SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- They say the wheels on the bus go round and round, but soon many of the wheels on city buses could be stopping. According to new projections by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, the city's transit operator could be facing a budget deficit as high as $214 million by 2026.
A scenario that the agency says could force it to drastically cut services.
"Residents who are service workers, residents who are low income people, people with disabilities, seniors who rely on public transportation will be impacted significantly as their transit options will be cut," said Vinita Goyal.
Goyal is the executive director of advocacy group San Francisco Transit Riders.
She says the problem is multi-faceted.
For one thing, an infusion of federal money from the COVID-era is coming to an end.
But Goyal also believes issues like more people working from home and safety concerns have contributed to ridership numbers still falling below pre-pandemic levels.
SFMTA says if these projections become reality, there could be 25% less buses on the roads in just a few years time.
"Which can create what we call a death spiral, where they cut service, we have fewer people ride, so there's less fare revenue so they have to cut more service," said Sen. Scott Wiener.
Wiener has been fighting to avoid that from happening for months.
He tells me that he's been pushing both Gov. Newsom and the California legislature to include funding to help public transit agencies avoid fiscal cliffs.
A tough sell in a year where lawmakers expect a deficit of over $20 billion.
"The governor had a tough budget proposal to make and he proposed cutting about two billion dollars in transit capital funds," Wiener said.
But for Goyal, finding some solution is important.
Because she says public transit can impact us all.
"When we start seeing transportation as a means to connect to other priorities that communities have - to housing, to food justice, to access to jobs," Goyal said.
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