Lies The SFMTA and “Transit Advocates” Told Me About Fare Increases – UPDATE

Here we go again.

The SFMTA finds itself in a financial jam, as it always seems to. Fortunately for the SFMTA and “Mayor” Ed Lee, they’ve found some creative ways to “get more money” for the agency. Even more fortunate for them, they’ve been able to sell it all in the name of “making Muni faster.” A noble goal, right? Who doesn’t want a “fast Muni?” Why, if you oppose proposed changes, you must be for a slow Muni, and nobody wants that right? RIGHT?

Unfortunately for you, the owner/rider, you’re being sold a significant increase in fares, all the while auto drivers are given free parking by the City of San Francisco every Sunday. We still don’t have a final dollar amount on how much money the SFMTA spent on behalf of the NFL and the Super Bowl – remember when they said the City would “make money” off the event, justifying such “donations?” And, as always, the SFMTA continues the charade of the two-tiered monthly pass to hide the true increase in monthly pass fares.

Add on the sneering contempt the agency and even some so-called transit advocates have for those who have the “audacity” of paying for a Muni ride with Real Money, and you have a nice big “FU” served up to you and your fellow citizens, all with “Mayor” Ed Lee’s smiling face laughing all the way to the bank.

Let’s get the most obvious piece of nonsense out of the way first – the proposed “cash surcharge” has nothing to do with making Muni buses and trains “go faster.” It’s a nice soundbite – but it’s also bullsh*t. I can accept that an agency run by people appointed by “Mayor” Lee would say and do sneaky things to stick it to owner/riders. After all, this IS the SFMTA!

What I do not like is the contemptuous tone some so-called “transit activists” have taken defending the move, attacking anyone who dislikes the policy as being a “luddite” (a cute slur saying you’re too stupid to use technology) or worse, implying that the reason your N Judah train is slow today is the fault of those who pay with money.

I do not doubt that using a Clipper Card or a prepaid fare (like those ones the machines dispense downtown) helps things out – I use a Clipper card myself, and like it just fine. However, to make callous generalizations about Those Who Pay in Cash, not to mention blaming them for Muni’s slow speed, is just plain wrong.

I would be more inclined to believe the “make cash riders pay more to make Muni go faster” line if there was any evidence the pain and suffering of having people pay in cash was crippling service. I would also be more inclined to consider it if there were many non-Walgreen’s places to buy tickets and passes (like one does in the downtown stations) in places Not Downtown.

With regards to speed – there is no study, aside from the snotty remarks from Andy Bosselman, a “transit activist” who seems to take a tremendous amount of pride insulting anyone who doesn’t believe as he does in the All Powerful Clipper Card. Perhaps I am being harsh, but in the era of the “tech bro FU” essay it’s hard not to be.

With regards to places to purchase the magic bus tickets and Clipper reloads, well this is where things get sticky and one has to consider things that happened before 2014, which to today’s journalists, never happened. The SFMTA had money that was suppposed to be used to install ticket machines that could reload a Clipper or spit out one of those fancy tickets in high traffic locations around the City.

Instead, in a classic dumb-ass SFMTA move, they blew all the money on two ticket booths – one at Geary and Masonic, the other by the cable cars,each costing over $400,000. Really. Meanwhile, places where passengers would find a ticket machine useful have to find a Walgreen’s (!) or pay a (omg) cash fare to go to a Muni station and reload.

Put simpler, isn’t it kind of strange that at 9th Avenue between Lincoln and Judah, a high traffic area for the N, the 6, the 7, the 43, the 44 and the 66 there’s not a single place you can reload a clipper card or buy a magic ticket prior to boarding? Or anywhere at the UCSF campus on Parnassus? These are just two location on one line – now imagine if there were said machines in places all over the City to make it as easy as possible to pay in advance?

This is not impossible – I’ve seen it done in San Diego and plenty of other cities. Only in Magical San Francisco is such an idea impossible. That is, if we’re really talking about making it easy to pay to “speed up Muni.” Only in Magical San Francisco, though, would you have an agency spend over $800,000 on two ticket kiosks, and place one where most people don’t even know where it is.

“But Walgreen’s! They’re everywhere! What’s the big deal? And Clipper! OMG!” Yeah, whatever. Walgreen’s is a fine retailer of drugs and other items, but they should not be the only place outside a Muni station to get a pass or a ticket. Again, that is if one really wants to “speed up Muni” by “encouraging” people to “get a Clipper card.”

Which of course, it is not. The SFMTA has mismanaged its finances once again, and is scrambling to plug a hole in its budget, and it’s doing so by pushing fare increases higher than the previously agreed to formula based on the cost of living. This is an agency, after all, that blew millions on Super Bowl parties and hasn’t yet told the public exactly how much that was – or what the agency got for its trouble.

Instead, they just want to jack up the fares to cover their asses, and “Mayor” Ed Lee’s handpicked MTA directors are all too happy to once again accommodate Big Ed’s greed. They’re going to raise the cost of a monthly Muni pass to $91 next year. (The same monthly pass cost $74 just 4 years ago)

They are hoping you don’t bother to remember how much you were paying just a few years ago for the same pass, and really hope their card trick with the “Muni Only”/”Muni/BART” passes once again makes you think they’re not raising fares when they are. The same cash strapped agency is also voting to give away millions of dollars to the Mayor’s office for no real reason – the best answer you get out of the Mayor’s spokes-droids is “trust us” and nothing more. For an agency that is allegedly having money troubles, this seems strange.

Then again, this is a city department that defied its own staff and restored free parking on Sundays for cars at the behest of Mr. Mayor. Wouldn’t Muni “run faster” if perhaps we reduced unnecessary car trips and reduced government subsides for parking? Maybe. Funny how you don’t hear so-called “transit advocates” and those who were quick to blame peasants who dare pay in cash for Muni’s slowness speaking out on this.

Oh but the list goes on and on. Isn’t it funny how whenever the SFMTA pleads poverty, they stick it to Muni riders early and often, but when it comes to making decisions to better manage their money, maybe not spend so much on parties and fun treats, that’s never part of the discussion?

UPDATE: A loyal reader (who asked to remain anonymous) made a good point as well – if the point of the fake surcharge is to “make Muni faster” why wasn’t it introduced when Clipper Cards and electronic paper tickets debuted at the same time as the Clipper cards themselves?

The short answer? The SFMTA needed to cloak a fare increase in a politically acceptable cloak that would pass muster with “transit advocates” and liberals, and they have!

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  1. Pingback: The SFMTA Weaponizes Convenience in its Drive for Fare Increases | The N-Judah Chronicles

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