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A potential ballot measure that would have taken legislative power from the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency to set Muni fares has been avoided with a compromise between supervisors and transit officials. 

It was announced Wednesday that the SFMTA will not increase Muni fares as originally planned over the next two fiscal years. Transit officials, the Mayor’s Budget Office and supervisors will instead work together to craft a new revenue measure that will prevent service cuts.

Additionally, the agency will work to develop a policy tying any future Muni fare increases to performance standards and equity.

Supervisor Aaron Peskin introduced a charter amendment last month in response to the SFMTA Board of Directors approval of a two-year budget that included hiking Muni fares.

Peskin’s amendment would have required the Board of Supervisors to approve any fare increases, including those passed by the SFMTA in April.

Muni farebox
<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/agentakit/4707249930/">Agent Akit</a>/Flickr A push to coerce riders toward prepaid and Clipper fares could result in a reorganization of Muni’s fare structure.

In a statement, Peskin, who also chairs the San Francisco County Transportation Authority, said:

“My colleagues and I are committed to working with SFMTA to identify revenue to make the investments we need to keep Muni running, but they must be rooted in equity and performance standards.

He added:

“When elected leaders establish policies reflecting these constituent needs, city departments should take them seriously, so we don’t have to go to the ballot to get transit justice and accountability.”

Muni fares were set to increase as early as November, which would have made an adult monthly Fast Pass with access to San Francisco BART stations jump from $93 to $103. A regular adult pass would have increased from $81 to $86.

Adult single-ride cash fares were spared from the increases, and the agency then proposed offering free Muni for all San Francisco youth and people experiencing homelessness, though the plan was dependent on the financial outcome during and after the Covid-19 pandemic.

Supervisors had approved a resolution urging the SFMTA to not increase fares during the pandemic as many The City’s residents were facing unemployment due to the shelter-in-place order. 

Garrick Wong/SF San Francisco’s newest Muni trains get ready for a night of testing in San Francisco, Calif., on Friday, July 21, 2017.

Supervisor Dean Preston, who introduced the resolution, said in a statement:

“I look forward to working with my colleagues on the Board of Supervisors, the Mayor, and with the MTA Board to improve transit service and reliability. We will work together on new revenue measures that will allow us to avoid fare increases, maintain and improve service, and protect our operators.”

The transit agency was already facing a projected $66 million budget deficit in January, before the Covid-19 pandemic struck, and in March and April anticipated additional revenue loss for the remainder of the current fiscal year as ridership and service came to a near halt.

Some of the revenue loss will be recovered by the federal CARES Act, which awarded the SFMTA $197 million.

In light of the agency’s dire financial situation, SFMTA Director of Transportation Jeffrey Tumlin agreed to the fare increases Muni fares.

In statement, Tumlin said:

“We look forward to partnering with the Board of Supervisors to find sustainable sources of revenue needed to deliver the Muni service San Franciscans need.”

Jerold Chinn
Jerold Chinn covers transportation and City Hall in San Francisco for SF Bay. Email: jerold@sfbay.ca. Twitter: @Jerold_Chinn. Instagram: jeroldwashere.

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