Guest opinion: Free Muni for all youth


On Tuesday, April 3, the Municipal Transportation Agency board faces a decision between providing free Muni passes for all San Francisco youth or providing free passes to only low-income youth. ComMunity advocates and Sup. David Campos have identified the funding. We are calling on the MTA board to take this opportunity to invest in a new generation of transit riders by establishing free Muni for ALL youth.

The movement to win free Muni passes for youth originated from cuts of between 40 percent and 100 percent to yellow school busses over the next two years.  As a society, we have responsibility to make sure youth can access free public education — and as a city we have a responsibility to get kids to school even as state funding is eliminated.

Right now 60 percent of all trips in San Francisco are taken by car, and for years we have not seen a huge change in transit mode share. If San Francisco wants to meet our climate objectives, we need to take steps now to encourage young people to get out of their cars.  In New York City, a program of free transit passes for youth has created generations of loyal transit riders. In order to truly become a transit-first city, we need to do the same here.

While the struggle to afford bus fare is obviously a larger challenge for very low-income families, due to the high cost of living in the city, there are many working-class and middle-income families who also struggle with the costs of transit for their children. The costs of housing, food, healthcare, and transit add up quickly for San Francisco families and have all contributed to a crisis of family flight out of San Francisco.

San Francisco currently has the smallest child population of any major U.S. city. While this is complex problem, requiring a huge investment in affordable housing and a strategy to bring more working-class jobs to the city, by establishing free Muni for all youth the city can take a very concrete step forward towards making the city more family friendly. Thousands of families would benefit from an extremely modest investment of $8.7 million a year.

The low-income youth and parents who have been at the forefront of this movement advocating for the free youth passes are nervous about their own ability to access a low-income-only pass because of the bureaucratic challenges they experience trying to apply to other government programs. The Muni Lifeline pass for low-income adults is very hard to access, requiring applicants to wait for hours during a weekday at the Human Service Agency headquarters.

The Federal Free School Lunch Program requires parents to provide documentation of income level. Using a means test would be difficult and costly to administer and could exclude some low-income young people — especially those from undocumented families and the children of parents who work in the informal economy. San Francisco should not create paperwork barriers that will prevent our young people from getting to school.

The documentation required now to get youth clipper cards prevents many families from getting them. Immigrant families who do not have copies of all their birth certificates are prevented from getting youth passes when they encounter difficulties getting birth records from their native countries.

With all of those factors, it just makes sense to make Muni free for all youth.

Jane Martin is an organizer with People Organized to Win Employment Rights (POWER).


fierce debate over trying for force us to feed meters on Sunday.

I'm OK with kids getting discounted fares, which they already do. But everyone should pay something. Muni isn't a charity.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 02, 2012 @ 11:38 am

We need a transit agency that puts its riders first. We don't have that.

Posted by Troll II on Apr. 02, 2012 @ 12:13 pm

Meaning they don't pay taxes at any level but maybe sales tax.

Again the social contract according to the Guardian world view is a one way street.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 02, 2012 @ 12:32 pm

Why is this so complicated. Instead of advocating for free passes for kids which may or may not have merit, how about a little journalism as the where Muni is being leveraged to underwrite the general fund which is likely a violation of the City Charter. You can start with SFPD...

Journalism please...

Posted by Guest on Apr. 02, 2012 @ 1:02 pm

Muni could instead hire their own police force, like BARt does. But either way, they have to pay for security.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 02, 2012 @ 1:53 pm

Yes, in some cases but Muni is paying for SFPD funeral processions, standard speeding ticket writing etc.

Again - journalism please.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 02, 2012 @ 2:06 pm

each other for services rendered. Muni is policied by SFPD (other than fare evasion) and so has to pay. If they don't like it, then they can hire their own cops.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 02, 2012 @ 2:15 pm

You obviously don't know how to read - I'll move on...

Posted by Guest on Apr. 02, 2012 @ 8:51 pm

Free MUNI for Youth, supporting children's right to education, to mobility, to participating in internships, going to museums, libraries, parks is an investment in the future of San Francisco future. Getting kicked off buses for not having bus fare is unfair for the youth, for passengers watching helplessly, and for bus drivers trying to make their routes more efficiently. I support this program wholeheartedly and San Francisco will see the benefits from this program tenfold.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 02, 2012 @ 2:45 pm

nobody need ever pay for everything because, er, well, I guess someone has to pay but let's get high anyway.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 02, 2012 @ 3:01 pm

4:20 mang!

Posted by marke on Apr. 02, 2012 @ 3:50 pm

San Francisco has the smallest child population of ANY major city in the US. That's astounding. I know so many SF natives who want to raise their children here, but plain and simple, they cannot afford it.

It's so good to see something positive moving forward forward for families and for the environment.

Much appreciation to all the youth, organizations, and political leaders who are fighting to make SF a leader in civil rights and transit for the masses.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 02, 2012 @ 4:21 pm

It's obviously all part of a giant right-wing conpsiracy. Everywhere should be equally affordable whether desirable or a ghetto, right?

Posted by Guest on Apr. 02, 2012 @ 4:53 pm

When the youth MUNI effort evolved from "students" to "youth", and from reduced fare to free, forgotten were the students who turn 18 in their senior year. Often from working class families, they suddenly have to pay full fare although they are full-time students. Meanwhile, the "free fares for youth" effort is expanded to include kids of well-off parents. Nothing against them but in an era of limits, the students who remain in school to graduate should not be penalized and have to pay full fare when others who can afford it pay nothing.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 02, 2012 @ 6:15 pm

Muni has trouble making standards for free Muni that have too many moving parts or relies on overly complicated means of verification.

Posted by marcos on Apr. 02, 2012 @ 8:31 pm

School kids have bicycles and they should be riding them to school. The city has installed all of these wonderful bike lanes but you never see young people using them to get themselves to school. When I went to Jr. and senior high school here in San Francisco I rode my bike to school almost everyday. At that time there were no bike lanes or for that matter no bike helmets! It's as if kids have given up on bikes as a form of transportation. Biking to school would also be a great way to get kids to stay in shape and be very GREEN doing it. A true Win, Win situation!

Posted by Guest on Apr. 02, 2012 @ 6:46 pm

There's no way people drive 60% of the time. Only fools drive in this city unless it's an absolute necesity - like to get to work, which is the only reason to own a car in this city anyway.

Additionally, you can clearly see the number of gas stations that have went out of business in during the past 5 years that people drive a good deal less than they used to. Further,even with the population up - the number of cars registared in this town are down.

The fact is that as drivers, the fines we pay pay to park have double sinse 2009, in addition to the 20 dollar additional fee we pay on top of that to registar a car in the city - someone has got to pay for the roads in this town. Appartenly the cyclist and Muni feel no obligation to do so.

It's time Muni either found out how to live within their means just as many of us has been forced to do over the past few years.

Further, the discounts given to youths and senior are already very low - I have heard zero complaints about the cost of Muni for these services.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 03, 2012 @ 9:32 am

people who drive into SF from outside. I still prefer to drive in SF because it is quicker, more convenient, safer and because I don't have to deal with "other people". I can sit back with my coffee, my mood music, my AC and ignore all the crazies out there.

It's often cheaper too.

I'm opposed to any more subsidies for Muni until it delivers a service my family actually want to use.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 03, 2012 @ 10:20 am

When not have students show their student ID card to get the fare. How much will this cost, why not get some of the schools to pitch in. San Francsico is getting more and more of headache to those who drive or visit. People who drive into the city are the most likely to use MUNI. The last time i checked MUNI doesn't cover large parts of the Bay Area. BART, Caltrain, AC, Samtrans and etc will be the most likely way to come into city. VTA doesn't go to San Francsico nor does MUNI go to San Jose.

Posted by garrett on Apr. 03, 2012 @ 1:20 pm

I support the free ride to youth up to 12 years old. For the kids between 13 to 18, they shall get discount price. Why" For kids in these age, they start to learn how to manage their life, include their own finance, and start to learn the responsibility for being a citizen in each community. Nothing is coming for free. They need to learn how to evaluate their priority and learn how to choose. If everything is given, they will never be able to learn.
When I was in the high school, my parent gave me $5 a day to spend. I use it on the lunch(yes, my school did not offer free lunch), snacks and transportation. I walked 30 minutes to the school twice a week so I could buy a coke in the summer. That is how I learn how to use my expenses.

Posted by sfengine on Apr. 03, 2012 @ 7:11 pm

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