San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency directors and other city officials at a workshop on Tuesday outlined the necessity of outside funding to help the agency and its public transit services because of lost revenue resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.
SFMTA has already made cuts to overtime, bus and rail service, and supply purchases, but officials at the workshop expressed concern that their financial situation could get worse before it gets better. SFMTA’s Director of Transportation Jeffrey Tumlin said that Muni is more financially devastated now than it was during the Great Depression.
“Our current focus is frankly on survival. The federal funding that we’ve been able to receive has allowed us to forestall layoffs for about another six months. We are completely dependent upon additional outside funding just to keep moving at the greatly diminished service levels that we’re facing today,” Tumlin said.
He added that Muni is years or decades away from completely recovering their pre-pandemic service levels.
This could conflict with a resolution Supervisor Myrna Melgar introduced in January that calls upon the SFMTA to expedite their return to the level of service they offered before the pandemic began. The resolution cited equity as a priority, and that Muni’s diminished service effectively barred many San Franciscans without other means of transportation from accessing needs like groceries or health care.
City Controller Ben Rosenfield noted that in the last fiscal year, San Francisco lost $417 million, or 7 percent loss of revenue for the year, in three months.
“We are now trapped in a classic transit death spiral that we have no means of digging ourselves out of without substantial outside support and new sustained ongoing revenues that rise, each year with our costs,” Tumlin said.