An advocate for disabled Muni riders speaks against the proposed fare increases for senior and disabled fast passes

En Español

Bob Planthold called the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s proposal to increase Muni fares for seniors and the disabled “a war on seniors.”

“You should be ashamed of yourselves,” Planthold told the agency’s governing board at Friday’s public hearing on the new proposals.

The revenue-generating solutions the MTA has devised to bridge its budget deficit include raising senior, youth, and disabled Fast Passes from $15 to $30 on April 1.

An increase to $25 was initially set to go into effect in May, but because of the MTA’s new round of service reductions and layoffs, the agency has revised the fare and accelerated the timetable.

Planthold said that less than a year ago he was paying $10 for a senior Fast Pass and now the amount he pays could double if this change, along with countless others involving Muni are approved next month.

The atmosphere during the Friday morning hearing ricocheted from somber to heated as dozens of senior citizens and disabled people took the podium to scold the board.

“Some of your riders are going to eat less so they can ride Muni,” said Forrest Schmidt, concerned about the well being of seniors and the disabled since many, “don’t make enough to support themselves anyway.”

Other seniors, such as Jeanne Lynch, became more emotional as they addressed a stoic MTA board.

“What you’re doing to the elderly and disabled in the city is genocide – where did all the money go,” Lynch screamed. “You are making them prisoners in their own home.”

Lynch, 81, who came to San Francisco more than 30 years ago said she depends on Muni to get around, and the proposed $15 increase worries her.

The volatile question of how to shift the negative focus away from riders and put it elsewhere was expressed by citizens as well as officials.

“I never would have a salary like a Muni driver does and I have a graduate degree in counseling,” Patricia Jones said. “You’re putting too much of the burden on riders and not enough on the drivers.”

Muni drivers earn $65,000 to $80,000 a year depending on their experience, according to the SFMTA.

Irwin Lum, spokesman for Transit Workers Union Local 250-A, which represents Muni drivers, defended the drivers.

“The real shift in focus should be toward raising parking meters and permits along with lobbying legislators in Sacramento,” Lum said.

However, the comments from the public kept pushing the issue back to the problems associated with the fare increases on seniors and the disabled.

The increases are the board’s solutions in the face of an additional $16.9 million budget deficit for the current fiscal year, according to the agency.

The Board of Supervisors must approve fare hikes, but its the MTA’s governing board that will vote on the service cutbacks. Those votes will come in mid-February.

“There’s something inconsistent here with the phrase Good Steward,” Planthold said during the last seconds of his remarks. “And you gentlemen, are not Good Stewards.”

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Nick Sucharski

Nick Sucharski is the current transportation reporter for Mission Loc@l.

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