Supes Squabble Over Muni Service Budget Proposal

New funding for San Francisco Municipal Railway service could be prioritized to the city’s low-income neighborhoods under a charter amendment introduced today by a city supervisor.

Supervisor John Avalos introduced the measure, which would go on San Francisco’s ballot in November 2014 to direct more funding for Muni to neighborhoods that the supervisor said currently have inadequate bus and light-rail service.

Under the charter amendment, Muni would receive an additional $70 million beginning in fiscal year 2015 and would be required to undergo an equity analysis overseen by the board and Muni officials to ensure it was addressing socioeconomic inequalities in the transit system.

The measure would also make Muni service free for all San Francisco youth under 18 years, expanding the current program that gives free rides to low-income youth.

Avalos and Supervisor Eric Mar held a news conference at City Hall earlier today with community members to announce the legislation.

“San Francisco is undergoing intense changes,” Avalos said. “While this tremendous growth is happening … disparities are growing in the social fabric.”

Mar said, “It’s about equity and fairness to neighborhoods that don’t get enough service.”

Joanne Abernathy, a Bayview-Hunters Point resident, said buses come less frequently in the city’s southeast neighborhoods than elsewhere and cause her daughter to be late to school when a bus doesn’t show up.

“If you go into other neighborhoods, buses are on-time and get you where you need to go,” Abernathy said.

However, Supervisor Scott Wiener said the charter amendment would do more harm than good to Muni service.

Wiener said problems with Muni service are not confined to certain neighborhoods, noting that he had to deal this morning with a breakdown in the subway service down Market Street.

“The deteriorated light-rail vehicles that fail residents of the Castro are the same LRVs that fail residents of the Bayview, Excelsior and Sunset,” he said.

Wiener said the legislation will give the Board of Supervisors, which also serves as the San Francisco County Transportation Authority, significant new authority over the Muni budget, “taking us back to the bad old days when the board routinely used Muni as a piggy bank, before voters took Muni away from the board.”

Wiener said the expanded free Muni service for all youth would also create “a permanent $5-10 million annual diversion from Muni’s operating and maintenance budgets.”

He said, “The most important thing we can do in San Francisco for transportation equity is to have a system that is reliable for our residents’ needs.”

Dan McMenamin, Bay City News

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