Alan Greenblatt is a GOVERNING correspondent.E-mail: email@example.com
Gavin Newsom has finally found a place to put the homeless. The San Francisco mayor wants his local bus system to offer free rides to all passengers.
Newsom has flirted with London's idea of congestion pricing -- charging people extra to drive in the most crowded parts of town. Presumably getting people out of their cars is a big motivation for offering free transit rides, but you would hardly know it from this San Francisco Chronicle story.
Instead, the story quotes Newsom at some length claiming that the loss of fare income would be offset by the elimination of the costs of maintaining fare boxes, having to count the money and maintaining a squad of fare-cheat investigators.
Muni fare collections are below the national average in terms of percentage of total revenue. Still, it's unlikely that this is a break-even deal. Newsom will have to make sure the anti-traffic angle gets played up more if he really wants this idea to fly.
Another issue is raised by the Chronicle's "person on the street" source, Margaret Cliver, a Mission District resident who commutes by bus. She worries about overcrowding, as already occurs on Bay Area transit systems during free ride "Spare the Air" days.
Cliver is clearly not a come one, come all sort.
"Gavin Newsom must have taken a leave of his senses to even consider this," she told the paper. "Muni is already overloaded with stinky crazies, loud-mouth-behaved louts and other zoological forms of low life. The day it becomes entirely free, it will become a dumpster on wheels, and I, along with the rest of those who currently attempt to use the system, will give up on it entirely."
Written and compiled by staff writers and editors, GOVERNING View is an on-the-ground, and sometimes behind-the-scenes, look at the topics we're covering in print and online. From notes on what's up in statehouses, county courthouses and city halls, to encounters with people, places and things, GOVERNING View is a window into the side of state and local government you don't always see.