muni_generic.jpgElsewhere: MTA Board Takes More Service Cuts and Fee for Transfers Off the Table Streetsblog, SFMTA Weighs Proposals To Close FY11-12 Budget Gap Transbay Blog, More tough decisions for SFMTA Ex, San Francisco Muni won’t charge for transfers Chron

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s board of directors heard public comments today about the possibility of extending the agency’s declaration of a fiscal emergency.

A fiscal emergency means the agency expects to run a deficit within a year, and it lets the board bypass environmental reviews when considering fare increases.

The SFMTA declared a fiscal emergency in April and is now considering extending it for the next two-year budget cycle in anticipation of a $103.7 million deficit for the 2011-12 operating budget.

Among its proposals, the agency is considering charging $0.50 for transfers or eliminating them entirely, which would generate $7.5 million or $20 million annually.

Declaring a fiscal emergency could expedite those increases if the board were to vote in favor of them.

Most the speakers at today’s hearing represented the labor and sustainability city sectors and voiced their disapproval of the emergency declaration.

They argued that the SFMTA should pursue other revenue-generating options before it considers opening the door to more fare hikes.

Tom Radulovich, executive director of Livable City, alleged the SFMTA had violated its 1999 charter, which requires the agency to adopt a transit-first policy that encourages walking, biking and mass transportation.

Fare hikes discourage riders and lead to less overall usage, he argued.

“The charter goals haven’t happened. You’ve been less than diligent in seeking new funding sources,” he told the board.

Several other speakers encouraged the board to put measures on the ballot that would increase meter hours downtown and generate revenue.

Marc Caswell, program manager of the San Francisco Bike Coalition, called meter increases the “low-hanging fruit” that the board was ignoring.

The SFMTA has also proposed adding meters and extending enforcement hours as one of many ways to close budget gaps in 2011 and 2012, though.

It predicts it could raise more than $10 million annually that way.

On Friday, the board voted 4-3 to cut services, but members agreed to hold off on raising fares for the young, elderly and disabled.

Hundreds of people staged a “March Against Muni” on Monday to protest service cuts and layoffs. The march, which started at Market and Powell streets and ended in front of City Hall, was organized in February.

SFMTA board members will respond to the declared fiscal emergency criticism at their March 30 meeting. They will continue to accept public comments until March 12.

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