Rather than react to the trial balloon on fare hikes MUNI floated today, I decided to take a look back over the past year at all the rhetoric floated by Our Leaders on MUNI fares. Give credit to MUNI and the MTA on this - they are very good at framing issues, mostly by completely ignoring things like "facts" and "past statements."
But first, a comment about "money" and "cuts." I get a bit weary of hearing the "poor us" speech when it comes to money for MUNI. After all, we just voted for Measure A last year which was supposed to bring significant stability to MUNI's funding. Now, suddenly, we're told there's yet another "crisis" and they want us to pay more and get less. Amazing.
Of course, it doesn't help when San Francisco legislators voted for a state budget that whacked a significant amount of MUNI funding. The federal government isn't helping matters by possibly taking away a ton of cash for MUNI projects because of opposition from some folks for a Doyle Drive toll. Using MUNI safety money to pay for political aides isn't exactly good management either, nor is giving the boss a big pay raise in the midst of this "financial crisis."
But these are big issues for another day. Let's instead take that trip in the Wayback Machine and see what's been said about MUNI fares for the last few years.
Way back in February 2006 a report was issued indicating that in many places, 50% of folks weren't paying the fares owed. After said report, did fare collections increase or get better?
No! Because, flash forward to February 2007 and guess what we were talking about? Yep, you guessed it - MUNI still wasn't getting its act together and collect the fares it's supposed to - amazing!
Now you'd think some bright, handsome young Mayor, would seize upon the report and bang his fist on the table saying "Let's do a better job, MUNI! Collect some more fares like you're supposed to." Instead we got some hippie-esque feel-good nonsense from talking about how we should make MUNI "free" (which was thoroughly debunked when the adults studied the idea).
Not to be outdone, Supervisors and other electeds came up with their own notion of a "youth fare", apparently to be paid for with a tax on unicorns and elves. Fortunately, this half-baked idea died as the folks promoting it turned on each other. Woo hoo.
See the pattern? Everyone keeps saying "no money" and yet a big reason they have a problem is because MUNI's not bothering to collect money it is supposed to from its passengers. Instead of demanding MUNI get with the program, the politicians come up with crazy notions to take away more money from MUNI, usually to appease folks of a certain political persuasion. Then they start talking about fare increases and service cuts because...well gawrsh Mickey, there's "no money."
In April 2007, we started to hear all sorts of ideas for "more money" ranging from selling popcorn and sodas at stations (!) to nebulous talk of "taxes." It is the work of this commission that led to today's trial balloon about fare increases.
Folks, it's really simple. If MUNI spent more of its time on collecting fares and punishing fare evaders, they'd have more money right away, without having to raise fares or cut service.
It's not a cure-all, but it is disingenuous to hear MUNI and the folks in charge talk about stuff like this when it's clear MUNI's spending and management priorities are out of whack.
Spend a little less money on the executive pay raises, the bad operators, and the pricey parties, and spend a little more doing your &*&^@#! jobs.
Who knows? You might end up nudging the bureaucratic behemoth a little closer to serving the public. A daring thought, indeed.