Mar 1, 2024 - News

San Francisco transit agency facing "catastrophic" budget deficit

muni train

Muni metro train at West Portal Station in 2020. Photo: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

While Muni ridership has seen significant gains since the pandemic, officials from the city's transit agency this week warned there's still a looming budget deficit.

Why it matters: The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency's revenue from ridership fares is only 56% of what it was pre-pandemic, while revenue from parking fees dipped by 12%.

  • SFMTA has proposed increases to Muni fares, parking fees and fines, as well as taxi fees to fund its service operations.

Threat level: The SFMTA needs to bring in $12.7 million in revenue for the upcoming two-year budget cycle (July 1, 2024, to June 30, 2026), the department wrote in a blog post this week.

  • Its money problems are only expected to get worse, with the SFMTA projecting a budget deficit of "a catastrophic $240 million" from July 1, 2026, to June 30, 2027, which could result in the elimination of Muni lines.

What they're saying: "It is no secret that Muni is facing its challenges," Jeffrey Tumlin, director of transportation for the SFMTA, said at a press conference this week. "We are still in the worst financial crisis that this agency has faced in its entire history over 100 years."

  • He added that San Francisco is also still reeling from the effects of COVID-era work-from-home policies.

By the numbers: Ridership at the Montgomery Street station, for example, is at only 35% of pre-COVID levels, Tumlin said.

  • But ridership has increased in other parts of the city. The 22 Fillmore, for example, is at 139% of its pre-pandemic traffic, according to the SFMTA.

What to watch: The SFMTA must present its proposed budget to Mayor London Breed by May 1.

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to reflect that SFMTA revenue from parking fees is 12% less than it was pre-pandemic (not 12% of what it was pre-pandemic).

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