O Hai! Chatter, Chatter, and More Chatter About Fares, Fines, and Fun on MUNI!
The long, slow march towards some increases in MUNI Fast Passes and parking fines continues, unabated, as we approach tomorrow's SFMTA meeting to discuss said changes.
The Mayor's been playfully hinting at said increases, and earlier talk that said Fast Pass increases would happen only as a "last resort" seems to have been just that - talk - since after just 10 days, the MTA folks seemed to have reversed course.
The proposed parking ticket increases seem to be creating the most discussion on local blogs around town. But as always, in these "discussions" some points tend to get missed because we narrow the topic to the point where we exclude a few basic points.
One thing we've done pretty good here in Our Fair City is give MUNI lots of unstable sources of revenue. When times are good, there's "money" and when the inevitable recession hits, suddenly there's "no money." I'm sure to someone looking at a balance sheet, jacking up parking ticket prices is an easy way to show "hey look ma! more money!" but don't seem to realize that relying on parking ticket money to cover the costs of running the MTA/MUNI is inherently unstable.
Put it another way: If you raise the parking ticket fines into the going-medieval-on-your-wallet zone, people are more likely to either a) not drive their cars, or b) make sure the darn meter is fed. Ironically, if more people pump money into the meters, the number of tickets starts to go down because, um, well, people are doing what they're supposed to when they park at a meter.
More importantly, it seems more than a bit strange that we'd take parking tickets, which were once used primarily to cite people for unsafe parking or for meter violations, and turn them into a "revenue source" backed by the criminal justice system.
It also leads one to cynically wonder if the city has so much to gain from issuing lots of tickets if perhaps those meters aren't broken on purpose, just so they can jam another ticket under your windshield. (Given that they've been proven to do a poor job simply collecting the parking meter money in the first place, one wonders if they'll just give up and make everyone pay $60 to park, period!)
All of this comes as we just read the other day about all the City employees who make huge salaries (and will get huge pensions for life too!). The Mayor blew out the budget last year with big pay raises and big increases in the city payroll, but we haven't seen a correlating drop in crime or improvement in city services one might expect.
San Franciscans need to start making smart choices. We can continue to bloat the city payroll, year after year, by "moderates" and "progressives" alike, but we have to be aware that continuing to do so, without some sort of accountability or performance that merits such a bloated payroll has consequences.
The next time you see your car being booted for a handful of EXPENSIVE tickets, think about this: not only are you paying for the people to tow your car away, you're also going to be paying their salary, pension and health care for the rest of their life, too!
UPDATE: I just remembered something. Back in the 1990s, when the State of California was coming up with all sorts of goofball ways to "balance budgets," Gov. Wilson and his allies in the Legislature actually passed a law that mandated local governments had to pay a few bucks to the State of California for every parking ticket they wrote. Locals had the option of just coughing up the cash, or tacking on the surcharge to existing fines.
If that's not racketeering or extortion, I don't know what is!