With less than 10 days before a state budget must be approved by the state legislature, transit advocates dressed in black funeral attire took to the streets of San Francisco Saturday with caskets and flowers to mourn what could be major transit service cuts in the Bay Area if the state does not step in to provide the funding.
Pallbearers grabbed onto the caskets that featured a models of a 60-foot Muni bus, BART train, AC Transit bus and a Caltrain train, and headed from United Nations Plaza, down a few blocks on Market Street and then to Civic Center Plaza. The procession also included a brass quartet and dozens of transit advocates.
An earlier rally took place at the 19th Street BART station in downtown Oakland.
Advocates are calling on the state legislature and Gov. Gavin Newsom to include $5 billion in the state budget that will go towards funding transit agencies statewide before they fall off of what has been called a “fiscal cliff.” Funds would be spread over five years to help with operating costs, including for Bay Area transit agencies such as BART and the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which operates Muni.
Newsom’s May budget revision did not include funding support for public transit operations, but the state is facing its own nearly $32 billion budget deficit.
The SFMTA is facing a $130 million budget deficit at the start of the 2025 fiscal year. Transit officials have warned they may have to cut 20 Muni routes if the budget gap is not filled. BART is facing a $78 million budget deficit in 2025 with passengers facing the possibility of trains running once an hour, ending train service at 9 p.m. on weeknights and no weekend train service.
“I can’t imagine what it would be like to potentially lose several dozen Muni bus lines. It’s not conceivable and we must not let it happen, said state Sen. Scott Wiener, who has been advocating for months for the state to save the transit systems and attended Saturday’s rally. “It cannot happen, and we will not let this happen.”
Wiener and transit agencies have supported using cap-and-trade funds unprogrammed funds for highways to aid transit agencies. He said he did not support the idea of using transit capital funding for operations.
Speakers said the cuts to Muni service would have devastating impacts to those who are dependent on public transit.
“If the state doesn’t step in to fund essential transit for everyday people, we will face drastic service cuts that we’ve heard about today that harms transit dependent community members,” said Nayeli Maxson Velazquez, who has been riding Muni her whole life.
Wiener said that both houses in the state legislature want to solve the fiscal cliff. “I am now more optimistic than I was that we will get this solved.”
The SFMTA will wait to plan Muni service cuts to first determine if the state will provide rescue funding and if they can implement evening and Sunday parking meter hours, said Jeffrey Tumlin, the agency’s director of transportation.
He added that the SFMTA will be looking at data and trip patterns to inform future decisions on service.
“More importantly, we know that we need to design any necessary service cuts with the community,” said Tumlin.
All photos and videos by Jerold Chinn.