Historic Day for Youth, Seniors and Bus Riders with Disabilities in San Francisco
In a unanimous vote, the SFMTA approved a budget for 2015–2016 that prioritizes the needs of low and moderate-income youth, families, seniors and people with disabilities.
The new budget ratifies the continuation of the Free Muni for Youth program, and expands the program to include 18 year olds. The MTA Board also removed all “pilot” language from the youth pass program, and passed a resolution that expresses the MTA commitment to continuing Free Muni for Youth as an on-going program far into the future.
“Free Muni for Youth is a very important program that has helped low-income families like mine struggling with the high cost of living in San Francisco,” said Violet Vasquez with POWER. “The youth pass program is an overwhelming success—and we are so happy to see this move from a pilot to a permanent program.”
“The Free Muni for Low and Moderate Income Youth program has made a significant difference in the lives of thousands of San Francisco’s working families and we commend the MTA Board for extending the program to include 18 year olds,” said Supervisor David Campos, who has been championing Free MUNI for Youth for the past three years. “We are also hopeful that Free Muni for Seniors and People with Disabilities will become a reality. In the midst of this affordability crisis, we know that low and moderate income families, youth, seniors and people with disabilities are struggling more than ever, and making public transportation affordable and accessible is one step towards alleviating some of the financial stress people are experiencing.”
“The MTA's institutional commitment to the Free MUNI for Youth program--especially now with the inclusion of 18 year olds--will help youth access every corner of San Francisco for years to come,” said Nicholas Persky, Chair of the San Francisco Youth Commission. “MUNI's leadership on transit equity has set the bar for other transit agencies throughout the nation.”
“The inclusion of 18 year olds in the Free MUNI for Youth program was a much-needed step in ensuring the program truly meets the needs of low and moderate income students,” said Shining Yu of Chinatown CDC. “Students should not struggle to pay $66 a month because they turn 18 early in the school year. MTA’s decision to extend the program to 18 year-olds will benefit over 2,400 young people.”
"MTA did the right thing in expanding the free Muni program to 18 year olds. We are troubled that they did not do the same for seniors, especially with a $15 million surplus. Every one of our 1,000 members has made it a priority to hold SFMTA to its word that this will indeed be a priority going forward,” said Wing Hoo Leung, President of Community Tenants Association. “The affordability crisis is not waiting, it is upon us and we need to address it.”
Betty Traynor, Chair of the Board of Senior and Disability Action commented: “We will keep building and growing to make sure that low and moderate-income seniors and people with disabilities get Free Muni in January. We must create a city where seniors and people with disabilities are not isolated in their homes, but rather have access to this great city.”
With a growing economic divide in San Francisco, access to public transportation has increasingly risen as a key issue throughout the city, particularly for transit dependent communities. "This movement for transit justice is not only winning real transit benefits for transit dependent communities, immigrant, youth, low-income people, but also is the key for getting Muni the future funding that it needs, said Bob Allen of Urban Habitat.
Free Muni for Youth was further strengthened earlier this year when Google agreed to donate $6.8 million to support the continuation of the program over the next two years. The Google donation comes in the context of a growing movement against displacement and calls for technology companies to address their impact on low-income communities in San Francisco.