MTA Board Member Emerges as Riders' Advocate -- and Mayor's Critic

Categories: Public Transit
MTA board members disdained the notion of $5 F-Line rides, among other objections to proposed Muni revenue-generating measures
SF Weekly wrote earlier this week about how transit advocates were dismayed by the Municipal Transportation Agency's efforts to make up the $17 million hole in Muni's budget by slashing services and raising fares -- namely to five bucks a pop on the F-Line.

And yet, at yesterday's MTA Board Meeting, the staff-generated proposals were lambasted by the board members, who tossed up their hands at the notion of $5 F-Line rides and service cuts, and -- in a direct shot at Mayor Gavin Newsom -- demanded a re-introduction of an earlier proposal to generate much-needed cash by extending parking meter hours.

The most forceful of the MTA board members was Bruce Oka, who has emerged as the champion of extended meter hours. Oka moments ago reiterated his position to SF Weekly.

"I say publicly to the occupant of Room 200" -- that'd be Newsom -- "If he doesn't want parking meters' hours extended, then he's got to pony up some money," says Oka. "I don't think he's got any money to pony up. So I don't think he's got a choice. Every [idea] has to be on the table at this point. It's not there for us to keep raising fares and reducing services. I will not stand for that anymore. We are not getting the bang for the buck we should be. Until I'm convinced we are, I will not support fare increases of any kind." 

bruce oka.jpeg
Bruce Oka
Instead of raising fares, Oka said he felt at least three of the MTA Board's seven members were ready to vote for extending parking meter hours and/or enforcing the meters on Sundays. "We need one more vote," he said. Oka also bemoaned the loss of tens of millions in Muni money via fare-evaders and the pending layoffs of parking control officers.

While the mayor's stated opposition to extending parking meter hours obviously hasn't led Oka to censor himself, the board member said he felt it did lead MTA staff to not even consider including meter hours in the suggestions staff pitched to the board yesterday. The mayor still appoints every member of the MTA board -- and Oka claimed that several of his colleagues "don't want to bump the mayor."

That doesn't appear to be a concern for Oka, however, who said that if he doesn't get re-appointed to the board in 2012 -- then so be it.

"When the mayor appointed me, I told him that if he wanted somebody who would go along with what he wants every single time, I'm not the man for the job," said the board member. "He gave me free reign, as long as I supported his general agenda -- which I do, by the way. I think he's doing the best that he can. I wish he could do better. But I'm not afraid of losing my seat.

"If push comes to shove, if we have a chance to do so, we should tell the mayor what we want," continued Oka. "What we want would be better for the city than what the mayor wants. I don't presume to know more than the mayor. But I have been around here for a lot longer than the mayor has. I've seen every part of Muni. I don't know that he has. I really don't know that he has."

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