Calling BS on Fare Increases and Fare Shenanigans in San Francisco

Rather than react to the trial balloon on fare hikes MUNI floated today, I decided to take a look back over the past year at all the rhetoric floated by Our Leaders on MUNI fares. Give credit to MUNI and the MTA on this – they are very good at framing issues, mostly by completely ignoring things like “facts” and “past statements.”
But first, a comment about “money” and “cuts.” I get a bit weary of hearing the “poor us” speech when it comes to money for MUNI. After all, we just voted for Measure A last year which was supposed to bring significant stability to MUNI’s funding. Now, suddenly, we’re told there’s yet another “crisis” and they want us to pay more and get less. Amazing.
Of course, it doesn’t help when San Francisco legislators voted for a state budget that whacked a significant amount of MUNI funding. The federal government isn’t helping matters by possibly taking away a ton of cash for MUNI projects because of opposition from some folks for a Doyle Drive toll. Using MUNI safety money to pay for political aides isn’t exactly good management either, nor is giving the boss a big pay raise in the midst of this “financial crisis.”
But these are big issues for another day. Let’s instead take that trip in the Wayback Machine and see what’s been said about MUNI fares for the last few years.
Way back in February 2006 a report was issued indicating that in many places, 50% of folks weren’t paying the fares owed. After said report, did fare collections increase or get better?
No! Because, flash forward to February 2007 and guess what we were talking about? Yep, you guessed it – MUNI still wasn’t getting its act together and collect the fares it’s supposed to – amazing!
Now you’d think some bright, handsome young Mayor, would seize upon the report and bang his fist on the table saying “Let’s do a better job, MUNI! Collect some more fares like you’re supposed to.” Instead we got some hippie-esque feel-good nonsense from talking about how we should make MUNI “free” (which was thoroughly debunked when the adults studied the idea).
Not to be outdone, Supervisors and other electeds came up with their own notion of a “youth fare”, apparently to be paid for with a tax on unicorns and elves. Fortunately, this half-baked idea died as the folks promoting it turned on each other. Woo hoo.
See the pattern? Everyone keeps saying “no money” and yet a big reason they have a problem is because MUNI’s not bothering to collect money it is supposed to from its passengers. Instead of demanding MUNI get with the program, the politicians come up with crazy notions to take away more money from MUNI, usually to appease folks of a certain political persuasion. Then they start talking about fare increases and service cuts because…well gawrsh Mickey, there’s “no money.”

In April 2007, we started to hear all sorts of ideas for “more money” ranging from selling popcorn and sodas at stations (!) to nebulous talk of “taxes.” It is the work of this commission that led to today’s trial balloon about fare increases.
Folks, it’s really simple. If MUNI spent more of its time on collecting fares and punishing fare evaders, they’d have more money right away, without having to raise fares or cut service.
It’s not a cure-all, but it is disingenuous to hear MUNI and the folks in charge talk about stuff like this when it’s clear MUNI’s spending and management priorities are out of whack.
Spend a little less money on the executive pay raises, the bad operators, and the pricey parties, and spend a little more doing your &*&^@#! jobs.
Who knows? You might end up nudging the bureaucratic behemoth a little closer to serving the public. A daring thought, indeed.

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4 Responses to Calling BS on Fare Increases and Fare Shenanigans in San Francisco

  1. anna says:

    I know I read that Chron article going- wait, wasn’t just 1 week ago that Newsom was siphoning MUNI funds to pay for his staff? The pay raise for an (ineffectual) manager? Didn’t we just talk about lowering youth fees? Ugh. And the Chron compares us to Santa Clara or AC Transit- both systems which seem far less ridden by the populous than ours, larger areas and with less ridership. (I rode Santa Clara for years).
    I think the solution isn’t just enforcing ticketing, but perhaps staffing up the bus to have a ticket taker AND a driver. Or random ticket checks like the underground (and London’s Underground) with a stiff penalty.
    muni hikes: LAME

  2. Greg Dewar says:

    This is how the politicians spin stuff. See if you go over to the Chronicle’s god-awful “comments” section everyone’s talking “hikes or no hikes” and not really thinking about the big picture. And inevitably people start to think “Gawrsh, I guess we need to do this to make it run better.”
    It’s bullsh*t. The only reason the City even HAS a budget problem is because Mayor Newsom decided to blow it out with big pay raises and increases in the city payroll. The Board stupidly went along with it. Meanwhile he’s giving out more big pay raises to his inner circle, buying them plasma tvs and cushy new offices, and all the while telling folks that “we’ve got to have budget cuts.” WE WOULD NOT NEED TO HAVE ANY BUDGET CUTS if he hadn’t f*cked up the budget last year.
    Ah but that’s best left on the blog no one reads….

  3. Chet Marlboro says:

    For decades the city has paired service cuts with fare increases, pleading poverty. Yet somehow they seem to find the money to replace all the privately-owned newspaper racks in town with city-maintained pedmounts, and plant palm trees down Divisadero, and replace a functional if overcrowded 15 line with a massively expensive, dysfunctional and poorly-planned-for T line (running wall-to-wall TV ads and throwing a big party for its launch) among other boondoggles.
    It’s all a matter of priorities and for all the talk of transit first and greening the city it would seem MUNI is not a priority. And frankly, with SF increasingly becoming a bedroom community for wealthy South Bay tech employees I don’t see anything happening to make it one.
    I’ve thought about enrolling in the Academy of Art, their buses seem to run on time…

  4. Justin says:

    I believe the way to gather a little extra money is to actually enforce the rules. Why pay if you know your not going to get caught. Look at the 38 for example. Why would you pay when you see 30 people boarding through the back door?

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