Sup. Wiener Proposes Surcharge on Big Tix Entertainment to Help Fix MUNI
Supervisor Wiener has thrown out the idea of assessing a per ticket surcharge on the City’s big entertainment draws like the SF Giants or Outside Lands music festival to help pay for MUNI’s woefully under maintained fleet of trains and busses.
Supervisor Wiener wrote on his Facebook page:
“MUNI is at the edge, with billions in deferred maintenance, not enough vehicles, and poor reliability. We need to make sure that service is adequate both for these events and for the general public’s needs.”
The proposal in essence is this: a fee range of $1 to $3 per ticket could generate between $3 million to $22 million for event venues that seat between 1,000 to 5,000. The money raised by the surcharge would all be earmarked for MUNI needs and hopefully the proposal would be written in such a way that the funds couldn’t be raided by other City departments.
There isn’t much argument from anyone in the City across a wide political spectrum that MUNI is in dire need of an overhaul. Sup. Wiener has made no bones about his lack of love for MUNI ever since his very public tweet back in 2010.
Buses, train cars, and trolleys are under maintained and becoming more unreliable by the day. A recent power failure on the N Judah line during rush hour had MUNI scrambling to provide shuttles and riders beside themselves trying to figure out a way to get home past the estimated hour or more delays that were being forecast.
MUNI operators are equally frustrated. Speaking on the condition of anonymity a twenty-eight year veteran driver told me, “I’ve told all my family-don’t ride MUNI if you don’t have to. I have had to turn in buses that weren’t working properly after being told they were by the yard. There aren’t enough mechanics. Some of these busses are twenty years old and worn out.”
Wiener’s proposal has merit and would help raise much-needed funds. What it won’t do is alleviate the systemic problems in MUNI as whole that have existed ever since MUNI was merged in 1996 with SF Parking Department and then later the Taxi Commission in 2008.
The idea was to centralize public transportation under the banner of the SFMTA but what it did was create a bloated monster that seems wracked by ineffective management, wasted public funds and maintaining a status quo of ineptness.
MUNI funding needs to be cleared up and perhaps the department returned to a separate entity within the City and not meshed with the either Parking Dept or Taxi Commission. This would pull their budget free to be better scrutinized, assessed and then adjusted.
Mayor Lee and several former mayors have vowed change for the better, but in just the last few years the City has seen several fare increases, service cuts, and layoffs of maintenance and cleaning personnel that make riding MUNI less attractive, less reliable, and more expensive.
What gains may have been made in the past decade since restructuring MUNI and the Department of Parking and Traffic into the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (MTA) are arguably slipping away amid budget cuts, which are forcing cutbacks that the agency and the riding public has been feeling for years.
Sup. Wiener’s outside the box thinking should be applauded in trying to problem solve ongoing MUNI issues. Our City and community rely upon our public transportation like few other municipalities and we need to make it a priority on the same level as we did healthcare when Healthy SF was introduced. Unhealthy citizen’s cost the City more than healthy vibrant one’s do and the same can be said of our public transportation system.
“Muni in the subway is at a breaking point right now. The system is not meeting the needs of 2013 San Francisco, and with a significant increase in population, economic activity and potential stadiums … that breaking point is going to get worse. If we don’t begin planning now for how we are going to fund, grow and shore up the system we are going to be in world of hurt.”