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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Muni: Where Is the Money Going?

Posted By on Thu, Mar 24, 2011 at 1:24 PM

click to enlarge Next stop: Central Subway
  • Next stop: Central Subway

Anyone who relies on Muni to get around town is already intimately familiar with its drawbacks -- late trains and questionable mechanics.

And then there's scary factor -- stabbings, robberies, and crashing buses -- we're not being melodramatic.

So we ask: How much is the financially strapped agency investing in these perennial problems?

Not as much as it could or should be, according to, a local transit advocacy group.

The transit gadflies have done their homework, concluding that too much of Muni's capital dollars are being funneled into the Central Subway project.

Well, $600 million to be exact.

Keep in mind, this group is opposed to every nail that's going into the Central Subway boondoggle -- the city's cherished transit project that will connect downtown and Chinatown.

But when the news recently hit that the California Public Utilities Commission was threatening to fine the transit agency for its shoddy safety practices and overall neglect, well, that just fueled the anti-Central Subway fire.

After that, members of started sifting though the transit agency's own documents drawing this conclusion: Over the last two years, $600 million was shifted away from Muni's pot of money for regular maintenance and much-needed public safety. That money went right into the budget for Central Subway, which needed the financial leverage to pull in matching funds from the federal government. 

"That's money that could be used for any number of issues that's plagued Muni recently," Howard Wong, spokesman for told SF Weekly.

The group is holding a community meeting on Monday -- with flowcharts and all -- to detail  the blow-by-blow of how this money was moved and why. BART Director Tom Radulovich is supposed to make an appearance.

Wong said that the group's analysis will show, among other things, that Muni will rack up operating and maintenance deficits of $1.6 billion over the next 20 years. And knowing that, they have one question for Mayor Ed Lee: How will the city bridge those gaps?

" will press the mayor to justify spending $1.58 billion on a subway that will attract only 5,000 news riders a day," the group said in a statement.

Paul Rose, Muni's spokesman, justified the cost. He said the $600 million is coming directly from voter-approved funds that were specifically allocated for Central Subway. In other words, he said, that money cannot be used for anything else.

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About The Author

Erin Sherbert

Erin Sherbert

Erin Sherbert was the Online News Editor for SF Weekly from 2010 to 2015. She's a Texas native and has a closet full of cowboy boots to prove it.


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