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Drivers to pay for Sunday parking; low-income youth will ride Muni free

SF Public Press
 — Apr 18 2012 - 8:25pm

Drivers who plan to spend a day in the city on Sundays should remember to bring their change to pay the parking meter.

San Francisco’s transportation agency approved its two-year budget Tuesday, which includes making motorists pay at parking meters on Sundays, handing out free Fast Passes to low-income youth and funding for more maintenance on Muni.

The Municipal Transportation Agency, which faced a projected $19.6 million deficit for 2012-2013 and $33.6 million deficit for the following fiscal year, needed to generate new revenue sources, even after cutting management and overtime costs.

Despite opposition from San Francisco churches, the agency decided to start enforcing parking meters on Sunday from noon to 6 p.m. to raise more money. The transit agency expected to get $1.9 million annually ($900,000 in the first year) from Sunday parking meter enforcement.

Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin said it was time to “modernize antiquated parking policies.” He said parking meter enforcement would free up spaces in commercial neighborhoods where parking spots can be hard to find because of drivers who park all day.

“There are some gaps in how we’re currently managing parking,” Reiskin said. The transit agency will also be adding 500 to 1,000 parking meters throughout the city.

Religious leaders complained that the Sunday parking meter enforcement would have serious impacts on their Sunday services.

Rev. Karen Oliveto of Glide Memorial Church said Sunday parking enforcement would be a “logistical nightmare.”

“If we had to worry about time constraints for our celebrations and programs so people can get to and from their cars due to meter enforcement, the entire essence of Glide would be jeopardized,” Oliveto said.

David Barnes, director of family ministries at the Calvary Presbyterian Church, said he was disappointed by the decision, and that the board had made up its mind despite the opposition.

“I’m honestly wondering how many budget shortfalls Muni experiences before they push for meters from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.," Barnes said. “The storm window is open.”

The transit agency’s operating budget of $816.4 million for the 2012-2013 fiscal year, which begins on July 1, also includes funding for implementing all-door boarding and more maintenance for the Muni system.

Sunday parking meter enforcement will begin Jan. 1, 2013.

Free Muni for low-income youth

Board members finally decided to give free Muni Fast Passes for the city’s low-income youth ages 5 to 17, as a 22-month pilot project that begins in August.

Transit officials have been debating whether or not to give Fast Passes to all youth, but did not like the funding choices for an all-youth program.

Reiskin presented the board with an alternative budget that would fund an all-youth program, which would create a $6.7 million gap in funding. To fill the gap, Reiskin said he would take $3.8 million from the maintenance budget for Muni buses and $2.8 million from capital funds set aside for transit projects in low-income neighborhoods and bicycle and pedestrian projects.

That was enough to sway some board members, like Joel Ramos, who voted last week in favor of a free Fast Pass all youth program, to change their minds.

“It’s clear now, however, that the funding mechanisms would lead to toward taking out of maintenance and operations, which we have never ever been supported of,” Ramos said.

Free-Muni-for-all-youth backers said taking funds out of the maintenance was a last-minute move to get the board to not approve an all-youth plan.

“What’s frustrating, to be honest with you, is the issue of how much this would cost and what is implicated seems to be a shifting target,” said Supervisor David Campos, who has been leading the free Muni drive.

Campos said maintenance wasn’t brought up until a few days ago and was never mention to the city’s budget analyst.

Board members still need hash out details on how the program will work and who will qualify for a free Fast Pass.

The need for free public transportation comes at a time when the San Francisco Unified School District plans to reduce yellow school bus service because of budget constraints. City officials say they are also trying to keep families in the city.

The transit agency’s budget still needs the approval from the San Francisco Board of Supervisors before any of initiatives go into effect.

Budget includes no cuts in Muni service

Though the newly approved budget does not include Muni service cuts, transit officials still have to solve the projected budget deficit of $29 million for the current fiscal year.

To close that gap, the transit agency has cut 35 to 40 bus runs a day, said John Haley, transit director of Muni operations. The transit agency will not fill those runs with overtime drivers.

The current fiscal year ends June 30, when transit officials hope to bring back those runs.