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Online Budget Open House Accessible Content

Thursday, March 19, 2020
The following is a transcript of the video which explains the various slides in the presentation. We are working on a fully accessible version of the content, which will be posted here when available.

Headshot Opening Statement

  • Hi, I’m Jeff Tumlin, San Francisco’s Director of Transportation. Our agency is working on our next 2-Year budget, which is the ultimate reflection of our agency’s values. These values include: 
    • Running a safe, equitable transportation system
    • Reducing our carbon footprint; and
    • Creating a welcoming workplace that delivers excellent customer service. 
  • These goals are important and we’re making progress on operationalizing these values.
  • But I also want to acknowledge that we’re coming up short on several key issues.
  • These include:
    • Street safety
    • Muni reliability, and
    • Congestion
  • We plan to address these issues in our next two-year budget.
    • But to do so, we have some tough choices to make.
  • I’m going to go over some of the details of our budget.
  • If you want to see this content more clearly, or in another language, you can see it at SFMTA.com/budget.

Short pause

Station 1: Budget Overview & Financial Challenges

  • Before we can move toward the transformative system we want, we need to get back to basics.
  • I ride transit and my bike every day in San Francisco and I see these issues on the street daily. I especially experience the most common frustration - that Muni is unreliable.
  • While Muni service covers the city and is scheduled to run frequently, it doesn’t always show up when we expect.
  • Now that I’ve been on the job almost 100 days, I’m seeing the roots of these problems.
    • It includes the fact that we have 1,000 job vacancies — which means less transit service on the street to meet current demands
    • Traffic fatalities are not decreasing fast enough and affect our most vulnerable populations the most
    • Auto speeds have declined 20% over the last decade, and while our investments in transit have helped some lines, our buses and trains have slowed by about 6%
    • I believe, because of all these things, we are seeing a decline in our most efficient modes and an increase in driving.
      • All of this means that fewer people can move through our streets and greenhouse gas emissions continue to grow.
  • We also have challenges with our budget

Short pause

  • Our costs, like yours, rise with the cost of living, but our revenues have not kept pace.
  • Our costs reflect the need to pay our workforce a living wage, which is particularly challenging given the housing shortage. 
  • As a result, as our budget grows, so does our structural deficit.
  • In the next fiscal year, we are projected to have an operating gap of $66 million dollars. We will need to close that gap in order to have a balanced budget. 
  • A lot of our revenue comes from transit fares & parking and traffic fees and fines. 
  • But a significant portion - 35% comes from the General Fund.  Over time, we have become more and more dependent on the City’s General Fund, which ties service to the state of the economy.

Short pause

  • The Agency’s structural funding deficit and the need for ongoing sources of funds is not news. 
  • In the last 5 years, there have been multiple task forces that have identified significant funding gaps in our transportation system moving into the future.
  • Together, we are going to need to solve for that because our city has been growing
  • and is expected to continue to grow, adding 73,400 housing units and 275,000 new jobs in the next 20 years
  • and increasing the number of daily trips by 36% to almost 6 million in 2050. 

Short pause

  • Before we talk about the future and striving for a higher standard of service, I need to focus on the nuts and bolts that keep San Francisco running more reliably. 
  • The proposed budget reflects this by making strategic investments into the existing system as a down payment for the future while being fiscally smart during these uncertain economic times.
  • So let’s talk about some specifics. 

Short pause

Station 2: Solutions

  • Last year, the city established the Muni Reliability Working Group – a team of experts in transit service who detailed where Muni must invest to deliver the service already promised.
  • They directed us to:
    • stabilize the current service
    • and then develop and fund plans for growth to move towards a higher standard. 

 

  • This budget focuses on stabilizing the current service. This means:
    • Firstly fixing our human resources department and getting more drivers on the road
    • Second, increasing maintenance staff and car cleaners
    • Third, increasing enforcement to keep transit and traffic flowing, and
    • Fourth, investing in reducing fatalities.
  • These are strategic and critical investments to set the foundation for the future.

Short pause

  • That means implementing the rest of the Muni Reliability Working Group recommendations, like increasing service by 6.5% and a variety of other agency initiatives.
  • And it means making improvements based on the Muni Service Equity Strategy.   
  • But I will be honest with you – these will require new, ongoing revenue streams.  It’s that simple. 

Short pause

  • Before we talk about additional funding for transportation, you might be wondering, can we deliver on our existing proposals? 

Short pause

  • While this agency has had its struggles, we are at a turning point because we can demonstrate where we’ve invested, we have seen results:
    • Where we’ve made targeted investments in transit, we’ve seen ridership grow by as much as 60%
    • Where we’ve made safety improvements, we’ve had fewer crashes, and in some cases, reduced injuries to zero.

Short pause

  • Our plan is to continue delivering the kind of projects that have shown results that are reflected in our capital plan. 
  • As you know, the Streets Quick Build projects have been wildly successful (just look at our success on Market Street).
  • Following that success, we’re about to implement Transit Quick Build projects.
  • And we have many other capital projects in the works to improve transit, do State of Good Repair, and implement Vision Zero. 

Short pause

  • With respect to Vision Zero, we are very grateful to the voters for passing Prop D last year. 
  • We’re using this new tax on ridehail like Uber and Lyft to fund Vision Zero Quick Build projects and signal hardware upgrades, like new and more visible traffic lights.
  • In this current budget, we’re proposing one-time funds for Vision Zero education, which is important in order to capitalize on our Vision Zero construction projects.
    • But to make a meaningful, long term change, we will need sustained revenue for non-capital Vision Zero work.

Short pause

Station 3: Fares

  • Now, let’s talk about fares, because we know this is so important to so many of you.
  • We have a current policy called “indexing,” where fares go up in small amounts indexed to inflation and to the cost of living every year in order to avoid huge, sporadic increases.
  • As a regular part of the budgeting process, we would have simply indexed all of our fares up at the same percentage.
  • But, based on community feedback, particularly around the goal of equity, we’ve developed a number of new Fare Scenarios that require some tradeoffs.
  • All of these fare scenarios need to be what we call revenue neutral. In other words, they cannot increase the budget gap I talked about earlier or force us to make transit service cuts. So that’s where the tradeoffs come in. 
  • I know this slide is complicated, so let me walk you through it.
    • The grey box are today’s fares.
    • The blue box is what would happen under our existing indexing policy where all fares increase by a certain percentage. 
    • The green and pink boxes show two different equity scenarios that would result in:
      • Free Muni for all youth and individuals struggling with homelessness and also
      • No increase in Single Ride Full or Reduced Fare rides.  
    • We reviewed who uses which fare product and we know, for example, that 50% of our Full Fare Single riders are low income and 65% of them are minority; 37% of our Reduced Single Ride riders are low income and 66% of them are minority
  • But to fund these equity options requires trade-offs. 
  • In the green box, we’re paying for equity through an increase in monthly passes at a rate higher than indexing, but which matches other urban transit agencies.
  • In the pink box, we are paying for equity though eliminating most of the discount to Clipper users; people who use Clipper would pay almost the same fare as those paying cash.
  • Our customers’ feedback about equity also included a call for free Muni not just for youth but for all transit riders. 
  • While the desire for this is understandable, it will actually make our system less equitable. Now I know this sounds counterintuitive, so let me unpack it. 
    • Transit fares are about 20% of our budget. 
    • If we do not collect fares at all, we will need to eliminate 20% of our transit service. 
    • With less service on our streets and more crowding, people that can afford it would switch to other modes like driving or taking Uber or Lyft. 
    • But for individuals that rely on Muni and don’t have access to alternatives, they’ll be stuck in transit that is much worse, and much more crowded. 

Short pause

Station 5: Fees and Fines

  • Let’s also talk about fines. 
  • Fine adjustments are guided by our safety values. 
  • Behavior that is unsafe should carry a higher penalty than near nuisances.
  • While most fines were generally indexed by our automatic indexing policy, certain safety-related violations were increased to the maximum amount allowed by state law:
    • Parking in a bike lane is going up by 14%
    • Riding a scooter on a sidewalk is going up by 39% percent
  • In addition to adjusting fines, we’re also responding to widespread requests for more and better enforcement by increasing the number of Parking Control Officers. 
  • Parking Control Officers can help manage congestion and improve transit reliability by working at congested intersections and making sure cars aren’t blocking the box and thereby blocking transit vehicles.    

Short pause

Station 4: Congestion Management and Parking Demand

  • Now let’s talk about parking.
  • Parking pricing is used to ensure parking space availability and manage demand, not to maximize revenue.
    • But any revenue collected from parking goes back into the transportation system specifically to fund transit.
  • Our policies state that if there is high demand during a certain time period, we should raise prices to ensure one or two spaces are available when you want to go to your favorite restaurant or store. When demand is low, we lower parking meter prices.
  • We’ve recently looked at our parking polices and realized that they were a little outdated when it comes to evening metering and Sunday metering.  
  • We know that the demand for parking in many commercial corridors is high in the evenings.
  • That’s why we are proposing extending the time that meters are enforced to ensure that evening visitors can still find a space where they need one.
  • We won’t be doing this city-wide or immediately. We’re going to partner with local merchants associations to determine where extended meter hours make the most sense and to see how it works. 
  • We’re also proposing enforcing meters on Sundays, where we’d follow a similar community- and data-driven process to make sure it works for our residents, visitors, and faith communities.

Short pause      

Station 6: Budget Choice

  • So, back to the big budget picture.
  • In order to stabilize current service and make the critical investments to set the foundation for the future, we are proposing to implement some of the Muni Reliability Working Group’s recommendations along with other targeted investments. 
  • However, as I mentioned at the beginning, we have a structural deficit – a funding gap. 
  • In order to pay for these targeted investments, we will need to use some of our fund balance – a one-time source of money. 
  • This approach carries with it some amount of risk because it draws down our fund balance. 
  • And in a recession, new services without new on-going revenues or a fund balance would lead to service cuts. 
  • Moreover, we now have to contend with uncertain economic times as a result of the coronavirus. 
  • BUT we are at a moment in time where not making these strategic investments would be a missed opportunity because they are a down payment on the future of our transportation system and
  • they support our values of a safe and equitable system; a reduction of our carbon footprint; and creating a work culture that delivers excellent customer service. 

Short pause

  • It is up to all of us to get to the reliable and equitable system we need. 
    • For us at the MTA, that means making the system we have better and showing you that with the improvements proposed in this budget, your travel will be easier and more reliable.

 

  • And now I invite you to join me for a discussion of our budget.  We have opened up the phone lines and are monitoring all of our social media channels.  Please share your comments and questions with us. Thank you.