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Muni cuts begin Saturday; drivers fear backlash
Muni riders can anticipate longer wait times and shorter service hours beginning Saturday. And drivers fear the changes could spark angry reactions from passengers.
The San Francisco Municipal Transit Agency voted April 20 to reduce services by 10 percent in order to close a $12 million budget deficit by July 1, according to an online letter issued by the SFMTA.
The changes include fewer buses on most routes as well as later start times and earlier end times.
Most routes will have no changes in frequency during peak hours, but will reduce the number of buses midday and late night.
“We went through and tried to look at capacity and where we could make those adjustments,” said agency spokeswoman Kristen Holland.
Holland said that on Saturday it will be “all hands on deck” within the SFMTA and “if we have problems, we’ll certainly be watching for that. We do sympathize with our ridership.”
Muni drivers are anticipating frustrated passengers. Bus driver Gabriel Desalla said that the last time this happened, an angry male passenger spat in his face.
“I understand they are going to be upset, but try to understand that we don't want the service cuts,” said Desalla.
“If you have to be somewhere early, try to be an hour or two early,” he said as a warning to riders.
Muni drivers, riders and a handful of politicians protested the service cuts on Wednesday in front of City Hall. The only Muni service that has not been cut are the cable cars, said Eric Williams, cable car representative for the Transit Workers Union, because they “are the only fund-generating equipment in the city.”
Supervisors Eric Mar and David Campos spoke out against the cuts.
“I will not support a budget that includes the dramatic and draconian service cuts that are proposed by the leadership of the MTA,” said Mar, who asked for new revenue measures to fund the agency and for a moratorium on police saturation raids of fare evaders. Mar, who chairs of the Board of Supervisors’ government audit committee, said he was holding hearings to hold Muni accountable so the agency did not “balance the budget on the back of the riders.”
Holland said that at the beginning of the next fiscal year, the SFMTA hopes to put some of those buses back on the streets. “We are looking forward to July 2011 when we will roll back 50 percent of these changes,” she said.
“We have a system that fits to the constraints of our budget,” Holland said.
Muni cable car operator Eric Williams speaks during Wednesday’s rally to protest SFMTA budget cuts on the steps of City Hall. Photo by John C. Liau/SF Public Press.