Youth Bus Pass Press Conference and Vote at MTC - July 11 10 am 390 Main St, S.F.
A key vote at the July 11 meeting of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) will determine whether low-income San Francisco youth will be able to get to school free next year. Youth and community leaders from around the Bay Area will converge at the meeting to urge the Commission to make youth a priority and approve the last of the funds needed to make San Francisco’s pilot Free Youth Pass program a reality. The Free MUNI Muni for Youth Coalition will hold a press conference Wednesday, July 11 at 10 a.m. at 390 Main St., San Francisco; MTC’s Planning and Allocations Committee is scheduled to discuss the Youth Pass funding at 10:45 on the first floor.
“A well-resourced, successful pilot program in San Francisco would provide much-needed relief for struggling families in the city, and would set an example for other cities as well,” said Maria Poblet, Executive Director of Causa Justa::Just Cause. “The low-income families we work with in Oakland are hopeful that a fully funded, well developed program would demonstrate viability, and inform similar efforts around the region. To underfund this program would be a setback for all of us,” Poblet said.
The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) has allocated $4.3 million to support the pilot Free Youth Pass, and the Board of Supervisors (acting as the County Transportation Authority) has approved another $400,000. But the project will need another $5 million from the MTC to get off the ground.
The MTC has the funds available through its Climate Initiative Program—and other programs serving far fewer people at greater cost have been approved with far less debate.
“In May, the MTC approved $18 million for a new ferry between Alameda and South San Francisco because the MTC believes investing in future public transit ridership,” said Leah LaCroix, San Francisco Youth Commission President. “The public is subsidizing this ferry, for which Genentech and other biotech companies campaigned, to the tune of $47 per ride. We are hopeful that the MTC will support our comparatively modest $5 million funding request that would benefit low-income San Francisco youth—and which amounts to a subsidy of only $2.86 per ride,” LaCroix said.
The Commission’s Planning and Allocations Committee deadlocked on the Youth Pass funding June 13, and directed staff to bring more information to the July 11 meeting. The Commission will also consider two other funding scenarios: splitting the available moneys between San Francisco, Santa Clara and Alameda Counties, and studying a region-wide reduced-fare program that might be implemented next year.
Even the MTC staff report acknowledges that “the San Francisco program has benefited from extensive public debate and vetting.” To Free Muni for Youth backers, the hastily drafted alternative proposals appear to be mere efforts to appear supportive while undermining real action.
“This is a transparent attempt to get us all scrambling for a few crumbs,” said Angelina Yu with the Chinatown-based Adopt-an-Alleyway youth organization. “By design, pilot programs are always specific to one county, and their results inform the whole region. The effect of all these commissioners suddenly jumping up with their own ‘me too’ proposals is to water down this small pot of funding to the point where none of us can do what needs to done,” Yu said.
San Francisco’s Free Muni for Youth proposal has received strong support from city elected officials and policymakers, including Mayor Edwin Lee, the Board of Supervisors and Board of Education, the SFMTA Board, more than 7,400 bus riders, and 30 community organizations from across the Bay Area. The program is on track to launch in time for the coming school year, pending the climate initiative funding from the MTC. If the program funding is approved at the committee vote this Wednesday, it will then go before the full MTC, most likely at its regular meeting July 25.
Youth organizations from neighboring counties are also weighing in on behalf of the San Francisco project. In an emphatic letter to Marin County Supervisor Steve Kinsey, who sits on the MTC, the Marin County Youth Commission urged the MTC to fully fund Free Muni For Youth. “A pilot program such as this could function as a model for other counties in the Bay Area and eventually contribute to a regional program of providing low-income youth with free public transportation,” the Commission wrote.
WHO: young people and community leaders from around the Bay Area supporting San Francisco’s pilot Free MUNI for Youth program
WHAT: Press conference, key MTC vote on funding for Free MUNI pilot
WHEN: Wednesday, July 11. Press conference 10 a.m., MTC committee meeting on funding scheduled for 10:45
WHERE: at location of MTC meeting, 390 Main St., San Francisco (between Folsom and Harrison). Press conference in front, meeting inside on first floor