Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Dave Snyder: Muni cuts will force people to "switch to bikes"


I got a chuckle out of Dave Snyder's letter to the editor in yesterday's SF Chronicle (below in italics). Few people who read the Chronicle will know that for eleven years Snyder was executive director of the SF Bicycle Coalition. He was also the author of the failed---and illegal---city strategy to push the 500-page Bicycle Plan through the approval process.

Even though he's now on the Golden Gate Transit Authority's board of directors, Snyder never strays far from his obsession with bicycles.

...If these [Muni] service cuts go forward, many transit riders will have no other choice. By not joining so many major cities in charging for parking on Sundays, you're basically forcing people off the bus, and in this economy, they won't be rushing to spend thousands of dollars on an automobile. They'll switch to bikes. Not everybody can ride a bike: Support Sunday meters.

It's more likely that, in the wake of the Muni service cutbacks and higher fares, people who can afford it will just use their cars more instead of riding Muni. Those of us who have to rely on Muni and can't afford cars or can't/won't take up riding bikes will continue to ride Muni, even though it will cost us more and the buses will be more crowded.

Snyder is supposedly a transportation expert, but he thinks it would be great if we slowed down city traffic to the point where our streets would be safe for 8-year-olds to ride their bikes.

Looking at the numbers, it's hard to see how punishing city drivers with extended meter hours will do much to close MTA's $52.7 million budget deficit. The big study the city did on the issue (Extended Meter Hours Study, October 13, 2009) tells us that the "net annual revenue" for the city as a result of implementing the recommendations will only be $8,830,000. MTA's deficit is more than $51 million.

But what's remarkable about this study are some other numbers it contains that haven't been discussed yet. The total revenue collected by implementing the study's recommendations on extending parking meter hours would be $17,260,000. What happens to the other $8,430,000? It will go to "additional costs," including hiring 70 more city workers to implement the study's recommendations (page 32, "Table 9. Summary of Estimated Annual Costs and Revenues").

City drivers will be less than thrilled to learn that not only are they being soaked again, but that half the new revenue will go to making our already bloated city government even bigger! The city is now extracting more than $170 million a year from city drivers from parking meters, parking lots, and parking tickets.

Mayor Newsom has been understandably reluctant to embrace extending meter hours in SF because of the potential political shitstorm like the one that happened in Oakland last year.

Cuts could drive Muni riders to bicyclesI appreciated your editorial ("Fiscal collisions ahead," Feb. 1) bringing attention to the need to save Muni from devastating cuts, but you would do well to heed your own admonition intended for the Board of Supervisors that "not everybody can ride a bike."

That's true, but if these service cuts go forward, many transit riders will have no other choice. By not joining so many major cities in charging for parking on Sundays, you're basically forcing people off the bus, and in this economy, they won't be rushing to spend thousands of dollars on an automobile. They'll switch to bikes.

Not everybody can ride a bike: Support Sunday meters.

DAVE SNYDER
San Francisco

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11 Comments:

At 9:34 AM, Blogger missiondweller said...

So now I suppose we're a bike first city rather than a transit first city.

Anything but a car?

 
At 11:02 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

That's the fantasy of the bike people, even though there are 460,000 registered motor vehicles in SF, 1000 Muni vehicles, 1,500 taxis, and millions of commuters and tourists drive into the city every year. The fantasy assumption is that by punishing drivers and making it hard to drive and park in the city will result in people giving up their cars and start riding bikes instead. Now that the city is in effect also punishing Muni passengers with the recent and future cuts, Snyder seems to think they too will give up on Muni and start riding bikes instead! It's goofball stuff, but that's where the city is in fact headed.

 
At 12:29 PM, Blogger murphstahoe said...

Rob - frankly you aren't qualified to comment on this one. For you, it will "cost more" and "be more crowded", but for people who have JOBS - the biggest issue is that the buses will run less frequently. If you are late to Cafe Abir, they'll still sell you something, but if someone who works is late - they may not have a job anymore.

Given the unreliability of MUNI (runs disappearing into thin air), and that crowded buses may translate into "Bus driver decides to skip stop" - MUNI will become a non-option for someone who actually has to get somewhere at a prescribed time.

For people with "good jobs" who can afford a car, but who work downtown, an extra $20 a month in random parking meter charges is peanuts compared to $20 per day or more to park downtown. Just because they can afford to own a car doesn't mean they can afford to drive it to work, instead they pack the KLMJN underground.

You mention that there are what, 400-500k cars in the city? There are 700k MUNI trips taken daily. Noting that many households that can own cars own more than one car, or do not use any car on a daily basis, the MUNI fare increases/service cuts punish far more people.

Brutal - you are more concerned about "punishing" people who are driving to go out to restaurants at night, than crippling people who are going to work during the day.

 
At 12:53 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

I have a job, Murph, as caretaker for my 94-year-old mother. That may not seem like a real job to a young twit like you, but it's the hardest job I've ever had, and I've worked in factories, kitchens, and a lumber mill. By the way, your so-called real job apparently allows you the time to post your stupid comments to this blog. Tough job!

I was working full-time before you were born and worked outside my home until several years ago, when my mother could no longer care for herself.

Muni is in fact still a serious option for working people. I see that the #5 Fulton Muni line is packed with people heading downtown every morning.

Maybe a lot of people who own cars in SF can't afford to drive them to work, but those who can will do so if Muni service continues to deteriorate.

I of courese care about every single fucking sparrow who falls from a tree branch anywhere in the world. My point---which, as usual, you don't address---is that it's just nutty for Snyder---the great "progressive" transportation expert!---to suggest that a diminished Muni will somehow force people to start riding bikes instead. People will do what they have to do to get by, but I really doubt that the great bicycle fantasy is a viable option for sensible people. It will always be reserved for the Politically Correct and crackpots like you.

 
At 2:21 PM, Blogger murphstahoe said...

You missed Snyder's point completely - he agrees with you! "Not everybody can ride a bike". That's why we need to protect MUNI!

It's wonderful that you do this for your mother, but it doesn't require you to be at spot A at time B and rely on MUNI to do it. And your Mother is not going to fire you, hopefully not anytime soon and here's hoping she makes it to a century and beyond. Thanks for calling me "young" by the way.

People who can afford to drive to work in SF (and then pay to park) already are. If it takes 2x the time to get from the Sunset to downtown on MUNI than to drive, and you can afford to drive, then you drive. If it all of a sudden becomes 5 more minutes longer, that won't be the tipping point.

Those who won't ride a bike and cannot suffer the degradation of MUNI? They'll probably move. I don't think that's the outcome to shoot for.

 
At 2:42 PM, Blogger murphstahoe said...

"Maybe a lot of people who own cars in SF can't afford to drive them to work, but those who can will do so if Muni service continues to deteriorate."

People who ride MUNI are a bunch of Scum with a capital S who cannot afford to drive. So sayeth the firefighters...

John Hanley of Firefighters Union Local 798 spoke passionately in favor of transit workers.

"We support Supervisor Elsbernd's wise and smart move by pulling this charter amendment," said Hanley "It makes sense to pull it. Thinking of the brave Muni drivers and the work they do--they are dealing with a population that most of us wouldn't want to deal with."

 
At 3:45 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

You understand that there's not a single fact or verifiable piece of information in your comment. What makes you think you have something to say when you have no information to share? Where's the evidence that people who can afford to drive to work already do so?

Snyder does not agree with me. He seems to think that if the city doesn't extend meter hours---to provide more money for Muni---it will drive people to ride bikes, a desirable outcome in his mind. There's no evidence for that. I pointed out a more likely outcome: the degeneration of Muni will only mean that those of us who rely on it will pay more for an increasingly crowded system. There's nothing in Snyder's record to indicate that he's ever been particularly interested in Muni.

Extending meter hours, as I demonstrated, will do little to help Muni, since the money raised isn't enough to be much of a help. All it will do is expand city government, which is a large part of our problem now: city government as now constituted is not sustainable.

You have a limited sense of who rides Muni. I rode five different Muni routes today in doing my errands---the #5, the #22, the #71, and the #44. I didn't have to be anywhere at a particular time and was limited only by the hours of the various businesses I visited and not being able to be away from my home base for too long. On other days, there are appointments at specific times. All of the buses I rode today were crowded, and this was during non-commuting hours.

Looking at the people on the bus---most of whom are not going downtown to work---it's likely that some of them were going to work in other parts of town, to medical appointments, to school, shopping, etc. Their errands and movements are just as important as anyone else's. As Muni cuts services, all of us who rely on it will pay more for more crowded buses. Extending meter hours is merely anti-car symbolism offered by Snyder and his anti-car comrades.

 
At 5:02 PM, Blogger murphstahoe said...

You don't seem to be thrilled about the cuts - what's your plan? Or are you just doing your Mitch McConnell impression?

I fail to see how expanding the meter hours will expand city government. We already enforce them from 8 AM-6 PM. Someone will have to reprogram the meters - the same someone who fixes them currently. Hiring a few more PCO's hardly constitutes an expansion of city government.

 
At 6:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, bikes and pedestrians are in the transit-first policy and cars do come last in that policy, missiondweller.

Or didn't you know?

 
At 10:32 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

"I fail to see how expanding the meter hours will expand city government. We already enforce them from 8 AM-6 PM. Someone will have to reprogram the meters - the same someone who fixes them currently. Hiring a few more PCO's hardly constitutes an expansion of city government."

Implementing this plan will mean 70more city workers, Murph, as that study tells us on page 32, which of course you didn't read. Hard to see that as anything but an expansion---an expansion that exaggerates the predator/prey relationship we already have with city government.

 
At 12:01 AM, Blogger murphstahoe said...

It's probably moot now. Gavin was so deadset against this that he put Lum in a room and TWU actually caved. MUNI employees take a cut, you don't have to pay an extra $15 for your pass, and the service cuts are reduced. With the meter money - the service cuts could be eliminated, but we can't have that can we... but in the end probably everyone is happy but the TWU.

Fortunately Noe Valley is a sacred cow so we won't get hit by the cuts outside of the 35. The 5 and the 71 - good luck with that.

 

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