We just received word that the SFMTA board has approved its list of projects that will receive funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. They’ll be getting a total $67.2 million in stimulus money on various capital projects, with the possibility of another $23 million for other projects.

The projects with definite funding are:

  • Light-rail vehicle collision repairs: $18 million
  • Light-rail vehicle door and step reconditioning: $15 million
  • 67 Muni ticket vending machines: $11 million
  • Motor-coach rehabilitation: $16.1 million
  • Preventative maintenance and enhancements for infrastructure, facilities: $4 million
  • Muni Metro subway loop cable: $1 million
  • Miscellaneous preventative maintenance and track switches: $1 million
  • Central Control and Communications Interim Line Management Center: $400,000
  • Cable-car kiosks: $350,000
  • Capital planning and grant management application: $250,000
  • Bus yard workstation replacement: $100,000
  • Change machines: $40,000

In advance of the vote, we checked in with two of our favorite Muni pundits, Jeff Hunt from Muni Diaries (Jeff asks us to tell you that his site is currently down, but will be back up soon. Fingers crossed!) and Greg Dewar of the N-Judah Chronicles.

Jeff, what’s your take on the package?

I’m thrilled that the agency is able to procure this amount of money, along with the potential for further funds down the road. The details of how the money will be spent seem sensible as well.

Any complaints?

I only regret that SFMTA can’t do more to forgo fare and pass increases that will serve as a barrier to many people’s decision whether to use Muni or not. Especially now, with gas prices relatively stabilized, fares must stay where they are to compete with cars as a mode of transportation. Still, bravo to the president and Congress for getting this money to public-transit agencies. I cannot see this having happened under the last administration.

Given your concerns about fare increases, do you think this a good time to reopen the discussion about making Muni fareless?

I don’t. While fares don’t account for too large a percentage of revenue, any money riders can reasonably part with to keep things working is necessary to my mind. To be political, I see that as somewhat of a public-private partnership. at this point, I don’t think $1.50 is too steep a barrier to ridership. That’s $15.00 per week for an average worker.

Greg was similarly upbeat. At first.

There are some great things in the stimulus package that will help MUNI – ticket machines at key locations alone will help increase revenue and speed up Metro lines, esp. the N. However, even with this immense amount of Federal money, the massve cuts to MUNI by the Mayor, the Governor and the Legislature have made will have long term impacts on MUNI that the stimulus package can’t address.

Well, given these cuts, what would you recommend?

Well, the thing is, the state has completely wiped out the transit money that MUNI, BART AC et al depend on for revenue. This is after years of cuts being voted in by the Democrats in the Legislature and signed by Arnie. So the damage has been done, and now MUNI is looking to cut service significantly AND raise fares. The TEP is dead, and Gavin has been looting the MTA like a fiend while calling himself ‘green.’ The stimulus can save us from some of the damage and pay for one-time infrastructure improvements (like fixing Duboce and Church, ticket machines etc) but can’t save us from the ongoing permanent cuts that kill MUNI’s funding.

the author

Eve Batey is the editor and publisher of the San Francisco Appeal. She used to be the San Francisco Chronicle's Deputy Managing Editor for Online, and started at the Chronicle as their blogging and interactive editor. Before that, she was a co-founding writer and the lead editor of SFist. She's been in the city since 1997, presently living in the Outer Sunset with her husband, cat, and dog. You can reach Eve at eve@sfappeal.com.

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