Blog: February, 2010
The SPUR Plan to Solve the MTA Budget Crisis—without Service Cuts or Fare Increases
|In response to the looming budget deficits faced by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, SPUR Executive Director Gabriel Metcalf today sent a letter to the MTA outlining a set of measures that could balance the budget this year and next, while avoiding service cuts and fare hikes. The twenty-eight proposals include a diverse range of ideas including hiring part-time operators ($6 million in savings), routing 311 information calls to 511 ($5.5 million), and enforcing existing parking regulations around city facilities ($1.3 million). The proposals, if adopted, would save MTA more than $104 million over the next two years.|
[Image: flickr user cbcastro]
These 28 proposals are not the only methods that could be implemented to immediately close the MTA budget deficit. Metcalf also has noted the changes that must be made to the work rules under which Muni drivers currently operate, most recently in an open letter to the Transit Workers Union:
“[Problematic work rules] include: drivers not having to let their managers know how long they will be absent from work, making it impossible to set schedules; drivers earning overtime pay before actually working 40 hours a week; and perhaps most significantly, a set of rules that makes it virtually impossible to hire part time drivers. Currently, Muni is forced by the work rules to pay drivers at full hourly rates to sit around between the morning and afternoon peaks. That rule costs MTA about $11 million each year.”
As reported by Streetsblog, SPUR is working with SF Supervisor Sean Elsbernd to draft a measure that would revise the City Charter to have Muni drivers collectively bargain for pay and benefits, giving the City stronger footing to address these work rules.
As Metcalf said in his letter to the MTA, “none of these budget solutions will be easy, but we believe all of them are realistic. They would begin to set up the MTA for growth rather than contraction in providing transit service to San Francisco.”
Explore Climate Action Activities with the San Francisco Bay Area Climate Action Portal!
Climate change is a global problem, and the San Francisco Bay Area is especially threatened. Around one thousand miles of shoreline frame the region, so we will be greatly affected by sea level rise and intensified storm activity.
Given our particularly risky situation, the Bay Area is on the forefront of climate change action. The Bay Area Air Quality Management District and the Institute for Local Government have collaborated to release the San Francisco Bay Area Climate Action Portal, a web based tool designed to provide local governments with the resources they need to take action on climate change.
The site provides access to a wide variety of information including climate change policy, science and current news, inventory and statistical information, project examples throughout the Bay Area, and goals already accomplished. The portal also has an interface for climate change communication, linking people together for meetings, events, online discussion forums, list-serves, and blogs.
While attacking climate change may often require extremely site-specific strategies, there are many issues such as transportation that we need to approach as a megaregion. The Climate Web Portal allows Bay Area cities to learn from one another, while also helping local governments discover their own unique needs.
T4A: Create Jobs by Investing in Transportation
Public transportation gets millions of Americans to and from their jobs every day. Transportation for America, a national public-transit and smart-growth advocacy organization, thinks investing in our transportation sector can create jobs as well. In response to the jobs bill now working its way through the Senate, which would largely offer tax cuts to small businesses, T4A has proposed instead that funding be put toward projects such as:
- $16 billion for transit
- $8.1 billion for the Surface Transportation Program (highways)
- $9.8 billion for competitive grants, such as TIGER grants
- $1.5 billion for bike and pedestrian facilities to make walking and biking safer and more attractive.
The non-partisan Economic Policy Institute agrees that the T4A plan would be effective. EPI has stated that such projects would spur significant job creation, particularly among the economically disadvantaged and those without higher education.
As Bay Area transit-and-smart-growth advocate TransForm recently reported, areas well-served by good transportation options, specifically public transit, help to significantly reduce transportation costs for their residents. If funding is used wisely, a transportation-focused jobs bill could therefore create and save jobs while repairing crumbling infrastructure and keeping money out of gas tanks and in our local economy.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is reportedly working on a range of jobs-stimulus legislation, and may yet see the connection between getting the job market moving, and getting Americans where they want to go on America’s sidewalks, bike paths, and roads.
A Flip of the Lens: What's RIGHT with San Francisco?
[Image: flickr user VancityAllie]
Slow buses. Skyrocketing housing costs. Preventable budget deficits. It's easy to rattle off the myriad things wrong with our city. In many ways, SPUR's very existence and mission are rooted in a practice of taking a hard look at our bad decisions, and accepting responsibility for them as a first step toward changing the city for the better.
But we are a little too good at being honest with ourselves, a little too quick to look elsewhere for answers: why can't we emulate New York's separated bike lanes, Shanghai's cosmopolitanism, Vancouver's high-rise housing and, basically, all of Europe?
When it comes to urban planning, why do we suffer from a collective "intellectual and imaginative constipation" (in the famous words of SPUR Deputy Director Sarah Karlinsky)? Live and work here too long and trying to answer these questions all the time can get to be a real downer.
But in this month's Urbanist, we chinny-chinned up. We flipped the lens 180 degrees, tapped into all the reasons we choose to live here (after all, most of us are transplants) and asked: what do we do well? What makes this city great? What's right with us?
The room was not silent. Quite the chatter session, in fact: it turns out we're damn good at a damn lot of things!
Cases in point: we have a public health care program, Healthy San Francisco, that provides low- and moderate-income households with access to affordable health care. Residents and businesses recycle a whopping 72 percent of their solid waste--the highest in the nation. We have a thriving downtown, amazing neighborhood shopping streets and a burgeoning movement of grassroots urbanists. We tore down freeways after Loma Prieta and, on the whole, made some pretty good decisions in shaping growth in the region. And come to think of it, even Muni has some best practices to boast of.
The fact of the matter is: San Francisco is an amazing place, much due to all of the amazing people who live and work here. "Learning from San Francisco" is a chance to showcase what we do best. We ought to feel proud.
(Now give yourself a little pat on the back, and get back to work!)
Despite Recession, Cycling Sees Dramatic Increase in SF
The recession has caused both private auto and public transit use to fall in the past couple of years, both in San Francisco and throughout the country, as travelers cut out superfluous trips to save money and those who have lost their jobs simply do not have anywhere to go.
Yet one mode of transportation in SF has shown massive mode-share gains over the same period: bicycle ridership in San Francisco increased 8.3% from 2008 to 2009, the MTA reports. During this same period, recession pressure has seen bicycle use stay flat or even fall, even in bicycle-friendly cities like Portland. This increase extends a trend that has seen SF ridership increase 53% from 2006 to 2009.
Not only is bicycle use up, but so is support for bicycle advocacy efforts: in the past year, the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition has seen its membership rise 15%, to more than 11,000 dues-paying members. The San Francisco government is also throwing its support behind cycling: Mayor Newsom has reiterated his support for a citywide bicycle-sharing program, and with the city's bicycle plan ready to be partially implemented, the city will become even more friendly for its two-wheeled travelers.