SF Supervisors Aaron Peskin and Dean Preston held a press conference Wednesday morning to announce that they have reached an agreement with SFMTA leadership to halt all Muni fare increases for two years.
The agreement comes after months of squabbling between the Board of Supervisors and the transit agency as the SFMTA experienced an unprecedented drop in ridership, and as the entire Bay Area has been living through the social economic upheaval of the coronavirus pandemic.
The SFMTA Board, against the wishes of the supervisors and a coalition of other local groups, voted to raise fares in late April. The hike would have brought Clipper card fares up to $2.80 this fall, and $2.90 next year, and raised monthly passes with BART access to $103 from $98. Cash fares, primarily paid by low-income riders, would have stayed at $3.
At the time, newly installed SFMTA Director Jeffrey Tumlin said, “It’s never popular to increase fares. [But] Keeping fares exactly the same would mean we would need to make substantial service cuts and lay off over a hundred transit operators."
Following the SFMTA Board's vote, the SF Board of Supervisors clapped back by rejecting one of the mayor's reappointments to the SFMTA Board, with Supervisor Hillary Ronen saying, "something hasn’t sat well with me over the past few weeks about this appointment." That board member, trademark attorney and disability rights advocate Cristina Rubke, lost her seat on the Board over her vote to increase Muni fares.
The Supervisors Preston and Peskin introduced a City Charter amendment that would have tied all Muni fare increases to performance goals.
Today, as KPIX reports, the SFMTA has agreed to suspend all fare increases for the 2020/21 budget cycle.
"I look forward to working with my colleagues on the Board of Supervisors, the Mayor, and with the MTA Board to improve transit service and reliability,” said Preston in a statement. “We will work together on new revenue measures that will allow us to avoid fare increases, maintain and improve service, and protect our operators.”
SFMTA Board Chair Gwyneth Borden added a statement, saying, "The SFMTA Board’s top priority is to deliver reliable transit service and this pandemic has been devastating not just to Muni riders but has disproportionally affected low income and communities of color, who heavily rely on transit. To provide some economic relief, the SFMTA will not be raising fares and looks forward to working with the Board of Supervisors on new funding solutions."
It's not clear what those "new funding solutions" may be, but what is clear is that the SFMTA is going to be hurting, budget-wise, for some time, as the Bay Area begins recovering but as downtown businesses continue to allow most or all of their workers to work remotely.
Photo: Matt Baume