Muni drivers and riders took to the streets of San Francisco Monday night and marched on city hall against the latest Municipal Transportation Authority’s budget cuts.
“Muni workers and riders are under attack,” said Frank Lara, a member of Mission-based organization A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition, which organizes Bay Area demonstrations for everything from Muni policy to the war in Iraq.
His organization was there to speak out against the transit reductions in the Mission and support Muni drivers against the MTA, he said.
“People see three or four 14’s full of people that pass them – even before the service cuts,” Lara said of the overcrowded 14-Mission buses. “You go out to 24th and Mission and it’s a mess.”
He added that the gathering of nearly 300 Monday night was also organized to band drivers and riders together against the MTA.
“The MTA has consistently tried to get the public to blame the drivers for the service cuts,” Lara said speaking of the MTA’s pressure on the driver’s union to forgo their $8 million pay increase next year. “Cutting worker’s salaries isn’t the issue.”
The MTA board has said that stalling the drivers’ pay hike could have helped bridge the current year’s budget deficit.
Irwin Lum, president of Transit Workers 250-A, which represents Muni drivers, was marching with the protesters.
He said he was going to be working with city Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi on auditing the MTA.
Lara voiced cutting MTA administration salaries as a viable solution to their budget deficit and denounced extending parking meter hours – a solution the MTA board has praised.
“The city claims to be helping small businesses, this will destroy them,” he said of the opposition he’s heard from Mission businesses over the issue.
Supervisor Mirkarimi visited with the protestors and showed his support.
“I’ve called for a management audit of the MTA,” Mirkarimi said. “I’m making it very clear that I will reject the MTA budget if they approve any fare changes.”
The MTA Board of Directors approved 10 percent in service reductions last Friday and voted against raising Muni-only fast passes for youth, seniors and disabled to $30.
However, the board voted in favor of a $10 premium fast pass increase for the same group of riders.
The city Board of Supervisors will need to approve the fare increase on April 1 and the MTA has until May 1 to produce a balanced budget.
Earlier version had A.N.S.W.E.R. supporting a boycott. Corrected, Editor’s error.