Higher fees, more teeth for commuter shuttle pilot

Commuter shuttles could face more than three times higher fees to use Muni bus stops to load and unload passengers before the 18-month pilot program begins on Aug. 1.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency board of directors will have to approve the fee increase at their Tuesday meeting. If approved, shuttle providers will now have to pay $3.55 per stop and $3.67 the following year.

Fees had initially been estimated to cost $1 per stop, with an estimated cost of $1.7 million to run the pilot program when the SFMTA board approved the pilot back in January, said SFMTA project manager Carli Paine:

“What we had said when we initially brought the item to our board was this our best estimate of what the fee looks like based on the costs we expect to have involved in the pilot and the number of stop events that we expect to see.”

Paine said the application process closed last week and now has an accurate count of the number of stops requested by shuttle providers. The transit agency received 11 applicants for the program:

“… Looked at the stop event numbers and they were significantly lower than what we had anticipated. They are about 40 percent lower.”

The transit agency had estimated shuttle providers would request 4,121 stops based on information where shuttles were already using Muni stops. Shuttle providers instead only requested 2,449 proposed Muni stops, which affected the fee for each stop a shuttle makes.

Paine said there could be number of reasons why the estimated number of stops decreased. She said some shuttle providers may have decided not use to the Muni bus stops now that they must pay a fee.

Fees from the shuttle providers would pay for the cost to run the 18-month program now at $3.7 million, which includes more enforcement of the program, said Paine:

“We need to really make sure that enforcement is robust in order to make this pilot program work.”

Paine said the transit agency has been working since January on an enforcement plan to ensure that only permitted commuter shuttles are using the designated Muni bus stops.

The plan includes having a dedicated set of parking control officers to enforce the program. Ten parking control officers will work a three-hour shift in the morning and 10 officers will work a three-hour shift in the evening Monday through Friday.

Paine said all parking control officers though will get training and be able to cite commuter shuttles not following the program’s regulations.

She said there could be companies who did not join the program, but continue to use Muni bus stops without a permit, which is why the transit agency is beefing up enforcement.

The program still faces a lawsuit by a non-profit Coalition For Fair, Legal and Environmental Transit, SEIU Local Union 2021 labor group and individuals Sara Shortt and Elizabeth Alexander filed in May.

The group believes the program should have gone through an environmental review before the SFMTA approved the pilot because of the impacts the shuttles have in the neighborhoods where they pick up residents who work for tech companies.

Many of the same groups and individuals had also filed an environmental appeal with the Board of Supervisors, but board members rejected it in April.

Paine said the lawsuit had nothing to do with the fees going up.

The SFMTA board of directors on Tuesday will also take up the first several Muni bus stops requested by shuttle providers.

An SFMTA engineering public hearing was held Friday for another set of proposed Muni bus stops and another hearing is on July 18 for another set of proposed bus stops.

Below is a list of stops up for approval at Tuesday’s SFMTA board meeting: