Monday, July 28, 2014

Oppose Mayor Lee's $500 million bond

MTA inspectors, photo by SF Citizen

What does the ballot measure do?

Raises property taxes and rents (50% pass-through) to pay for General Obligation Bonds of $500 million, with $350 million in interest payments, for a total debt load of $850 million

Funds “may be allocated” for transit and roads---carte blanche authority for unspecific projects. 

If the bond is rejected by voters, property taxes and rents would be reduced for everyone, not just for rich companies and the wealthy. 

To read the Ordinance’s legal language is to oppose the Bond Measure

The Ordinance’s legal language makes no definitive commitment to any specific work: “Projects to be funded under the proposed Bond may include but are not limited to the following...” 

For eight project types, all begin with “A portion of the Bond may be allocated to…” 

In financial decisions, never sign a contract when the terms and deliverables are ambiguous. 

Throwing billions of dollars at bad Muni projects hasn’t worked 

Since 2006, Muni has cut service in every neighborhood, decreased annual vehicle revenue miles/hours, eliminated 6 bus lines, shortened 22 routes, deferred maintenance, increased missed runs/switchbacks/late buses, increased fares/fees/fines/meters (1,549,518 parking citations annually)

Large project cost overruns have cut funds for infrastructure and maintenance. The Central Subway alone has taken $595 million in state and local funds. Huge subway cost overruns loom ahead, unveiled by the Central Subway’s cost engineer, whose whistle-blower’s complaint alleges a cooking of the books. 

Bond Does Not Restore Muni Service Cuts

Muni has cut neighborhood transit, cross-town routes, night service and route frequency, hurting the low-income, families, disabled, youth and seniors. Eliminated bus lines will not be restored: lines 4, 7, 15, 20, 26, 34, 89. Shortened bus routes will not be restored: lines 1, 2, 10, 12, 16X, 18, 21, 29, 36, 38, 42, 48, 53, 67, 88, 91, 108. Muni has been an integrated citywide transit system, interconnecting outlying neighborhoods. By cutting neighborhood transit, driving is encouraged and then penalized by more fees/fines/parking elimination. 

Learning From the Past: SFMTA’s Poor Spending Habits 

In 1999, Prop E [page 80 of the Voter Information Pamphlet] created the SFMTA (San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency) with more powers, more General Fund dollars and a 85% on-time performance mandate. Instead, Muni falsified on-time performance data and paid bonuses to its Director.

In 2003, Prop K [page 143 of the Voter Information Pamphlet] extended the transportation sales tax and provided a list of projects. The Central Subway’s listed cost of $647 million escalated to $1.578 billion. The citywide Transit-Preferential Streets Program and Bus Rapid Network were never implemented. 

In 2007 Prop A [page 35 of the Voter Information Pamphlet] gave SFMTA more funding authority, revenue-bond-authority and even more General Fund dollars. Instead, work orders sent the new funds to other city departments. 

In 2011 voters approved Prop B, [page 46 of the Voter Information Pamphlet] a Road Repaving Bond of $248 million, with $181 million in interest payments, for a total debt load of $429 million. Debt isn’t efficient for maintenance. 

SFMTA’s budget grew by hundreds of millions of dollars to $978 million. Number of employees grew by thousands to 4,921. Salaries have soared. And riders get service cuts. 

Mayor’s Transportation Task Force (TTF) and Transit Effectiveness Project (TEP)

This proposed Bond, a second Bond, future fees and taxes will not meet objectives. Only 49% of the TTF”s recommended funding goes to Muni. TTF’s proposed $2.955 billion does not remotely solve Muni’s $25 billion in 20-Year Capital Plan Need. The proposed TEP continues transit cuts to neighborhoods, shifting service to rapid corridors. Better planning is needed for a citywide integrated Muni system. Oppose this Bond Measure.

CONTACT: Howard Wong, AIA,

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At 4:06 PM, Anonymous James said...

Thanks Rob - while I don't believe in a lot of your comments on cycling, I do think this city is ass-backwards in this respect regarding bond money. I can see how this can blend into all sorts of issues when it comes to transit in general because of this. When there's little funds to move around because the city squanders them on giving tons of city employees jobs, it's hard to justify other projects. We shouldn't have to get a bond on paving the roads and that's a direct result of a city failure.

At 11:46 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Yes, the MTA seems to be more of a jobs project than one that's determined to make our transportation system run better.

The city already takes in almost $250 million a year from parking lots, parking meters, and parking tickets, but it still borrows money and pays a lot of interest on those bonds just to pave/maintain city streets, along with a lot of other less-than-critical "improvements."

The SFCTA also collects more than $80 million a year in sales taxes for transportation projects.


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