SFMTA to Vote Next Week on Muni Fare Hike

Supervisors urge SFMTA board to pause higher fares during COVID crisis.

Exactly one week before the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency is set to vote on a new Muni fare structure, the board of supervisors passed a resolution urging them to hold off on any rate increases.

“I had sincerely hoped this resolution would not be necessary,” Supervisor Dean Preston said at the supervisors’ meeting Tuesday, which took place virtually over Microsoft Teams. “I have for months been engaging with MTA staff on this but have not been able to secure a commitment to back off on fare increases.”

“Ultimately, the decision lies with the SFMTA board of directors, and SFMTA leadership,” Supervisor Ahsha Safaí said.  “But I would say it is really difficult to see how any family during this crisis could afford a fare increase.”

The SFMTA board is scheduled to vote April 21 on the budget for fiscal years 2021-2022.  If the budget is approved without amendment, the fare increase would likely go into effect this July, although SFMTA officials were not immediately able to confirm the start date before press time.

Under the current proposal, a full fare single ride paid with a Clipper card would increase 12 percent, from $2.50 to $2.80.  The same trip paid for with cash would see no increase, and still cost $3.

Adult monthly Muni passes would increase $5, from $81 to $86 for “M” passes (without BART), or from $98 to $103 for “A” passes (which include BART trips within the city).

“If there was another option not to raise fares, we would absolutely use it,” said Erica Kato, an SFMTA spokesperson. “But at this time of economic uncertainty, no other option exists to maintain the service that we have and to expand upon the programs that we are offering…to support the people that need our assistance the most.”

Those expanded programs under the new fare structure would give free rides to youth under age 19, and to people experiencing homelessness.

Supervisor Rafael Mandelman pointed to those new programs when he cast the sole dissenting vote against the motion, which passed 10-1.

“This continued and growing access to free and reduced-price Muni for youth, seniors, people with disabilities, and the unsheltered would be balanced by a modest increase in Clipper and Muni fares over two years,” Mandelman said.

But most supervisors spoke out against the fare increase and said now isn’t the time, given the unprecedented economic fallout from the global pandemic.

“Raising fares would almost be equal to cruel and unusual punishment for some folks,” Supervisor Shamann Walton said.  “For us to raise fares at a time of economic uncertainty, knowing that the folks who ride Muni are in the low-end income bracket and would bear the brunt of any fare increase, is something that would at the very least be contrary to our values.”

Michael Toren is an SF Weekly staff writer covering news. You can reach him at mct@sfweekly.com or follow him on Twitter @Michael_Toren.

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