Annual Cost = $1.3 Million
The head of public information for the SF Municipal Transportation Agency, the folks who oversee our Muni transit system, responded last week to my sunshine law request for public documents and numbers related to cost-free passes issued by the agency.
Not including any police officer or firefighters or any employees of the other public safety agencies and religious institution on the list of uniformed workers allowed free travel, the number of passes distributed on a monthly basis is 2,481. That figure represents dependents of Muni employees, 1768, and retirees, 713.
Assuming that all of the passes were at the monthly adult rate of $45, the lost revenue to Muni was $111,645.
Further assuming the number of passes is stable at 2,481 for a one-year period, the total for lost revenue comes to $1,339,740.
That's a lot of money that could be going toward maintaining a semi-decent public transportation system. Muni riders need to be made aware of these figures and a debate started on whether the transit agency is too generous with who gets a monthly free ride.
I spoke with Kristen Holland of the SF MTA and she said they lack an estimate of how many uniformed workers take advantage of their ability to travel free on Muni.
She also clarified for me why the Sisters of Charity are on the list. First, that is not the religious order founded by Mother Teresa. And secondly, the Sisters of Charity have received cost-free travel since the great cholera epidemic of the 19th century. (Sounds very much like they were "grandmothered in" from back in the day.)
Here's the information I received:
Dear Mr. Petrelis,These are the figures in response to my sunshine request:
Please find below the responses to your inquiries dated August 11, 2008.
Responses to the specific questions are included in the text below. Attached is the list of the active Free Issues.
Please contact Kristen Holland, cc’ed here, if you have any questions next week. I’ll be back in the office on September 3.
Petrelis Question: What is the exact number of lifetime passes currently active allowing free transportation on the Muni system?
SF MTA Answer: One.
Petrelis Question: I want to know the number of lifetime passes issued, for the years 2006, 2007 and thus far for 2008.
SF MTA Answer: Only one active.
Petrelis Question: Also, what are the names of the individuals enjoying this privilege, their job titles within the Muni system, or other city agencies, if they work for Muni or the city government, and reasons explaining why they are issued a lifetime pass.
SFMTA Answer: Ben Beckman, Former Operations Manager for DPT. Pass approved by the SFMTA Board.
Petrelis Question: I also want to know the precise figure for number of monthly or weekly passes allowing cost-free travel on Muni, distributed during 2007 and so far in 2008, and in a month-by-month format.
SFMTA Answer: We only maintain the active file (attached as excel spreadsheet). [Contact me if you would like a copy of the spreadsheet. -michael]
Petrelis Question: As with the lifetime passes, I'm requesting the names, Muni job titles, and explanation why they're entitled to this no-cost courtesy on a monthly or weekly basis.
SF MTA Answer: We don’t have specific names of individuals receiving the free issues or free rides. Below is the “FREE RIDES” list that includes any of the following individuals in uniform and/or displaying a valid identification.
1. San Francisco Police Officers
2. Probation Officers/Juvenile Counselors
3. Office of Citizen Complaints
5. Patrol Special Police
6. Current SFMTA Employees
7. Deputy Sheriffs
8. Other Peace Officers
9. Sisters of Charity
TOTAL NUMBER OF DEPENDENT STICKERS ISSUED FOR 2008 (Mailed out November 2007): 1768
Please note: We do not track the number of dependent stickers (passes) by year. We only track how many we sent out by last count. Dependent stickers are available to SFMTA Operators per their contract.
Total Number of Retiree Stickers Issued for 2007 which included (86) new requests (Mailed out November 2006): 673
Total Number of Retiree Stickers Issued for 2008 which included (40) new requests (Mailed out November 2007): 713
The number for retiree stickers (passes) also changes since it depends on when the person retires.