We've been talking about Muni's glorious new light rail fleet for a while — in fact, it was over two years ago that we ran the numbers on the (at the time) $1.2 billion proposal to order (again, at the time) 260 new cars to replace those on the J, K, L, M, N and T lines. But now, as officials look at the first of the new cars from the 60-acre Sacramento factory at which they will be constructed, we learn that San Francisco still isn't sure how we're going to pay for the full order of the new vehicles.
Since we looked at the costs for the new rail cars in July, 2014, the project was downsized to 151, then back up to 215 following a $45 million boon of cap-and-trade funds from the California State Transportation Agency. But even with that reduced order and financial infusion, Muni still appears to be scrambling in the couch cushions for the money to pay for the cars.
According to the SF Examiner, which (unlike SFist!) was invited to join Mayor Ed Lee, Supervisor London Breed, Assemblymember David Chiu, and assorted San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency officials on a tour of the Siemens Industry Inc. facility at which the new trains will be built, "The City is still trying to expand its funding sources so it can afford 22 of its new trains."
Muni is banking on voter approval of Propositions J ("Funding for Homelessness and Transportation") and K ("General Sales Tax"), items on November's insanely overstuffed ballot that would "create a Transportation Improvement Fund and a 0.75 percent sales tax to partially fund transportation." (You can see all the details on both measures here.) But even those won't be enough, SFMTA Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin said in the presence of the Ex, as "some trains in SFMTA’s order to expand its replacement fleet are not yet funded."
"Reiskin said other options are available to fund future train procurements," reports the Ex. Those include "future bridge toll increases, state cap and trade funds, and a local vehicle license fee."
Lee, whose been involved in discussions to propose an increase in SF vehicle license costs since 2014, echoed Reiskin's interest in the latter fee, saying “We’re definitely open to it."
It's unclear how short the SFMTA is on the bill for the new trains, the first of which is now expected to appear on SF streets in late 2017. Yes, that's far later than the December 2016 debut the SFMTA initially promised, but on the bright side that's one more year to get that Kickstarter or whatever going to fund the hundreds of trains we've already agreed to buy.