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Prepare to Pay for Parking on Sundays

San Francisco mayor concedes to new Muni chief on unpopular plan

You may soon have to feed the meter on Sunday in San Francisco.

Muni chief Ed Reiskin announced Thursday that he would recommend charging for Sunday parking between noon and 6 p.m. as part of a plan to close a $53 million budget shortfall over the next two years. The budget proposals will go to the transit agency's board next week.

Drivers may not like the change, which is expected to bring in $2.5 million a year. But the fact that the proposal is moving ahead represents a détente in the ongoing battle between the mayor’s office and transit officials over the transit agency’s budget. Last year, Mayor Ed Lee derided Sunday parking as an “old idea,” but now he appears to have changed his tune. 

“I’ve been working on educating folks at City Hall,” Reiskin said. “We don’t let people ride free Muni on Sundays.”

The mayor's office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Reiskin appears to have lost another battle with the mayor over a practice in which other city departments bill Muni for services, some of which have little to do with the transit agency. Critics have characterized these so-called “work orders” as a way for the rest of the city to use the transit agency as an ATM.

New Muni Chief ReiskinReiskin said last fall that he wanted to reduce work orders, especially the $9 million that Muni spends every year to fund the police department’s motorcycle unit, which has little direct connection to the transit agency’s operations. But the mayor wouldn’t budge, and the transit agency will be spending more than $130 million on work orders over the next two years.

“They’ve got a hundred plus million gap they have to close, so having the general fund pick up the traffic company just adds $9 million to their problem,” Reiskin said. “They get that this sticks out as a policy issue.” 

Supervisor David Campos, who has criticized Muni over the work orders, said he was not satisfied with the outcome and would raise questions when the transit agency’s budget goes before the Board of Supervisors for approval.

“We certainly think the motorcycle unit is necessary, but we don't see why Muni riders should be paying for that,” Campos said.

Reiskin also announced that he would recommend that Muni give free passes to low-income youth in a two-year pilot project. Youth advocates, citing a lack of school buses and increasingly expensive passes, fought to make Muni free for all young people. 

“I appreciate the sentiment that free Muni for all youth would help grow the next generation of transit riders, but we do have a budget reality we’re operating in,” Reiskin said.

Reiskin said that youth between ages 5 and 17 would qualify for free passes through an application much like the one schools use to determine eligibility for free or reduced-price lunches. The program will cost the transit agency $4 million annually, which supporters say will be covered by outside funding sources.

Campos, a supporter of free Muni for all youth, called it a “step in the right direction, but it does not go far enough.” Campos said he was skeptical about the transit agency’s ability to administer the program. He also said it sends the wrong message about Muni.

“We don’t want public transit to be the poor kids' mode of transit,” he said.

Reiskin said that the transit agency would be investing more than $46 million in maintenance over the next two years. The agency has been faced soaring overtime costs in part because of a reduced maintenance staff.   

The Muni chief is also recommending increasing the price of citations by $5 to recoup court-processing fees. The increase will bring in an additional $5.4 million for the transit agency.

Last week, Muni announced it was eliminating 12 management positions, which is expected to save the transit agency $2 million a year.

Muni's budget is projected to be $816 million for the 2012 – 2013 fiscal year and $844 milllion for the following year.

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