SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Authority and city supervisors on Tuesday announced a suspension of fare increases for the next two years.
At a Wednesday morning press conference, Supervisors Aaron Peskin and Dean Preston announced they had reached an agreement SFMTA leadership on a number of transit service reforms in exchange for dropping a charter amendment that would have eliminated the transit agency’s exclusive authority to raise fares.
In April, the Board of Supervisors passed a resolution directing the SFMTA Board of Directors to hold off on any fare increases during the 2020/21 budget cycle because of the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on transit-dependent communities. Following that vote, the SFMTA Board of Directors nevertheless approved a monthly fare increase.
Supervisors Peskin and Preston then introduced a charter amendment that would have forced the SFMTA to tie fare increases to performance standards and allowed the Board of Supervisors to reject fare increases that didn’t meet the criteria. The agreement announced Wednesday signaled an end to the back-and-forth between the supervisors and the SFMTA.
“The SFMTA Board’s top priority is to deliver reliable transit service and this pandemic has been devastating not just to Muni riders but has disproportionally affected low income and communities of color, who heavily rely on transit,” said Gwyneth Borden, SFMTA Chair of the Board of Directors in a prepared statement. “To provide some economic relief, the SFMTA will not be raising fares and looks forward to working with the Board of Supervisors on new funding solutions.”
“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,” said Supervisor Preston in a prepared statement. “We will work together on new revenue measures that will allow us to avoid fare increases, maintain and improve service, and protect our operators.”
After negotiations between the city supervisors and the SFMTA, the following agreements were reached:
- SFMTA will not increase fares in the upcoming two-year budget cycle.
- SFMTA, the Mayor’s Budget Office, and the Board of Supervisors will work together on a new revenue measure that will help the Agency avoid major service cuts, particularly in transit-dependent communities.
- A fare increase policy will be developed collaboratively that ties any future fare increases to performance standards and transit equity.
- The Charter Amendment will be tabled.
“Muni has a substantial and growing structural deficit, but we agree now is not the time to raise fares,” said SFMTA Director, Jeffrey Tumlin in a statement. “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.”
“Our 2,500 union members cannot support raising fares during a worldwide pandemic,” said Roger Marenco, President of TWU Local 250-A in a press statement “Increasing fares does not directly correlate with improvements for transit service, and operator lay-offs shouldn’t be used as an excuse to justify fare increases. If we want to preserve both jobs and transit service, we should start by cutting at the top – not by increasing fares at the bottom.”
Following the announcements at the press conference, supervisors condemned a tweet from the San Francisco Police Officers’ Association in response to an SFMTA announcement that Muni would no longer be transporting officers in riot gear to Black Lives Matter protests.
The tweet said, “Hey Muni, lose our number next time you need officers for fare evasion enforcement of removing problem passengers from your buses and trains. Shouldn’t be an SFPD officer’s job anyway.”
“I would like to condemn in the strongest terms this tweet … That is dereliction of duty,” said Peskin. “I want to congratulate the SFMTA for that courageous stance. The Board of Supervisors has your back, and this behavior will not stand in the City and County of San Francisco.”