go towards SFMTA energy efficiency programs, and $5 million will into a small business impact fund.

$13.8 million would go into assessing SFMTA facilities and see what energy efficiencies the transit agency can make such as adding solar panels, which the transit agency has already done for its newest bus facility at Islais Creek. The $5 million would help businesses feeling the effects of large, delayed SFMTA projects like along Van Ness Avenue.

The SFMTA Board of Directors did approve the proposal, but Director Cheryl Brinkman said the board really had no choice as recommendations to spend $38 million came from some supervisors and from the Mayor’s Office. The Board of Supervisors will have to approve the supplemental spending.

Brinkman said:

“I hope in the future when LRVs (light rail vehicles) breakdown, they won’t come yelling at us about why things are breaking down and trains aren’t moving through the tunnel.”

She added:

“I think that we are here to look out for the best interest of riders in the system. I think somebody in the Board of Supervisors is at the last-minute pulling the rug out underneath our feet.”

Board Chair Malcolm Heinicke was not all too thrilled about the last-minute proposal as the transit agency will have to reallocate funds from its capital program to in order to pay the costs for the accelerated schedule of new Muni trains, but it’s not clear yet where in the capital program the funds will come from:

“It’s coming at the expense of what something we don’t know and we haven’t debated.”

Reiskin said the transit agency would need up to pay upfront costs, possibly upwards of $30 million, to go along with the notice to proceed to the manufacturer of a new accelerated schedule.

He added that his first priority was replacing the old Breda trains as they are jeopardizing the rail service.

The new accelerated schedule would allow the transit agency to start replacing the old Breda trains at the end of 2020 instead of in 2021 and having all the replacement trains in 2025 instead of 2027.

Heinicke asked Reiskin to report back to the board once he knows what funding changes are made in the capital program in order to fund the acceleration of new Muni trains.

Jerold Chinn
Jerold Chinn is the San Francisco Bureau Chief of SFBay. A San Francisco native, he has spent a decade covering transportation in San Francisco. Send tips to jerold@sfbay.ca or at Twitter @Jerold_Chinn.

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