Sunday, January 23, 2011

Transportation: Campaign issue in November

In this morning's Examiner, Ken Garcia writes about an important issue---Muni's policy of extracting ever more money from city drivers through parking tickets:

It was recently announced that the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Authority is seeking to cover its chronic, annual budget shortfall by issuing more parking citations, even though it does not have enough parking control officers to reach that goal, because it does not have enough money to pay their salaries.

The Examiner's Will Reisman reported early last year about the city's parking ticket quota, not that anyone really doubted that that was the case.

Garcia continues:

This cruel joke has been perpetrated by a succession of mayors, most recently Gavin Newsom, who used to tell me that he did not personally support the expansion of parking meters in town, even while appointing the very people to the SFMTA board that did...

To cater to the city's bike people, Mayor Newsom appointed their leaders to the MTA board: first he appointed the Bicycle Coalition's Leah Shahum, and she showed her gratitude shortly thereafter by insulting him in public; and last year he appointed anti-car cyclist Cheryl Brinkman to that board.

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors, which acts as The City’s ultimate transportation czar, has gone along with this ruse for decades, adamantly refusing to raise bus fares to realistic levels under the guise of economic justice for working-class citizens, while trying to tax car drivers with the highest parking-garage fees and traffic ticket bills in the United States.

City drivers are a major source of income for city government. The San Francisco Transportation Fact Sheet of November 2010 provides some specifics on how much a predatory city government extracts from those who drive in the city: $38,868,351 from parking meters; $37,515,348 from city parking lots; $7,905,051 from the residential permit parking program; and $95,727,234 from parking tickets, for a total of $180,015,984. (The city also gets some of the vehicle registration fees from the state, but I can't find that number, which must be large.)

Adding to this ever-mounting bill is the news that Muni needs to find an extra $140 million to cover the cost of a $1.6 billion Central Subway expansion---a little over a mile extension of underground rail lines into Chinatown that may be the biggest boondoggle since the San Francisco 49ers announced plans to move its operations to a new stadium that will never be built.

The State of California has the high-speed rail boondoggle, and, not to be outdone, San Francisco has the Central Subway boondoggle, which is costing the city at least $229,995,250 in Prop. K money. Funny how the city supposedly can't afford to pave our streets but has money for this dumb, costly project, which is the result of a Willie Brown deal with Chinatown's Rose Pak. Is this what the rise of Asian-American political power means for San Francisco?

Assessor-Recorder Phil Ting, who doesn’t share the same high profile as other longtime pols vying for the job, last week posted a petition on Facebook asking people opposed to Muni’s ticket scheme to sign up, saying that it’s unfair to ask tax-paying citizens to burden the cost of Muni’s budget just because the agency can’t solve it. Most of the other candidates have remained mum on the topic---and those courting the so-called progressive vote---namely state Sen. Leland Yee, City Attorney Dennis Herrera and former Supervisor Bevan Dufty, likely won’t touch the subject because the local propaganda sheet, the Bay Guardian, happily preaches higher taxes and fees as a weekly mantra.

We can't blame all this on the Bay Guardian, though they have long been supporters of both high-speed rail and the Central Subway. (Progressives see city government as essentially a jobs program.) And, like all good SF progressives, the Guardian has, with the SF Bicycle Coalition, led the city's anti-car movement.

The way City Attorney Dennis Herrera handled the Bicycle Plan litigation would have resulted in malpractice charges if he had done it to a client in private practice. And Bevan Dufty has been on board for the anti-car Bicycle Plan from the start.

Transportation issues are important to city voters. It would be good for the city if at least one candidate broke from the pack to challenge the anti-car consensus that now dominates the dialogue on city transportation, like the Bicycle Plan, which city voters have never had a chance to vote on. Maybe Phil Ting is that candidate. Gavin Newsom's career is an historical precedent: he was elected mayor after be broke from the pack on the homeless issue with Care Not Cash.

And every candidate should take a position on congestion pricing to let city voters know if they support a program that will charge city voters to drive downtown in their own city.

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37 Comments:

At 11:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ken Garcia has heard of MUNI?

 
At 11:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just enough to bitch about it.

 
At 2:27 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

If you folks read this post and try real hard---take notes with your crayons---maybe you could make a relevant comment.

 
At 7:50 PM, Anonymous joan said...

First I have read you. YOU ARE GREAT! Thanks for being smart, observant, clear, and fearless.

 
At 9:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Joan - you left out diligent, bold, and detailed!

 
At 8:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

joan, why don't you make a relevant comment?

And Rob, how does raising Muni fare on the actual poor make a better city than actually ticketing people who are a illegally parked? It's not like the MTA is advocating making up tickets, they just want to have better enforcement.

 
At 9:26 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Joan: Your positive comment stirred up my detractors---the bike people and the HSR boosters. They hate it when someone makes a positive comment to this blog.

Anonymous: No, the increased ticketing is not about "enforcement"; it's about raising money to maintain a bloated bureaucracy, with Nat Ford at the top of the heap at more than $300,000 a year. (Also check out last year's Examiner story on parking ticket quotas I linked for you in the post).

And then there's the big pot of Prop. K money the city is using to pay for the Central Subway boondoggle and $20 million to pay for screwing up Masonic Avenue. I don't believe that raising fares is the only way to find money already in the system.

 
At 9:39 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Here's a link to the SFCTA budget. This agency gets a big pot of money from the sales tax to pay for all the "improvements" to city streets, including the Bicycle Plan projects.

 
At 10:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Anonymous: No, the increased ticketing is not about "enforcement"; it's about raising money to maintain a bloated bureaucracy"

Question: Should parking laws be enforced?

 
At 11:54 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Enforcement just to raise money is what people are questioning, not the validity of enforcing parking ordinances in general. As the Examiner reported last year, meter maids have been ordered to "step up their production" of parking tickets so that "the agency won’t lose parking-ticket money":

"While all 108 layoffs have been met with resistance, the decision to let go of the 24 parking control officers has attracted the most indignation, since those employees generate revenue for The City. However, the MTA believes there won’t be a revenue drop, so long as the remaining 254 parking control officers step up their production. If each one of those officers gives out 540 monthly citations — nine less than the 2007-08 fiscal year monthly average of 549 — the agency won’t lose parking-ticket money."

 
At 12:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If San Francisco needs money then stop jacking up the parking rates. Lets be a little more friendly with the folk who come here and are willing to spend their money. It's time to stop depending on local money. We're sick of being taxed for every little thing.

 
At 12:21 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Yes, and being taxed just to maintain the city's bureaucracy---26,000 city workers!---is what's objectionable. It's bad enough that our "progressive" rulers have already given featherbedding unions a blank check on city revenue.

 
At 12:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Raising parking rates will increase turn over and help local businesses. The first parking meter was added to downtown Oklahoma City for just that reason, to have turn over in a business district.

And what is the difference if 100 DPT works each hand out 1,000 tickets or 10 each hand out 10,000? There are still 100,000 people that deserve to be sited for breaking the law.

 
At 1:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Enforcement just to raise money is what people are questioning - not the validity of enforcing stop sign running of bicycles in general.

 
At 8:27 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This isn't even about raising parking rates, that isn't on the table. This is about having a certain number of law breakers out there and having fewer PCO's to hand out tickets. The number of people breaking the law hasn't gone down.

See it as you may, the city still needs to enforce it's parking laws.

And "It's time to stop depending on local money", that may be the stupiest thing someone other than Rob or Rocky's dad has said on this site.

 
At 11:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Uh oh, Rob sure shut up quick. Onto the next non-topic! Ooo, some supe said they don't like the pledge, BURN HER! Only be better if it ended:

"Who are you, who are so wise in the ways of San Francisco?"
"I am Rob Anderson, king of the smug blog assholes."

 
At 12:18 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

"This isn't even about raising parking rates, that isn't on the table."

Try to focus on what's been written before you comment. The point is that the MTA is now moving beyond "enforcement" to raising money as the main function of its parking control officers. The city made this explicit in the Examiner article I linked.

And from now on you'll have to at least try to make a substantive point about the post you're commenting on. I'm not going to publish your witless insults. Linking a Monty Python video isn't exactly going deep, Anon.

 
At 2:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Parking meter rates were brought up by a comment you allowed to get posted earlier. I was replying to them, not the article.

Also, Monty Python is always appropriate.

And furthermore, "The point is that the MTA is now moving beyond "enforcement" to raising money as the main function of its parking control officers" is simply false. You are reading between the lines. If 100,000 people break the law, then 100,000 tickets need to be given - no different if it's by 100 PCO's or 1,000 PCO's handing out the tickets. The point the MTA was trying to make is the PCO's now have to work harder because there are less of them. The Examiner is making a mountain out of a mole hill, no much unlike yourself, by saying there is a quota that needs to be met. If there is a quota, it is set by the poor parking habits of those who park in SF.

 
At 3:07 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

You're not even reading the lines themselves, let along between the lines.

The significant part of the article:
"However, the MTA believes there won’t be a revenue drop, so long as the remaining 254 parking control officers step up their production. If each one of those officers gives out 540 monthly citations---nine less than the 2007-08 fiscal year monthly average of 549---the agency won’t lose parking-ticket money."

Call it what you want, but that sounds like a quota to me.

The complete article below:

Parking Citations on the Decline
By: Will Reisman
The Examiner
1-08-10

Although fewer parking enforcers will be on the streets next month handing out citations to scofflaw drivers, it is very unlikely the number of tickets being handed out will decrease.

Since The City flooded the streets with additional parking control officers in the last two years, the number of parking citations has been on the decline, prompting city officials to take some of the ticket cops off the streets.

In fiscal year 2007-08, the number of parking control officers in San Francisco increased from 261 to 282---an 8 percent jump. But that hiring surge did not stem an ongoing slide in annual parking citations---which peaked at 1.9 million in the 2005 fiscal year---and is projected to drop to 1.6 million this fiscal year, according to the Municipal Transportation Agency, which oversees parking policies and enforcement.

The MTA has attributed the 16 percent drop in citations to cash-strapped drivers becoming more wary of parking regulations, a decrease in street-sweeping operations and fewer motorists out on the road because of the weakened economy.

In the 2003-04 fiscal year, each parking control officer doled out an average of 611 citations per month. For this fiscal year, which ends in June, parking control officers are projected to hand out an average of 498 per month, according to an MTA document obtained by The Examiner.

The agency has used that drop in production as justification for the planned layoffs of 24 parking control officers later this month.

The MTA faces a midyear projected deficit of $49.1 million---$4 million more than first reported in November. The agency has proposed laying off 108 workers and eliminating 142 positions---saving $12.5 million in salaries and benefits---as a way to cut into that shortfall.

“I feel like we’ve done our due diligence on this matter,” MTA Executive Director Nathaniel Ford said at Tuesday’s board of directors meeting. “All of these positions---we need them, we just can’t afford them.”

Overall, the MTA has come up with $28 million in cost-saving measures, but the agency has yet to determine how it will come up with the remaining $21 million needed by the end of the fiscal year.

While all 108 layoffs have been met with resistance, the decision to let go of the 24 parking control officers has attracted the most indignation, since those employees generate revenue for The City.

However, the MTA believes there won’t be a revenue drop, so long as the remaining 254 parking control officers step up their production.

If each one of those officers gives out 540 monthly citations---nine less than the 2007-08 fiscal year monthly average of 549---the agency won’t lose parking-ticket money.

Many parking control officers have questioned the MTA’s layoff calculations.

SEIU Local 1021, the union representing the officers, has yet to make a full review of the MTA’s traffic citation data, but officials from the organization have said most of the information is based on projections and does not accurately reflect the ticketing potential of the laid-off employees.

Elias Georgeopolous, a parking control officer who spoke at Tuesday’s meeting, said the 24 layoffs will actually cost the department $8.64 million in lost revenue. And he said that was a “low estimate.”

 
At 3:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Repeat:

"If 100,000 people break the law, then 100,000 tickets need to be given"

The only thing that should cause ticket revenue to decline, is people not parking illegally. I own a car - it's not that fucking hard. Feed the meter, don't double park, curb your damn wheels. What's the problem?

Buy a car, turn into a whiney moron. "WAH - Gas is $3 a gallon. WAH - Parking ticket! WAH - Traffic! I AM BEING PERSECUTED! WAR ON CARS BY SOCIALIST GOVERNMENT!"

 
At 3:32 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

You can repeat your dumb point as often as you like, but that doesn't make it any smarter. The whole point of the Examiner story is that parking control officers have to issue a certain number of tickets so that MTA can balance its budget.

From the story:

"The MTA has attributed the 16 percent drop in citations to cash-strapped drivers becoming more wary of parking regulations, a decrease in street-sweeping operations and fewer motorists out on the road because of the weakened economy."

So there hasn't been more unenforced violations. There's just less prey---and the prey is "warier"---for a predatory city to ticket due in part to the bad economy. And the city is running street sweepers only once every other week in the avenues, not every week like they used to do.

That's why the limited number of parking control officers have "to step up their production" of parking tickets.

 
At 4:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rob, you can't truly believe that there are any violations going un-ticketed right now. If so, you always seem to find a little dirt to dig out of the bottom of the hole, huh?

-sidewalk parking
-bus zone parking
-double parking

I see them every day, and I usually call in the sidewalk parkers since the PCO has a better chance of catching them then the other two. However, the other two cause just as much of a disturbance to the flow of the city, even if they are only there for a "couple of minutes".

But you are completely unable to admit, even the slightest bit, that you may be wrong and reading into it way too much.

 
At 7:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The city has been cutting these turkeys a break. The budget is screwed and they decide, fine, we're not going to cut these turkeys a break anymore because it's a quick source of funding. Anyone can "protest" that decision by NOT FUCKING PARKING ILLEGALLY.

Whining that the PCOs are "Stepping up enforcement" is ridiculous and completely whiney. They should be counting their blessings for all the times the PCOs DIDN'T give them a ticket in the past when they truly deserved one.

Take that to the bank.

 
At 2:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I guess Rob sees how wrong he is.

 
At 10:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

People generally have strong views about Mr. Phil TIng. Before I say anything else, I'd like to state the following disclaimer for Phil's benefit: Warning! This letter may contain sarcasm. Okay, now that that's taken care of, let me posit the hypothesis that several things Phil has said have brought me to the boiling point. The statement of his that made the strongest impression on me, however, was something to the effect of how he has the linguistic prowess to produce a masterwork of meritorious literature. Although a thorough discussion of ostentatious hooliganism is beyond the scope of this comment, he's the type of person who would marginalize the traditions and truths upon which our City's greatness sits if he got the chance. Sad, but true. And it'll only get worse if he finds a way to utilize questionable and illegal fund-raising techniques. Mr. Phil TIng has lost contact with reality. That is why, come what may, we must advocate concrete action and specific quantifiable goals.

 
At 9:11 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

I don't know anyone who even has views on Phil Ting, strong or otherwise. Your comment lacks specifics. Are we to assume that you support someone else for mayor? At least Ting spoke in opposition to the predatory MTA parking ticket policy, the only candidate to do so thus far.

 
At 11:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's not "predatory", Rob. People break the law, they get a ticket. Pretty straight forward. Don't want a ticket, park legally and feed the meter.

Wow, it's so simple I can see how you have trouble with it.

 
At 11:28 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

You evidently have some reading and comprehension problems. I posted the Examiner article in its entirety that explains that what the city is doing with parking tickets is designed to raise revenue under the guise of enforcement: "However, the MTA believes there won’t be a revenue drop, so long as the remaining 254 parking control officers step up their production. If each one of those officers gives out 540 monthly citations---nine less than the 2007-08 fiscal year monthly average of 549---the agency won’t lose parking-ticket money."

 
At 2:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

But the Examiner said the city has it's hand in my pocket!!!

What a joke. You site the Examiner as if their take on the situation is fact. It's just as much opinion as your blog is.

People break the law, there are less PCOs. This means current PCOs have to give more tickets. Pretty cut and dry.

 
At 3:09 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

So the Examiner misquoted MTA officials and lied about the documents they cite about the numbers? Okay, that takes care of that. "Cut and dried."

 
At 3:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rob, look at the quote you used two comments up.

If people are still breaking the law, then they deserve to be given a ticket. If there are less PCOs then those PCOs will have to give more tickets. It's simple math! You just can't bear the thought that you are really reaching on this.

 
At 3:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I fail to see the MTA quote that you are referring to. I see you quoted the Examiner, but not an official from the MTA.

I also didn't see a quote from a MTA official in the Examiner article that proves anything of what you are saying.

 
At 3:57 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

The Examiner reporter talked to Ford himself and obviously got the numbers that are the meat of the article from either him or other MTA officials ("according to the Municipal Transportation Agency" or MTA documents ("according to an MTA document obtained by The Examiner").

The whole point of the story is that MTA is trying to get the same amount of money from fewer parking control officers :"However, the MTA believes there won’t be a revenue drop, so long as the remaining 254 parking control officers step up their production."

 
At 4:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The whole point of the story is that MTA is trying to get the same amount of money from fewer parking control officers :"However, the MTA believes there won’t be a revenue drop, so long as the remaining 254 parking control officers step up their production.""

Exactly! That's the whole point!

I don't see a gov't conspiracy at all. Same amount of tickets, less people giving them, so more per person. A beautiful thing, gov't efficiency!

 
At 6:05 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

No one is claiming a "conspiracy" on the issue. The MTA and Nathaniel Ford have been very candid about what they are doing. Getting a certain amount of revenue from the same number of traffic control officers means that they all do in fact have a quota that they are expected to meet. Glad to see that you finally understand that.

 
At 8:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Always nice to change the argument so you win. Never cease to amaze Rob.

 
At 9:24 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

What "change" are you talking about? You keep insisting on something that simply isn't true. I've linked the Examiner article in question and even posted it in its entirety above. You seem to have some kind of reading disorder.

 

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