SAN FRANCISCO—On Wednesday, June 10, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Authority (SFMTA) and members of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors made a deal regarding Muni fares, ending a months-long disagreement.

The resolution, negotiated by Supervisors Aaron Peskin and Dean Preston, along with SFMTA leadership, requires Muni to hold off on increasing fares for the next two years and requires the Board of Supervisors to table a proposed Charter Amendment that would have stripped SFMTA of its exclusive authority to determine its own transit rates.

The disagreement sparked when on April 14, the Board of Supervisors voted 10-1 to urge the SFMTA to not increase Muni transit fares because of the financial strain posed on the public by the COVID-19 pandemic. On April 21, the SFMTA Board unanimously increased transit rates by 10 percent for most riders.

The fare increase triggered a response from Supervisors Peskin and Preston who put forth a ballot measure for this coming November that would have reversed the fare increase and allowed the Board of Supervisors more reign in regulating Muni prices.

Peskin and Preston’s Charter Amendment would have allowed supervisors to reject Muni fare increases that the board deemed inequitable. Additionally, it would have launched a Muni Transportation Quality Review and changed Muni service requirements. In order to be placed on the November 3 ballot, the amendment would have had to receive six votes from the Board of Supervisors, but now it will be tabled.

Supervisors, SFMTA leaders, and other community representatives like members of the Transport Workers Union Local 250-A (TWU Local 250-A), had been engaged in negotiations in order to come to a compromise.

In light of the deal that was reached on Wednesday, SFMTA Director Jeffrey Tumlin stated in a press release, “Muni has a substantial and growing structural deficit, but we agree now is not the time to raise fares.”

A chart from the SFMTA explaining who will be affected by the decision not to increase transit rates. Photo courtesy of Preston Kilgore, legislative assistant to Supervisor Preston.

President of TWU Local 250-A Roger Marenco agreed that higher transportation prices at the time of a pandemic would be problematic. He further noted, “Operator lay-offs shouldn’t be used as an excuse to justify fare increases. If we want to preserve both jobs and transit service, we should start by cutting at the top – not by increasing fares at the bottom.”

As Marenco told the San Francisco News, “This policy should not affect transport workers because I do not believe that the fares are related to keeping Operators employed. Some people say that if fares are not raised, then we will need to lay off Operators, but I do not believe this is accurate because there are thousands of ‘fare evaders’ every day on the buses.”

With this new deal, the Board of Supervisors, the SFMTA, and the Mayor’s Office will be working together to find alternative funding solutions to sustain Muni service.