Why free Muni for youth makes sense


Supervisor Scott Wiener has gone out of his way to dis the plan to let kids ride Muni for free. His oped in the Chron April 9 argued that the city just doesn't have the money ($8 million):

We need to increase access to transportation for low-income youth, but a new and expensive obligation for Muni - at a time when Muni cannot pay for its basic operational needs and is expanding parking meters and increasing parking fines - is a bad idea.

But that misses the point -- and People Organized to Win Employment Rights is mounting a petition campaign to get Wiener back on track.

The Municipal Transportation Agency, which oversees Muni, failed to approve the plan the first time around, but the vote was tied with Commission Chair Tom Nolan absent, so it's still possible to move it forward. And on April 17, Sup. David Campos, who proposed the plan, and his allies will try again.

Yes, Muni is (perpetually) broke, and yes, deficits and cuts mean declines in service. But Campos has identified money to pay for the program without damaging operating and maintenance funds. Oh, and the parking meters get dragged in again:

The understandable public perception is that Muni is expanding parking meters to Sundays, adding new meters, and raising ticket prices not to pay for improvements to the system but rather to fund free Muni for all youth, even those who don't need the subsidy.

And the problem with that is ... what? People with cars ought to subsidize transit riders -- young, old and everything in between. It's really not that expensive to park at a meter in San Francisco, and now that most of them take credit cards, you don't have to carry $5 in quarters around with you. I drive a car myself, to ferry my kids around. I have no sympathy for people who pay to have a large motor vehicle in a transit-first city and don't want to pay for the impacts.

(Besides, what are all those religious people complaining about -- nobody pays to park for Sunday church anyway. They just park in the middle of the street.)

But put all of that aside for a minute and think about this: San Francisco spends all kinds of money, directly and indirectly, trying to convince people to ride Muni instead of driving. And one of the best ways to get new riders is to get kids started as transit users as soon as their parents decide they're old enough to get on the bus.

For us, that was sixth grade, when we bought my son a clipper card and told him we weren't leaving work early to pick him up (in the car) after school any more. I showed him how to find the Muni map on the web, showed him how to connect to NextBus on his phone, gave him a pat on the head (not really) and sent him off to explore the wonders of San Francisco public transit. It's worked like a charm: He takes the bus to his martial arts class, takes the bus to Cards and Comics to buy Magic Cards, takes the bus to the mall and to visit friends ... and now he knows more about the system than I do. He can navigate on his own anywhere in town -- and he loves it. It's freedom. Suburban kids have to wait until they're 16 and can get a driver's license to even begin to get that sense that they don't need parents in tow to go where they want to go.

Most of the teenagers I know in this city don't bother to learn to drive any more. They bike and they take the bus. That's a wonderful thing -- and San Francisco should do everything possible to encourage it.

And a great way to start is to invest a modest amount of money -- less than one percent of Muni's budget -- in training kids that the way to travel is by bus and train. Make it easy; make it free. Hell, half the middle-school kids who ride Muni never pay the fare anyway; they go in the back door and pocket the money that their parents gave them for bus fare so they can buy something they aren't supposed to have. It's the way of the world.

This isn't just a subsidy for kids who can't afford Muni, although that's a great thing and I'm all in favor. It's an investment in the future, a cheap step toward a future day when turning 16 isn't all about going to the DMV, and travel doesn't mean car travel -- and the streets of San Francisco are cleaner, safer, less crowded and better for all of us. Isn't that worth the money?

Come on, Tom Nolan; you're the swing vote. Make this happen.




It is all good to ride MUNI when you are a kid, there is that sense of freedom. However, Tim, you pointed out that you in fact drive a car to pick up your kid etc. the reality is that once you have access to a car, taking MUNI becomes a second choice.

I myself grew up in the city and rode Muni by myself from the 3rd grade. Once I got access and the means to drive a car, my MUNI riding days were over, except for the occasional trip downtown etc.

You are dreaming if you think getting a kid to ride MUNI now will encourage them to not drive in the future when they are an adult. If anything, it will make them a driver even quicker.

Scott is right, at this point we just can't afford this little gesture. Honestly, yours was the first semi-coherent article I have seen with actual thought out reasons to do this. Campos just seems to be pandering.

Posted by D. native on Apr. 13, 2012 @ 6:45 pm

I agree it's a laudable program but where should the cash come from? Sunday meters only raise $2 million. Raise everyone else's fares? Cut service?

Posted by Guest on Apr. 13, 2012 @ 7:06 pm

I believe that there are benefits to opting for the free rides for youth move, and while most of it is intangible and might not be seen in the short run, it is something that should be worked towards.

Posted by Thomas on Jul. 11, 2012 @ 5:23 pm

This guy Wiener is already running for mayor, in case no one has noticed. He's only one supervisor but I sense he thinks he's more than that and he has his conservative agenda. I don't remember Dufty getting the amount of media coverage that this guy gets. He seems to get more media coverage than Mayor Pak-Brown-Lee, and usually what Wiener's for is something in the wrong direction. He's a "conservative" posing as a "moderate" (but it sounds better to call yourself a "moderate" around here. The word "moderate" is less offensive to many here than "conservative"). The Castro which bears little resemblance to what it used to be in the days of Milk, elected this guy Wiener. That shows one how much the neighborhood has moved to the right, if those who voted for Wiener knew who and what they were voting for when they voted for this guy.

Maybe instead of blowing much-needed city money on this upcoming yacht race for the 1%, that money could be better used to pay for free Muni for children who live here. But no, this "new" city would prefer to help the corporatist 1% and so would Wiener.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 13, 2012 @ 8:51 pm

Some people in SF are totally out of touch. First you claim that Scott is a conservative- yeah I am sure him and Santorum have so many policy positions in common. Then you try to claim that the Castro has moved so far to the right. I just shows that some people in SF are completely out of touch and are living in a bubble and have no idea of what is happening in the real world.

Posted by D. native on Apr. 13, 2012 @ 10:22 pm

Ridiculous Dnative. You just got slapped in the face with a cold scaley fish and you react by chortling about how you've pulled that very coup on others.

Posted by lillipublicans on Apr. 14, 2012 @ 2:12 am

Try debating me on the content of what I just posted instead of little statements that have no substance.

Posted by D. native on Apr. 14, 2012 @ 7:03 am

I think the point being made was made that Harvey Milk could never get elected nowadays. There is a difference between fiscal "conservative" -- which I put in quotes because it is a misnomer (reactionary is more appropriate) -- and social "conservative." Your substitution of one for the other may help your rhetoric flow, but it is without value and not meritorious of consideration.

Posted by lillipublicans on Apr. 16, 2012 @ 12:31 pm

The original poster made no distinction and throws around terms without defining them.

Posted by DNative on Apr. 16, 2012 @ 1:11 pm

Wiener got elected by talking to every voter in D8 over the period of two years leading up to 2010 more so than on conservative policies. Wiener lost 2 out of 3 at his first outing at the ballot box, failing on measures E and F, the former by 2:1.

His major legislative success has been butt towels.

While Scott is a personable one on one campaigner, he is unaware that he is politically tone deaf:

- Hating children through opposing free Muni for youth

- Hating the westside conservative base that he will need to win if he runs citywide by associating with the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence

- Hating on the voters with Prop E

Posted by marcos on Apr. 16, 2012 @ 1:32 pm

Adding to that...
He also voted for: SFPD/FBI's ability to spy on SF residents.
He campaigned for Prop L/Sit-Lie (criminalizing homelessness).
He's responsible for "Sit-Lie II" (anti-homeless/streepeople legislation for Warner/Milk Plazas).

Posted by Guest on Apr. 16, 2012 @ 8:02 pm

Anti- homeless- it is anti-thug. It was passed in response to a real problem out in the Haight.

Posted by DNative on Apr. 17, 2012 @ 7:29 am

because homeless people have to sit and lie down and don't have any other place to do it. That's pretty much the definition of homelessness.

And "thugs?" Describe the relative merits and drawbacks of the Haight all you like, but anything "thuggish" already had a law on the books to address it.

Posted by lillipublicans on Apr. 17, 2012 @ 7:44 am

we will not agree. Peace

Posted by Guest on Apr. 17, 2012 @ 2:52 pm

It wasn't passed in The Haight. It lost in the Haight.

Sit/Lie Lost In Haight, Won In Pac Heights, Seacliff, West of Twin Peaks

Posted by Guest on Apr. 17, 2012 @ 2:33 pm

The so-called "conservatives" were foaming at the mouth with their necks red in favor of sit-lie (which conservative Wiener campaigned on) and writing the most hateful comments about homeless and street people during the campaign for sit-lie. It won in the "conservative" areas of SF. Fortunately, sit-lie is not enforced or only selectively enforced because I see people sitting on the sidewalk all the time.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 17, 2012 @ 5:03 pm

It's only the morally Impotent, criminals, gang-bangers, useless lazy pieces of garbage, worthless bums/moochers and other trash that supported sit/lie. Hard-working, decent, moral, law abiding tax paying American citizens VOTED to rid SF of the toxic disease that has INFESTED SF by voting to implement sit/lie.
Sit/lie is one of the GREATEST laws ever enacted in SF. If you don't like it LEAVE! We don't want you here! Go ruin some other city.
Now those same morally impotent morons want everything free so they can lie around smoking dope, begging for money, stinking up the place, causing TENS OF THOUSANDS of dollars in cleanup costs and repairs per year.
The reason that ILLEGAL ALIEN compost want free muni is because all the illegal alien mexicans look like kids. they're all tiny little creatures and they should be shot on sight.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 17, 2012 @ 10:40 am

Have you been to the Upper Haight lately? Sit-lie has been a complete joke.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 26, 2012 @ 1:18 pm

Just because he wants to be fiscally responsible when we are in a budget crisis? Talk about mud-slinging.

Posted by DNative on Apr. 17, 2012 @ 7:30 am

Who is the hater here? Sounds like marcos. Free muni is a bad idea. It creates a new sense of entitlement - "Muni is a right!" - no it isn't. And just because someone doesn't agree with that statement does not make them a "hater".

Posted by Richmondman on Jul. 26, 2012 @ 11:48 am

"I think the point being made was made that Harvey Milk could never get elected nowadays."

Yes, that was my point. Thank you.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 16, 2012 @ 8:05 pm

Harvey Milk was a populist, not a progressive. He arose out of the Republican Party but got disillusioned with its nascent rightward shift starting after 1964.

Harvey Milk would have more of a chance to win in D8 or citywide than today's current crop of poverty-centered progressives because he was able to translate how machine politics sucked the life out of a city to favor the connected few.

Posted by marcos on Apr. 17, 2012 @ 8:21 am

My partner's mother calls herself a conservative. She's right-wing, but sort-of pro-gay (only because she has a gay son). She's not quite like Santorum and she thinks he's a nut. So for that troll to rush to defend Scott Wiener from being properly described as a conservative and to keep blanketing the site with the Santorum comparison is most disingenuous.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 16, 2012 @ 8:40 pm

How Scott Weiner is truly a conservative. This goes to the point that I have made a few times around here.

Some people in SF are totally out of touch and reactionary. If you are in anyway for being fiscally responsible, look even remotely like you are sort of pro-business, are known to drive a car once in a blue moon, eat meat, even thought about owning a home in SF, or in anyway disagree with the pure thoughts of Tim and the rest of the Bay Guardian mafia, you get labeled a "conservative". This even though you are most likely a pro taxes on the rich, pro-choice, pro- gay rights, pro-tenants rights etc.

Posted by DNative on Apr. 17, 2012 @ 7:37 am

"and the rest of the Bay Guardian mafia..."

Do you normally go on "mafia" sites? I would think that would be below you. Yet you come to this "mafia" site all the time. What does that say about you? Who forces you to come here? You don't have the discipline to stay away? Or is it that no one will argue with The Troll anywhere else?

Posted by Guest on Apr. 17, 2012 @ 4:02 pm

It is much more challenging to go to a news site where I am in the minority. Fun too. If you only associate with people who agree with you,then how do you grow?

Posted by D. native on Apr. 17, 2012 @ 5:01 pm

Lame/Sad response.

So fun to you = dysfunction, and where you can argue with people. "Growing" is not what you're here for and you know that. You're here for dysfunction and to Troll.

I have better things to do with my time than that.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 17, 2012 @ 6:04 pm

So called "conservatives" are economic vandals who will take every opportunity to debase society or otherwise hobble the economy as long as it will put a few more dollars into the hands of those who don't need it: "starve government until its small enough to drown in a bathtub."

Posted by lillipublicans on Apr. 17, 2012 @ 4:31 pm

True. So-called "conservatives" are for the 1% (whether they are part of the 1% themselves or not. Many so-called "conservatives" pretend to be part of the 1%. It's part of "keeping up appearances").

Posted by Guest on Apr. 17, 2012 @ 4:57 pm
Posted by D. native on Apr. 17, 2012 @ 5:02 pm

where everything doesn't pass through the racialist filter.

They are for government responsive to the citizens, not a government that is coercing the citizens to behave in a certain way at every turn, or punishing them with amazingly high fines and fees.

You can lecture all day on what a conservative should be, but as a self appointed "liberal" you are at war with the actual citizens that you loath and yet claim.

Posted by Matlock on Apr. 17, 2012 @ 9:32 pm

"It's really not that expensive to park at a meter in San Francisco, and now that most of them take credit cards, you don't have to carry $5 in quarters around with you."

Posted by Guest on Apr. 13, 2012 @ 9:54 pm

I'm actually surprised that the SFBG is coming out for free Muni rides for SF's richest kids. I would have thought that they would favor a system where rich kids have to pay $10 for a ride. And they also have to wear a big '$' for easy identification.

But I agree with the earlier poster who questions the theory that this program will create lifetime Muni users. That is really dubious.

Posted by Troll on Apr. 13, 2012 @ 10:43 pm

helps his class and hurts those he perceives are the "enemy" class.

There is really no depth to his views - just pure class warfare.

The left always do this - first they stereotype - then they hate.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 14, 2012 @ 6:47 am

Tim just wants to save the 20 bucks a month he is spending on his kids clipper card.

Posted by D. native on Apr. 14, 2012 @ 7:05 am

If bicycles are so great, why are so many Chinese people buying cars now that they can? Most people ride bicycles on warm sunny days. How many of those do we have here? And what about those trips to the store?

If SFMTA wants to help people in outlying neighborhoods with poor public transportation at no expense, they should license more taxis and bring back private jitneys and shuttles. There are a lot of areas of town where it is not practical to run a bus route. Those areas could be better served by a private transportation system that doesn't rely on hauling large groups of people across town to pay for fuel.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 14, 2012 @ 2:46 am

You didn't tell all of the story:

Slowing Demand in China
Auto demand rose 32 percent in 2010 after the government introduced subsidies and rebates to encourage buying, before slowing to 2.5 percent last year after the incentives lapsed. China’s vehicle sales this year will probably miss their 8 percent growth forecast as the slowing economy and rising fuel costs curb buying, Gu Xianghua, deputy secretary general of state-backed CAAM, said on March 20. (Source: Bloomberg Personal Finance, Apr 11, 2012)

I ride my bike nearly every day, even in light rain and whether it's warm or "cold." I'm not one of the "must have perfect weather for me to ride my bike" people.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 14, 2012 @ 4:45 am

except that we don't have the money. But progressives never let that stand in the way of enacting something someone from their increasingly fractious coalition wants!

Posted by Troll II on Apr. 14, 2012 @ 7:21 am

What the Guardian knows about Muni could fit on the head of a pin. The "Free Muni" Plan is dead because the MTC is refusing to pay for it, and rightfully so. Why should the MTC, a regional transit agency, give free rides only to the precious children of SF? They have called BS on this and Campos.

The Guardian isn't an newspaper, it's a pamphlet for the declining left in this town. The print edition is a joke, it rags on SF and says Oakland is cool, and is defending a wife beating liar just because he's progressive. There's nothing you can read here you can't read better somewhere else. minus the middle aged white men.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 14, 2012 @ 9:44 am

Unless Muni has a budget surplus (and it never will, since it's an incompetent agency), this plan is no good. Car drivers shouldn't subsidize free rides. Parking meters already cost too much, parking garages cost too much, parking tickets cost too much, and taxis cost too much. They all cost too much because Muni has an insatiable appetite for revenue.

And the transit-first city goal would be more realistic if we had a world class transit system. Instead we have a third-class transit system. Given the choice of Muni or an alternative (car, taxi, bike, whatever), I'd bet just about ever rider would choose the alternative.

The City should just privatize Muni. It can't possibly be run any worse than it is.

Posted by The Commish on Apr. 15, 2012 @ 2:45 pm

"If I want something, have the people I disapprove of pay for it." Tim perpetually attempts to shroud his many prejudices in reason, but the fabric of his ruse is always transparent.

Posted by Chromefields on Apr. 16, 2012 @ 7:32 am

If there are only 60K kids in SF, and many of those kids are below 5 years old because so many white middle class folks would not dream of raising their precious amidst the dangers of the City, and kids don't start riding alone until they're 11-12 years old, then the number of kids we're talking about is like 20,000.

Out of 700,000 trips a day, worrying about this or even considering it a budget issue is like the hysteria about $60m in operator and maintenance overtime at the MTA. Of that $60m, the extra cost is bounded by the "and a half" aspect of it, $20m because those dollars buy labor at a premium. The true cost of overtime is actually less than that $20m because the first 40 hours fully cover the non-hourly costs of the FTE, benefits etc. The 'and a half' just goes to pure hourly labor.

Since the MTA budget is just under $800m, that $20m goes to make sure that service is covered along the margins. Similarly, the $5m cost for free Muni for youth is an overestimate as well and will realize savings in the out years by paying forward on raising a new generation of transit riders.

Posted by marcos on Apr. 16, 2012 @ 8:25 am

You are guessing that the millions of dollars estimated this will cost MUNI is an overestimate. Despite no actual numbers, figures etc. Then you (and Tim) are again guessing that the kids, once they learn the joys of riding MUNI will keep on riding MUNI into Adult hood. As a kid that grew up riding MUNI, I am so glad I can afford a car. Hate riding MUNI. And there is a good chance those kids will too, so again, your whole premise is a guess.

Posted by DNative on Apr. 16, 2012 @ 10:56 am

The MTA admits that they are guessing as well.

Posted by marcos on Apr. 16, 2012 @ 11:59 am

Over yours. At least they have some basis in facts to go off of.

Posted by DNative on Apr. 16, 2012 @ 1:12 pm

Nope, the MTA said it was a ballpark guess with no numbers to back it up.

Posted by marcos on Apr. 16, 2012 @ 1:42 pm

Sorry not willing to take the risk.

Posted by DNative on Apr. 17, 2012 @ 7:38 am

I'm a SF native, born and raised in the Heart of the Mission. Back when I was a student, I only dreamed of riding the bus for free during school hours. The bus ride was only 25 cents back then. USF gives their students ID cards so they can ride Muni buses for free (I'm sure their tuition pays for that). Nevertheless, why doesn't the city just make it free to ride muni during school hours with a school ID. Wouldn't that solve the 8 Million dollar they don't want to spend on our city youth.

Posted by Guest Lissette on Apr. 16, 2012 @ 8:49 am

what the hell is your point?

Posted by Chromefields on Apr. 16, 2012 @ 10:41 am

The City has a negative budget. $8 million bucks needs to come from somewhere. City fees, i.e for parking, meters, and tickets are already very high. Where would you like this money to come from. What do you propose cutting>

Posted by DNative on Apr. 16, 2012 @ 10:53 am