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Officials say Muni fare hikes necessary to avoid service cuts, lay offs

Despite efforts from community organizations and members of the Board of Supervisors, San Francisco Muni riders will see fares increase as early as Nov. 1.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s Director of Transportation Tuesday approved a $1.28 billion and $1.34 billion budget over the next two fiscal years (2020-2021 and 2021-2022) that do not increase single-cash fares but do bump up the cost of monthly passes.

Muni passengers will initially see an adult Muni “A” Fast Pass jump from the current $98 to $103 and then again increase to $106 in the 2021-2022 fiscal year. The Muni adult “M” Fast pass will rise from the current cost of $81 to $86, and to $88 in the following fiscal year.

Single-ride Clipper fares will rise from $2.50 to $2.80 and then again to $2.90 next year.

The SFMTA will expand its Free Muni for Youth Program to all San Francisco youth. The program was originally rolled out to middle- and low-income students.

PJ Eugenio with the South of Market Action Network said during public comment said group submitted a joint letter with 27 organizations calling on the board to cancel all fare increases.

New Muni farebox transfers
Jerold Chinn/SFBay Muni fare ticket.

Eugenio said:

“Fare increases will be a big burden for people who are trying to get back on their feet. SFMTA needs to hear the demand of riders and stop the fare increase on all payment options.”

More than a dozen people spoke during public comment in objection to fare hikes during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The SFMTA is also facing a dire reality caused by the pandemic as the agency anticipates a $211 million loss of revenue over the remainder of the current fiscal year, which closes June 30, said Jonathan Rewers, a senior analyst budget for the SFMTA.

Pending approval by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission Wednesday, the SFMTA does stand to receive a chunk of the federal government’s stimulus package, about $197 million, to fill in some gaps. However, officials expect an economic downturn that will impact the next two fiscal years.

Acknowledging the public’s concern over fare increases, Jeffrey Tumlin, SFMTA director of transportation, also said:

“Keeping fares exactly the same would require that we would have to make substantial service cuts and lay off over 100 transit operators. We don’t want to do that.”

Aaron Levy-Wolins/SFBay Muni Director of Transportation Jeffrey Tumlin takes a photo of new Muni art on a bus outside City Hall in San Francisco, Calif., on Thursday, Jan 9, 2020. Poetry and art will be displayed on select Muni buses.

Vice chair of the SFMTA board Gwyneth Borden said the while transit agency is working to expand programs to ease the burden for youth and people experiencing homelessness, she knows they do not go far enough to support passengers in need.

Borden said:

“Unfortunately, we are up against the same reality, that ourselves as an agency are (going to) be looking at major funding shortfalls.”

Despite budget hits, the SFMTA is still attempting to fund a number of initiatives over the next two years, including the Safe Routes to School program, Muni operator and ambassador hiring and the Race, Equity and Diversity Office fund for Vision Zero education. 

Depending on the transit agency’s financial health, Rewers said the SFMTA could hold back on some of those initiatives, such as free Muni for all youth and Vision Zero education.

The SFMTA will also bring back Sunday parking meters, which were pulled in 2014. Officials said the Sunday meters will be reestablished  along with weeknight parking meters that will be focused in commercial corridors. Officials said they will work with local merchant associations before making any changes.

The transit agency is scrapping two fees: tow and administrative fees for people who certify as homeless, and boot fees.

Agency officials also said they will waive all taxi fees over the next two years, which amount to a $1.4 million revenue loss.

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