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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  • Jamison Wieser

    While I’ll be very glad to see ARRA funding invested in Muni infrastructure, Greg is dead on about the ongoing budget cutting.

    People in general don’t look at ongoing costs of maintenance and operation the way they look at the big construction projects. America would probably be driving nothing but plug-in hybrids over SUVs and the incandescent bulb would be long dead if we did concern ourselves with long term costs over a good deal. As individuals we absorb these costs because they’re only a few dollars a day or a month, but when this scales up to a citywide transit agency with a budget of hundreds of millions of dollars, you can’t absorb that the same way.

    So while these are good projects, there are ongoing maintenance and operating costs that need to be funded or we’ll be right back here in a few years.

    I’m going to pick on ticket vending machines because everyone knows they’re a good idea. If it was as simple as buying the machines, the SFMTA would have installed them already, but you also have to hire people to service them (there’s a hiring freeze, so where do they come from?) and the gear to fix and restock them, and the trucks to get from one to another, and those trucks need a parking space to sleep at night, power to run the, and on, and on…

    My worry is once we have our ticket vending machines installed, they won’t be maintained, run out of tickets, get vandalized, become yet another symbol of how broken Muni is followed by political grandstanding by the mayor or a supervisor who promises to replace the broken vending machines if elected. And maybe they will, spending millions to install new machines that won’t be maintained.

    Mayor Brown campaigned on fixing Muni, and we got some shiny new trains (the oldest of which are about 5 years overdue for their mid-life overhauls) and here we are asking for $15 million to repair the doors on them.

    I imagine Greg Dewer from the N-Judah Chronicles is quoting the Cylons right now, All this has happened before. And all this will happen again.

    If only maintenance was as sexy and interesting as buying shiny new trains.

  • Jamison Wieser

    While I’ll be very glad to see ARRA funding invested in Muni infrastructure, Greg is dead on about the ongoing budget cutting.

    People in general don’t look at ongoing costs of maintenance and operation the way they look at the big construction projects. America would probably be driving nothing but plug-in hybrids over SUVs and the incandescent bulb would be long dead if we did concern ourselves with long term costs over a good deal. As individuals we absorb these costs because they’re only a few dollars a day or a month, but when this scales up to a citywide transit agency with a budget of hundreds of millions of dollars, you can’t absorb that the same way.

    So while these are good projects, there are ongoing maintenance and operating costs that need to be funded or we’ll be right back here in a few years.

    I’m going to pick on ticket vending machines because everyone knows they’re a good idea. If it was as simple as buying the machines, the SFMTA would have installed them already, but you also have to hire people to service them (there’s a hiring freeze, so where do they come from?) and the gear to fix and restock them, and the trucks to get from one to another, and those trucks need a parking space to sleep at night, power to run the, and on, and on…

    My worry is once we have our ticket vending machines installed, they won’t be maintained, run out of tickets, get vandalized, become yet another symbol of how broken Muni is followed by political grandstanding by the mayor or a supervisor who promises to replace the broken vending machines if elected. And maybe they will, spending millions to install new machines that won’t be maintained.

    Mayor Brown campaigned on fixing Muni, and we got some shiny new trains (the oldest of which are about 5 years overdue for their mid-life overhauls) and here we are asking for $15 million to repair the doors on them.

    I imagine Greg Dewer from the N-Judah Chronicles is quoting the Cylons right now, All this has happened before. And all this will happen again.

    If only maintenance was as sexy and interesting as buying shiny new trains.

  • Greg Dewar

    hey jamison, thanks for the shout out, you are correct on that cylon quote!

    So long as we have unstable source of funding, or the Mayor and the legislature and Gov. Doofinator keep seeing MUNI as a cash cow to be buldgeoned to death, we’ll get lots of shiny new things but we won’t be able to maintain them and public confidence in both the Obama administration and MUNI will be lacking..

  • Greg Dewar

    hey jamison, thanks for the shout out, you are correct on that cylon quote!

    So long as we have unstable source of funding, or the Mayor and the legislature and Gov. Doofinator keep seeing MUNI as a cash cow to be buldgeoned to death, we’ll get lots of shiny new things but we won’t be able to maintain them and public confidence in both the Obama administration and MUNI will be lacking..