Elected officials and public transportation advocates in San Francisco are lashing out at the convention’s budget chairman, Phil Ting, as the deadline for passing the state budget is fast approaching. Meanwhile, the Westside MP is fighting back.
Mayor London Breed, State Senator Scott Wiener and transport advocates are lobbying at Ting to increase funding for public transport in the upcoming state budget, warning of devastating cuts as Bay Area authorities hit “fiscal cliffs” imposed by a sharp drop in passenger numbers.
The newly released Senate and State Assembly budgets still lack billions in operating funds proponents say are needed to avoid drastic benefit cuts.
In a May 24 letter to Ting, Breed called on the assembly to “propose a revised budget that will keep the Bay Area’s transit system operating while ridership recovers from the pandemic and to avoid massive service cuts.”
“Support for public transit in this budget will determine whether our inner cities thrive or die, whether our economies are stifled or supported, whether our outer boroughs are isolated or integrated into the region’s job market and culture, and whether some of the San Franciscos who… who are struggling the most, who are affected.” are able to go about their daily lives,” Breed wrote.
The Senate and Assembly budgets restore $2 billion in capital expenditures that Gov. Newsom cut in his budget bill. But most of those recovered dollars come from a fund that allocates money to communities based on population.
California Senator Scott Wiener speaks during the official opening of the new Bus Rapid Transit corridor on Van Ness Avenue in San Francisco Friday, April 1, 2022. | Nick Otto
That’s worrying for those pushing for transit financing for the Bay Area. While the Bay Area is entitled to about 20% of those funds, the region accounts for 50% of the statewide operating deficit, said Cyrus Hall, a data engineer who works with the San Francisco Transit Riders.
“We effectively restored that $2 billion in capital budget, and that’s great,” Hall told The Standard. “But that basically takes us back to where we started before the governor released his budget with a huge operating deficit.”
Wiener started the renewed lobbying efforts on Wednesday with a tweet thread.
In 21 days from today is the deadline for finalizing the state budget so that it can be completed within our deadline of 06/15. can elapse.
As it stands, California transit systems will – without change – take action to drastically reduce service.
That should be extremely worrying for anyone who thinks transit is essential.🧵
— Senator Scott Wiener (@Scott_Wiener) May 22, 2023
Breed’s letter referred to alternative funding plans — proposed by Wiener and a statewide “Survive and Thrive Coalition” that includes the California Transit Association, the Bay Area Council and others — that would also use federal highway funds that have yet to be allocated as a cap -and-trade auction fund to fix the remaining deficit.
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors will join Breed in its appeal for federal funds.
Regulators Matt Dorsey and Hillary Ronen introduced a resolution Tuesday urging Newsom and the Legislature to allocate the resources “in a manner that, on the one hand, does not penalize San Francisco transit authorities and, on the other hand, is based on a formula that reduces service cuts.” avoids that would affect transit the most dependent riders.”
“For a city like San Francisco, resident population is always an invalid denominator,” Dorsey told The Standard. “We have a population that commutes here; In 2019 we had 26.5 million visitors. That’s roughly the population of Texas visiting. All of this has to be covered by public transport and the police.”
Rep. Phil Ting, chairman of the convention’s budget committee, is under pressure to add Bay Area transit operating funds to the state budget. | Santiago Mejia/San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images
The Board of Directors is expected to adopt the resolution at its meeting on June 6th.
A number of lobby groups promoting public transit, including Kid Safe SF, are also organizing citizens to call Ting’s office through a website launched Wednesday.
“We need MP Ting to prioritize funding for public transport in the budget to ensure we can lead our city and region into a sustainable future,” Luke Bornheimer, a transport advocate, told The Standard. “It’s about time MP Ting joined Sen. Wiener in making public transport funding a priority.”
Sources say Ting has dodged calls on the matter. Late Wednesday, his office sent out a bulk email to voters who appeared to be opposing the issue.
“I support the support of Muni, BART, SamTrans and others, but I don’t want to hand out a blank check without major improvements, greater accountability and a budget stability plan,” Ting said in the email to voters. “Too many people have told me they don’t want to use public transport because they don’t feel safe or because the seats aren’t clean.”
Ting elaborated on this in an email to The Standard on Thursday, saying that even before the pandemic, public transit use in the Bay Area was declining due to “safety and cleanliness concerns” and a lack of reliability and convenience.
“To be clear, I will do whatever I can to keep our Bay Area transit services running, but we can walk and chew gum at the same time,” Ting wrote. “Rather than just funding the same thing and expecting different outcomes.” “It’s about time our 27 transportation systems in the Bay Area put riders first: We offer concrete plans to bring riders back by seamlessly… Create systems and make public transport travel safe, affordable and predictable.”
Ting’s statement also called on Bay Area governments to rely on a funding measure for regional transit that the Metropolitan Transportation Commission currently has planned for 2026. Wiener has lobbied to include them in an earlier vote, claiming that 2026 is too late for authorities to bail out.
Without bridge funding, proponents say, the fiscal cliff facing the region’s transit systems will spiral into a “death spiral,” in which cuts in service further squeeze ridership and revenue in a cycle of falling revenues.
Jeffrey Tumlin, director of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, said that without adequate government funding, the Muni bus system may have to eliminate 20 lines as early as this summer.