Friday, January 20, 2012

The Central Subway money pit

We're already in a hole, but our leaders keep digging

A story in yesterday's SF Chronicle (Central Subway funds get a key OK) told about Mayor Lee in D.C. trying to firm up money for the Central Subway. The city is counting on the feds to pick up $1 billion of the $1.6 billion project:

Lee has been a strong supporter of the subway, which became an issue in his election race last fall. The estimated cost of the project has more than doubled from estimates of $650 million in 2003. A civil grand jury report last summer concluded that the project should be scrapped because it would strain the struggling Muni system and is poorly designed. The total federal commitment would be $983 million; the state has committed $471 million and San Francisco voters approved Proposition K in 2003 to levy a half-cent sales tax to cover $123 million.

Muni's deficit this year is $28 million; it will be $34 million next year, and $46 million the year after that, $108 million in red ink that could easily be covered by the money spent on the Central Subway. MTA itself, according to page six of this document, is chipping in another $163 million in "parking revenues" to the Central Subway project. Gee, I wonder why our Muni system is always in the red.

The city makes more than $170 million a year from its parking lots, parking meters, and parking tickets. Funny but it's hard to find on the SFCTA's website how much the city brings in every year from the Prop. K sales tax. I had to contact the agency to eventually learn that, according to page 14 of this document, the tax brings in $70-$80 million a year from Prop. K.

Even with all that transportation money,  the City That Knows How, the Transit First city, can't keep its transit system solvent---or even pave its streets without borrowing money.

Save Muni is the best source of information and analysis of the Central Subway project.

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