Muni raises cash fares by 25 cents under new budget

Muni riders who regularly pay their fares with cash on board buses and trains will soon need to shell out an extra 25 cents or get a Clipper card to avoid the surcharge.

The new cash premium fare is part of the 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 operating budget approved Tuesday by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s Board of Directors. The total budget for next year is $1.07 billion and $1.09 billion in 2018. Transit officials had projected a $13.5 million deficit in 2017 and $14.3 million deficit in 2018.

The SFMTA’s budget will not just include higher fares for cash users, but also for everyone else, as fares will increase through the transit agency’s automatic indexing formula. The adult “M” monthly Fast Pass, currently at $70, will rise to $73 in September and $75 next year. The adult “A” monthly pass will jump from $83 to $86 also in September.

But the transit agency’s directors agreed to a $5 increase above the indexed price, which would make the “A” Fast Pass cost $91 under the two-year budget. The $5 increase will not take effect until Jan. 1, 2017, according to a report from the SFMTA.

Single adult fares will remain at $2.25 for Clipper card users at least until next year when it will rise to $2.50. The additional 25 cents to cash-paying Muni riders will not take effect until Jan. 1, 2017 in order to give riders time to purchase a Clipper card, which costs $3.

The transit agency is continuing its free Muni programs for youth and seniors.

New parking and permit fees will take effect on July 1, 2016 as well as the new lowered towing fees approved by the board last month.

SFMTA Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin said the extra 25 cents charged to cash Muni riders is a way to speed up the boarding process and to encourage riders to get a Clipper card. He said the transit agency is working with the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, which oversees the Clipper card program, to discuss ways of getting a Clipper card into rider’s hands:

“We’ve already committed doing another round of getting cards to people for free.”

The transit agency issued free Clipper cards to riders at Muni Metro stations when the program first rolled out.

SFMTA Director Cristina Rubke said she had concerns over the 25 cent charge to riders especially after the transit agency had just gone over its Muni Equity Strategy report, which focuses on improving Muni service in low-income neighborhoods:

“I hope we can do something as we move forward to make sure that we can mitigate those negative impacts or help those communities get integrated into the system or whatever it is we need to do to make sure that doesn’t really have adverse effects.”

Reiskin said the transit agency will do everything it can to make sure to fill gaps where it might be difficult to get a Clipper card. Cards are available at Walgreens. Riders can also purchase monthly passes or add cash to their Clipper cards at Walgreens.

The extra 25 cents charged to cash riders would bring $3.8 million in 2017 and $3.9 million in 2018.

Some other changes related to fares includes increasing the youth fare age from 17 to 18 to match the transit agency’s free Muni for youth program and to align with other transit agencies. Fare discounts for seniors, disabled and youth riders will now be set to 50 percent below adult fares.

There were new expenditures included in the budget to support the transit including safety and maintenance programs and funds to support Sustainable Streets Division in enforcement, meter and signal shop and parking.The transit agency will also contribute more to Caltrain.

The transit agency will also use some its rainy day funds to make one-time purchases on equipment, upgrading to signal priority for three Muni rail lines and cable car safety improvements. The current balance in the SFMTA reserve fund is $243 million.

The SFMTA approved it’s $3.4 billion capital budget, which includes replacing rail tracks inside the Twin Peaks Tunnel, continuing Muni Forward projects and purchasing new buses.

The budget now heads to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors for approval. The new fiscal year begins on July 1.