A Sign of Hope Amongst the Doom and Gloom of DC/Sacto Cuts to MUNI?

As we all know, stable funding of MUNI has led to many of its problems today. By relying on income sources that vary wildly from year to year, MUNI ends up having too much when it doesn’t need it and not enough when it does.
Worse, we’ve had a state Legislature dedicated to cutting transit funding (despite voters wishes to dedicate stable funding for transit) every year. Now, when things are bad, Democrats in the Legislature and the Green Governor want to kill all transit funding, even though you pay taxes that are supposed to pay for that. Ah, genius.
But all is not lost. If you’re not already checking out Streetsblog SF, you really should, because between them and the Overhead Wire, they’ve been keeping a close eye on the Obama Administration’s so-called “stimulus plan,” which many have critiqued so far.
Today, they had some excellent links to the miserable state of transit in the US and offer ways you, the citizen can bug Congress, give ’em a dose of reality, and reduce the pain somewhat for our beleagured MUNI and BART.
Too often when these issues are reported, the armchair analysts simply assume there’s “too much spending” and that “spending needs to be cut.” Stupid at best, ignorant and dangerous at worst. We have been cutting MUNI’s budgets for decades now, using parlor tricks and gimmicks to keep the system running, and you’ve seen the effects.
We’ve cut training for drivers way back (hence accidents and rude drivers.) We’ve cut back on maintenance (which is why your N Judah trails parts on the way to Ocean Beach or 19th Avenue). And we’ve always relied on gimmicks like “parking tickets” as a revenue source, something they were never intended to be. Finally, we’ve been sending a lot of our tax dollars to Sacramento, and Sacramento is sucking them up, using the money to pay for things like debt service on bonds instead of what the law requires (because voters love to vote for “free money” for their pet projects).
It’s time to restore a bit of sanity. Yes, MUNI can be run better, and no, it won’t happen overnight. We are starting to read more about what it truly costs to run the system properly – now it’s time to find solid ways to pay for it.
Put it another way – if it takes 5 gallons of gas to get you to where you’re going, and you only have 3, you can play with the tire gauge, lighten the load, try to drive down as many hills as possible and so on, but in the end, if you don’t have enough gas, you won’t get where you’re going. All the gimmicks in the world won’t change the fact you’re out of gas. Same goes for MUNI.
UPDATE: To be clear, this is nothing unique – the LA Times writes about mass transit misery around the country.

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