Muni considering deep service cuts, fare hikes

January 29, 2010 6:35:24 PM PST
The price of a ticket to ride San Francisco's Muni may be getting much steeper. Commuters complain it is a financial strain that could keep them from riding the bus, but Muni says this is the only way to keep things running.

Muni riders testified in heartbreaking detail Friday how proposed Muni fare hikes and service reductions would affect their lives.

The fact is Muni still needs to save $17 million to balance its current budget which ends June 30, but the talks of new cuts and fee hikes come on top of severe cuts already made earlier this fiscal year.

"Let's get it out there right up front, this is a war on the disabled and seniors," disabled Muni rider Bob Planthold said.

Being considered are longer waits, overcrowding and a whopping increase in the fast pass from $15 to $30 dollars seniors, the disabled and young people.

"We know that seniors can't afford it and they're not going to eat and not buy their medicine," San Francisco Seniors Center spokesperson Kathleen Mayeda said.

Seniors and disabled Muni riders filled the City Hall hearing room, pleading with the Muni board for mercy.

"My income is going down by $150 a month due to the governor's cutbacks; this is a hardship on me," Muni rider Bruce Allison said.

Almost every Muni route would be affected; even the most popular lines would have fewer runs. Half of the late night service would be shut down and service would end earlier on more than a dozen routes.

"You can't keep picking on little folks, we don't have no more money, we're priced out." Muni rider Bobby Bogan said.

The Muni union is also expecting more layoffs.

"It's not formally given to me, but the ball park is about 170 operators," Transport Workers Union spokesperson Irwin Lum said.

The Muni board says these are tough, but necessary, decisions.

"Even with all the actions that are under consideration, all the proposals, we're still looking at a deficit of about $53 million for next year," Muni spokesperson Judson True said.

Even if the cost saving plan goes into effect, Mayor Gavin Newsom says Muni riders still have one of the best deals in the country.

"This is still one of the least expensive public transit rides you can get in any big city in the United States of America," Newsom said.

Other measures in the board's cost saving plan include raising parking fees and fines and union concessions. The transportation agency warns if it does not make the necessary cuts now, the deficit for the next fiscal year could be more than $100 million.