muni_generic.jpgSan Francisco transit riders will have a little more breathing room come Labor Day weekend, when the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Authority says it will restore more than 178,000 service hours across the city’s transit system.

Three months ago, a 10 percent service cut to bus and rail lines went into effect across the San Francisco Municipal Railway, which had already lost numerous bus lines and service hours to previous cuts.

That move saved the SFMTA $28.8 million as it coped with an operational budget deficit caused in part by $220 million in state cuts to transit funding and $19 million in union contract negotiations.

Today, the SFMTA and Mayor Gavin Newsom’s office announced that 61 percent of the service cuts made in May will be restored on Saturday, Sept. 4.

By cobbling together $11 million in one-time allocations from county and regional agencies and raising money with operational savings, the SFMTA said it created a funding package of $15 million that covers the restorations.

Those restorations mean riders will see more buses and trains running later into the night and fewer over-crowded buses along some express and local routes.

“The good news today is Muni riders will experience more frequent and reliable service,” Newsom said in a statement.

Contingencies that placed the restoration in limbo for weeks included a $7 million infusion from the San Francisco County Transportation Authority, which manages the city’s transportation tax, and $4 million from the regional Metropolitan Transportation Commission. Both allocations were eventually approved.

Late-night service cuts meant riders have been waiting 45 minutes in between buses, up from 30 minutes previously. The wait time will return to 30 minutes in September.

Newsom said the restorations represented progress toward the mutual goal between the city and the agency of a full service restoration by next summer.

SFMTA Executive Director Nat Ford said the agency has focused on the restorations despite hurdles such as budget deficits and economic constraints.

“We won’t stop working until we’ve crafted a plan to restore all the service we reduced back in May, but this is an excellent step in the right direction,” Ford said in a statement.

The SFMTA is expected to release a plan to the public for the full restoration by Dec. 1, thanks to a joint effort between the mayor, the Board of Supervisors, the city controller’s office and the SFMTA.

Last week, the mayor and San Francisco Board of Supervisors President David Chiu reached an agreement with the SFMTA to impose a series of reforms – including more oversight through a task force and performance audits – to reach that goal by next summer.

Restoring the remaining 39 percent of service could require up to $7 million in additional savings and revenues, according to projections provided by the mayor’s office.

The announcement also comes on the heels of news that Muni drivers will receive a pay increase of nearly $2 per hour this year at a time when many other city employees are accepting pay reductions.

The Muni driver pay increase is mandated by the city charter, SFMTA spokesman Paul Rose said, and would be retroactive to July 1 when it goes into effect.

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