PRESS RELEASE Historic Day for Youth, Seniors and Bus Riders with Disabilities in San Francisco

For immediate release           

April 16, 2014                                                

Contact: Jaron Browne, POWER, 415-377-2822; Angelina Yu, CCDC, 415-735-1862; Carolyn Goossen, Office of Supervisor Campos, 415-370-5621

PRESS RELEASE

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.



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YOUth organizing to institutionalize Free MUNI for Youth (FMFY) by weaving the program into the transit fabric of our city moving forward. Turnout to share your stories about why FMFY, including 18 year olds, matters! Tuesday, April 15th starting at 2:00pm in City Hall Room 400. Public Comment will run late into the afternoon, so come out after your last class!!

YOUth organizing to institutionalize Free MUNI for Youth (FMFY) by weaving the program into the transit fabric of our city moving forward. Turnout to share your stories about why FMFY, including 18 year olds, matters! Tuesday, April 15th starting at 2:00pm in City Hall Room 400. Public Comment will run late into the afternoon, so come out after your last class!!



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On Tuesday, March 4th, 2014, SF youth of all ages came out to City Hall to speak at the MTA Board of Directors meeting. Youth thanked the MTA Board members for #FMFY and spoke about their #FMFYMUNI experiences within the program.

At the same time, our #SFYC #YC #YouthCom Youth Commissioners were also hosting the #FMFYArtAwardCeremony in City Hall. We awarded Amy Luong from Washington High School in the 12-18 y.o. artist category; Jesus Islas from Horace Mann Middle School in the 5-12 y.o. artist category; Ivy Hu from El Dorado Elementary in the 5-12 y.o. artist category; and Karen Melgar from Horace Mann Middle School in the 5-12 y.o. artist category! 

Congratulations #FreeMUNIforYouthartists! Thank you for taking the time to submit your art pieces, and most importantly for expressing your love and experiences on MUNI through art!  



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Free MUNI For Youth Anniversary Ceremony!!!

Free MUNI for Youth One Year Anniversary Ceremony!!

You are invited to join us as we thank and share with the Municipal Transportation Agency (MTA) Board our appreciation for the Free MUNI For Youth Program and how it has impacted us this past year.  On Tuesday, March 4th, we will be meeting outside City Hall, Room 400 after school and giving public comment in the hearing room.  Afterwards, around 5pm, we will head down to City Hall Room 278 for the Anniversary and Art Contest Ceremony!  Please join and support us as we make Free MUNI For Youth permanent and available for 18 year olds!  Contact YC staff member, Allen Lu, for more information:allen.lu@sfgov.org 415-554-6254.

Free MUNI For Youth Art Contest Winners!!

Congratulations to our winners and thank you to all the young people who submitted arts and photos! YCers, Adopt an Alleyway youth, and POWER youth met to review all of the FMFY photo and art contest submissions. (Click hereto check out some photos from Adopt an Alleyway’s photo album.) We are excited to announce that winners have been selected and their works of art are displayed below!

#1 Age 12-18 Category: Amy Luong, George Washington High School

 

#1 Age 5-12 Category: Jesus Islas, Buena Vista Horace Mann 

 

 #2 Age 5-12 Category: Ivy Hu, El Dorado

 

#3 Age 5-12 Category: Karen Melgar, Buena Vista Horace Mann



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A big thank you to Free Muni for Youth from me and all my friends. Pictured are my twin sister and friends participating in the city wide game of tag called “Journey to the End of the Night” that starts at 7 pm and ends at midnight in San Francisco.The motive of the game was to receive a stamp from checkpoints placed all around the city with out getting tagged. The distance between each check point could range from a couple of blocks to a couple of miles, and participants could only travel by foot or public transportation. Thanks to Free Muni, none of us had to worry about fumbling for change that we didn’t have, or having to pay every time we got on the bus like we saw some adult participants doing. Having Free Muni passes allowed us to move efficiently,quickly, and safely  to each check point in the city, no matter how far away it was. That night, I witnessed  San Francisco in a whole new light and visited Clarion Avenue in the Mission District, Patricia’s Green in the FiIlmore and Kite Hill in the Castro; places I had not even known existed prior to that night. I was born and raised in the city, and for the first time in my life, I saw the Painted Ladies and it was all thanks to Free Muni and “Journey”. Free Muni has helped me get to school, practice, home, SAT classes, internships, interviews, award ceremonies,  and like this night, gives me the opportunity to enjoy the city I live in, free of charge. Thank you Free Muni for Youth for allowing me and my friends to have an experience of a life time,  and saving the soles of our shoes,  sore feet, and empty pockets. 
-Alejandra Zapanta-Arroyo, Mission High School Student. 
Photo Taken at 22 stop inbound to the Fillmore District at 16th and Mission Street, 8 pm. On our way to the third check point, Patricia’s Green, in the Fillmore District. 

A big thank you to Free Muni for Youth from me and all my friends. Pictured are my twin sister and friends participating in the city wide game of tag called “Journey to the End of the Night” that starts at 7 pm and ends at midnight in San Francisco.The motive of the game was to receive a stamp from checkpoints placed all around the city with out getting tagged. The distance between each check point could range from a couple of blocks to a couple of miles, and participants could only travel by foot or public transportation. Thanks to Free Muni, none of us had to worry about fumbling for change that we didn’t have, or having to pay every time we got on the bus like we saw some adult participants doing. Having Free Muni passes allowed us to move efficiently,quickly, and safely  to each check point in the city, no matter how far away it was. That night, I witnessed  San Francisco in a whole new light and visited Clarion Avenue in the Mission District, Patricia’s Green in the FiIlmore and Kite Hill in the Castro; places I had not even known existed prior to that night. I was born and raised in the city, and for the first time in my life, I saw the Painted Ladies and it was all thanks to Free Muni and “Journey”. Free Muni has helped me get to school, practice, home, SAT classes, internships, interviews, award ceremonies,  and like this night, gives me the opportunity to enjoy the city I live in, free of charge. Thank you Free Muni for Youth for allowing me and my friends to have an experience of a life time,  and saving the soles of our shoes,  sore feet, and empty pockets. 

-Alejandra Zapanta-Arroyo, Mission High School Student. 

Photo Taken at 22 stop inbound to the Fillmore District at 16th and Mission Street, 8 pm. On our way to the third check point, Patricia’s Green, in the Fillmore District. 



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At the Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013 Board of Supervisors meeting, Supervisor David Campos honored 2 people for their tremendous work on Free Muni for Youth, Kevin Truitt and Martha Vega. “Kevin was raised in public housing near Boston and always excelled in both theater and education. Martha was born and raised in Nicaragua, and left in 1982 due to political turmoil. She has 3 children, two of whom are currently attending college. San Francisco is lucky to have these two.” 

Kevin and Martha pulled all of their resources together at the SFUSD and dedicated countless hours into helping SFUSD students sign up for the FMFY program! 
We know that over 30,000 low and moderate income youth have signed up for the program since it began last March, a staggering success that would literally not have been possible without the efforts of our partners at the San Francisco Unified School District, and in particular, the individual dedication of Associate Superintendent, Kevin Truitt, and member of the Student, Family, and Community Support Department, Martha Vega.!!! 



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A huge thanks to Free Muni for Youth for making my summer the best summer I’ve ever had. I had a house fire two weeks before school ended back in May 2013, and thanks to Free Muni for Youth, I was able to commute downtown for 8 weeks to work at my summer internship. I took the 8x to Balboa Bart every morning and then transferred to take the K all the way to the ball park. I interned at Stumble Upon, a start up company located near AT&T park, and it was definitely an eye opening experience. This was the first time I ever used Muni and public transit, and thanks to Free Muni for Youth, I was able to commute to work and back home safely and it sure did save a ton of money. To this very day, I’m still using my free clipper card to take the 8x to school and back home, and it’s absolutely amazing. Thank you Muni!
- Kenzo Yanni Velasquez, Lick-Wilmerding High School Student
Photo taken at Balboa Bart Station

A huge thanks to Free Muni for Youth for making my summer the best summer I’ve ever had. I had a house fire two weeks before school ended back in May 2013, and thanks to Free Muni for Youth, I was able to commute downtown for 8 weeks to work at my summer internship. I took the 8x to Balboa Bart every morning and then transferred to take the K all the way to the ball park. I interned at Stumble Upon, a start up company located near AT&T park, and it was definitely an eye opening experience. This was the first time I ever used Muni and public transit, and thanks to Free Muni for Youth, I was able to commute to work and back home safely and it sure did save a ton of money. To this very day, I’m still using my free clipper card to take the 8x to school and back home, and it’s absolutely amazing. Thank you Muni!

- Kenzo Yanni Velasquez, Lick-Wilmerding High School Student

Photo taken at Balboa Bart Station



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DEADLINE EXTENDED until November 24th!!! Free MUNI for Youth Art Contest!!

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Free MUNI for Youth Community Meeting 6/18 !!!

Free MUNI for Youth Community Meeting 6/18 !!!



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Youth Score Win for Free MUNI Passes

Low-income youth of San Francisco will be able to ride Muni for free during a 16-month trial period starting early next year, thanks to the efforts of a broad community coalition. After a two-year campaign, the city’s Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) gave final approval for the funding on December 4, 2012. Campaign organizers want the program to begin in February, with a massive drive to sign up youth for free passes fully underway by March.

In November 2011, the coalition won crucial support when the San Francisco Board of Supervisors lent its support to the campaign. Spirited actions by youth, parents, and community advocates through 2011 had been aimed at winning relief for students and their families from the rising cost of bus and light rail fares following school district cuts to funding for yellow school buses.

The coalition successfully overcame the regional transit authority’s debatable funding priorities as well as opposition from some supervisors who wanted all available funds spent on improving Muni facilities and maintenance. Funds for the $13 million pilot project will come from SFMTA, the Metropolitan Transportation Commision (MTC), and the County Transportation Authority. 

The grassroots drive for a free Muni youth pass began last year in response to the narrowing access to public transportation for the city’s 40,000 low-income youth. The San Francisco Unified School District is cutting its yellow school bus service by nearly half, while the price of a Muni Youth Pass for youth five to 17 years old has risen from $10 to $22 since 2009.  A monthly Muni-only Fast Pass for Adults now costs $64. 
Supporters of the project said the rising cost of Muni passes have led to a decline in ridership. Muni sold 18,410 youth passes in October 2010 but only 11,502 in the same period this year. With Muni becoming the school bus service for many students, the burden of paying for their commute falls heaviest on working class families with more than one child going to school. 

“With the rising costs of bus passes it would cost my family $200 for all of us to get monthly passes for two adults and two kids,” said Joanne Abernathy. “A lot of people in my neighborhood are deciding between $2 for Muni fare or $2 for milk.”

Skewed Funding Punishes Low-Income Riders
Cities that want to maintain healthy bus service must contend with funding priorities at all levels of government that favor automobile use over public transportation. More than 80 percent of federal transit funds go to highways—only 20 percent goes to public transit— and the law bans use of such federal funds for day-to-day operations. The Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), which distributes federal and state transportation moneys in the nine-county Bay Area allots just 6 percent of its expansion funds to bus service. 

A POWER survey of 727 public transportation users in San Francisco showed that 48 percent said they didn’t have enough money for transportation in the last month. Riders use public transportation for a whole range of activities, including going to school (57 percent), appointments (41 percent), work (40 percent), grocery shopping (35 percent), after-school appointments (15 percent) and childcare (8 percent). More than half reported waiting an average of 10 to 20 minutes for a bus and 16 percent reported waiting more than 20 minutes.

Rising costs of fares put the heaviest burden on the city’s low-income families of color in the following communities: Chinatown, the Mission, Bayview-Hunters Point, Excelsior, and Visitacion Valley, which have some of the city’s lowest per capita incomes. Families in these neighborhoods spent 20-24 percent of their household income on transportation in 2005, before the doubling of bus fares.

The expansion of proof-of-payment fare enforcement has fostered widespread fear and decreased access to public transit for people in these same neighborhoods. San Francisco began implementing proof-of-payment fare enforcement (POP) in the mid-1990s on Muni’s light rail lines, expanding it to bus lines by 2005. Uniformed and armed San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) officers began boarding the buses and handing out tickets that carried substantial fines. Last year, the city paid $12 million to the police department for its POP enforcement services. However, from 2006 to 2010, the city recovered only $1 million in lost fares after spending $9.5 in enforcement. 

An excerpt from Next Stop: Justice—Race and Environment at the Center of Transit Planning, a report published by POWER, DataCenter, and Urban Habitat.



Grassroots Initiative
San Francisco’s Youth Commission in 2009 began questioning the decreasing access to public transportation, drawing the attention of community organizations to the growing problem of rising fares. “Muni has become too expensive and the services that we count on are becoming out of reach for us financially,” says Leah LaCroix, who chairs the San Francisco Youth commission.

Meanwhile, People Organized to win Employment Rights (POWER) had launched a successful effort to make Muni scale back its proof-of-payment enforcement crackdown, which had triggered complaints of intimidation and racial profiling.

“In March, April, and May 2010, there was an initial youth fare program for 12,000 kids, and the passes were used up really quick,” said Jaron Browne, POWER’s director of communication. “The need greatly exceeded availability. That’s when we saw the problem was huge.”
POWER convened a broad coalition of community organizations that propelled the free Muni for youths campaign, including the Chinatown Community Development Center, Jamestown Community Center, SRO Families Collaborative, MORE Public Transit Coalition, SF Organizing Project, Senior Action Network, Coleman Advocates for Children, San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, Filipino Community Center, Causa Justa, and Senior Action Networks, among other groups. 

“Perhaps the most exciting part of the campaign is the leadership role San Francisco’s youth has played,” said Bob Allen, director of the transportation justice program at Urban Habitat, pointing to POWER, a community-based advocacy group founded in 1997, as the leading force of the movement. POWER had helped raise the minimum wage in the city and has been organizing women domestic workers as well as residents of low-income communities.

The Free Muni for Youth drive is part of POWER’s larger campaign for “transit justice,” to correct the rising cost of commutes, the poor quality of public transportation service to low-income neighborhoods, and heavy handed “criminalization” of fare evasion. Urban Habitat has provided campaign support for the project and is a coauthor with POWER and the DataCenter of Next Stop Justice: Race And Environment at the Center of Transit Planning. (See sidebars to this story and Research and Resources on page 87 for more on the report.)

Research and Strategy
The community coalition held a straw poll, setting up voting booths near the Mission and Geneva intersection to ask commuters if they thought youth should be able to ride Muni for free—“to get a sense of the depth of the need,” said Browne.

Then, with assistance from allies, such as Supervisor David Campos—who wants to follow New York’s example and provide public transportation that is “accessible to students in our public school system”—Urban Habitat, and DataCenter, the coalition undertook extensive research to identify the key funding sources likely to be responsible for transit programs. 

“Urban Habitat was particularly helpful in mapping us out an understanding of the regional funding stream,” said Browne. The campaign learned that competitive funding was available from a broad range of sources—city, county, and regional bodies responsible for improving public transportation access for low-income communities and for addressing the region’s air quality. 

The coalition also “carefully analyzed areas of potential cost savings—the MTA’s capital budget, work order charges from other city agencies for providing services to Muni, overtime costs—that would allow Muni to put more service on the street,” said Allen. 

Armed with data-based arguments, including a model program and price structure, the campaigners organized delegations to convince elected officials and decision-makers at various government levels. The campaign “was smart about it and had a strategy that made sense,” said Campos, It was well informed about “the different pitfalls” ahead, he added.

“We really put a lot of pressure on various government levels,” said Browne. The SF Board of Supervisors would call on SF Municipal Transportation Agency, SFUSD, SF County Transportation Authority, and Metropolitan Transportation Commission to collaborate with community groups in designing and securing funding for a free Muni for youth program.  Support also came from Mayor Ed Lee, the SF Board of Education and its Student Advisory Council, the SF Youth Commission and the Parent Teacher Association board.

Better Public Transit for Better Air
In the San Francisco Bay Area, personal vehicle exhaust is a leading source of greenhouse gas emissions and toxic air pollutants. Cars and light trucks accounted for 78 percent of transportation sector emissions in 2007. In the city, transportation sources produce 50 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions. Passenger vehicles contribute nearly four times more to global warming than heavy duty trucks, ships, and aircraft combined.

San Francisco’s poor and working-class communities of color are affected more by poor air quality because they tend to live next to high-volume roadways. Residents of Chinatown, the Mission, Bayview-Hunters Point, the Excelsior, and Visitacion Valley suffer severe health burdens from pollutant exposure. One study of 12,000 residents in the Bayview showed rates of cervical and breast cancer double those in other parts of the region, and hospitalization rates for heart failure, hypertension, diabetes, and emphysema more than three times the statewide average. San Francisco Department of Public Health figures show startlingly higher rates of asthma hospitalizations in these neighborhoods than in wealthier ones.

Approximately 60 percent of all trips in San Francisco used a private vehicle. Muni wants to reduce this to 30 percent by 2030, a step in the right direction. Yet, some recent Muni policy decisions, such as increasing transit fare and decreasing bus service, severely undermine this aim. Every 10 percent increase in fares decreases ridership by 4 percent, according to the American Public Transportation Association.

Community-Based Lobbying
“Hundreds of young people came and testified before the Board of Supervisors, before the MTA, the Muni board of directors,” said Campos. “Kids talked about how they sometimes had to choose between paying their bus fare or buying lunch, or how they just walked to school and ended up late.”  

It was also “very powerful,” Campos added, to have “parents and families talk about the impact of the lack of access to public transportation on them—how painful it was for them to not be able to give bus fare to their kids because they just didn’t have money.”

Coalition activists also disseminated information through social media and the mainstream press, with students from various schools throughout the city videotaping messages of support for the plan.

They explained that up to 70 percent of San Francisco high school students surveyed use public transit to commute and that the pilot program would cost less than one percent of Muni’s $800 million annual budget.

More Public Transit Means More Jobs
From 2008 through 2010, nearly 90 percent of all the transit systems in the U.S. had to raise fares or cut service. As a direct result of these service cuts, 97,000 U.S. transit workers lost their jobs in 2009. By September 2010, an additional 78,000 jobs were lost. The economic impact of transit austerity politics goes beyond job cuts for bus drivers and mechanics. Every $1 in service cuts caused by operating deficits bleeds $10 from the local economy in lost wages and increased transportation costs. These cuts hit transit-dependent people the hardest.
Investment in transit operations and service—and in bus drivers, mechanics, and support staff—is one of the most efficient and effective economic development strategies available. Ten million dollars invested in transit operations produces $30 million in increased business sales. This strong multiplier effect yields both additional jobs in the local economy and increased sales tax revenues for state and local governments. An analysis of federal stimulus spending showed that transit operations created 72 percent more jobs than similar investments in transit capital.


With the steadily increasing prices of fares and passes many people, including students, are tempted to resort to fare evasion, risking fines of $100 to $150—a big bite off a working family’s budget—if inspectors catch them without proof of payment.  And yet, campaigners reported, the enforcement program costs $9.5 million a year but recovers only $1 million in lost fares.

Campaigners also argued that a free Muni for youth program was one of the best ways to secure a generation of new users of public transportation.  In the long run it would help improve air quality, said POWER leader Manuela Esteva. “We started realizing that not only would free Muni benefit youth, but we could also have a positive impact on the environment.” 

At the MTA-level negotiations, the campaign agreed to a compromise. Instead of an initial goal of free passes for all youth, it agreed to make the program specific to “low-income” youth. “We will eventually push for between 100 percent to 120 percent of median income, so we could include even unionized workers and more working class people,” reported Browne.

After hearing youth and parent testimonies in a public hearing, the SFMTA board in April approved $9 million for a free youth fare program, but only if $4 to $5 million could be obtained from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC).

The MTC is the transportation planning and financing body for the Bay Area’s nine counties. It disburses up to $3 billion annually to local transit operators, highway and road construction, and planning activities.

Letdown
In July, however, the MTC voted 8-7 against giving San Francisco the $4 million, arguing that only the city’s youth would benefit from the program while there were other low-income families in other cities that need help just as much.  That left Muni’s $9.4 million free youth pass plan $5 million short.

Yet, in the same meeting attended by an audience of nearly 150 plan supporters, the MTC approved at least $18.6 million for the new ferry service between Alameda and South San Francisco. An example, critics say, of class bias and lopsided funding priorities.

The ferry outlay amounts to a public subsidy of $47 per ferry ride. Workers from biotech firms, such as Genentech, are currently the main users of the ferry. Meanwhile, coalition activists contended, the subsidy for free Muni for 40,000 kids would amount to only $2.86 per ride.

“It’s been a very eye-opening experience for me,” said Zeke Osmond, a restaurant worker and sales clerk who is also a member of POWER. “It’s been very tough and somewhat embarrassing to see these commissioners, and how they approach these situations.” 

However, on October 10 came a pleasant surprise—the MTC awarded the city $6.7 million in federal funds meant to increase transit ridership and improve system performance. The money could be used for a variety of purposes, including free fares. 

But Supervisors Scott Wiener, Mark Farrell, Sean Elsbernd, and Carmen Chu wanted the new funds to be spent on capital improvements and maintenance first, instead of free youth fares. 

Campaign supporters criticized them for setting up a “false choice” between increasing transit access for low-income youth and improving Muni. SFMTA transportation director Ed Reiskin stated, “I don’t see this as an either or. We have ridership goals and we have productivity goals. We’re trying to use these dollars to address both.”

Reiskin proposed to use $1.6 million of the $6.7 million for setting up the free Muni rides for low-income youth between February and June, and the remaining $5.1 million for rehabilitating Muni light-rail vehicles. The agency would set aside another $1.8 million in the following fiscal year to keep the pilot project going.

Recommendations from Next Stop: Justice 
1. Increase San Francisco’s investments in public transportation by taxing large developers and corporations. Large developers and corporations already benefit from public transit’s contribution to increasing property values and bringing in workers and customers. Corporations have a responsibility to pay their fair share and invest in the system as a whole.

2. Expand and improve transit in the city’s eastern neighborhoods. The SFMTA must commit to improving transit service in working class communities of color in order to meet the needs of its residents who rely on transit the most. Seriously investing in the eastern neighborhoods is essential to making San Francisco family friendly and to increasing connectivity in the city. 

3. Scale back aggressive fare enforcement and use resources to improve service. Saturating bus stops and buses with police officers to catch fare evaders generates far more fear than fares, criminalizing people for trying to ride while poor and black, Latino, or Asian Pacific Islander. The money saved by cutting out the POP program should go towards improving service.

4. Reduce transit fares as a central strategy for reaching San Francisco’s climate objectives. Free Muni rides enticed more than 200,000 San Franciscans to leave their cars at home during the first two “Spare the Air” days in 2007. Make public transit the first choice for workers, youth, and families by making it truly affordable and accessible. An important first step is establishing permanent funding for free Muni passes for all youth in San Francisco.

5. Expand transit as a green job growth sector. Public transit not only supports the environment, it also sustains a racially diverse unionized workforce that earns living wages—making it a model of a green jobs sector. To expand transit jobs, San Francisco should prioritize use of transit resources for operations, rather than large capital investments.

6. Shift transportation policy to prioritize public transit over car travel. San Francisco must designate auto-free zones and expand the bus priority zones in areas where transit and alternative mobility options exist to encourage people to use transit. It should also close tax loopholes that favor wealthy drivers, including increasing the tax on corporate downtown parking garages, and closing the valet loophole in the city’s parking tax. Both the city and the region must prioritize operations and maintenance needs for public transit over freeways and capital projects.

7. Collect and publish demographic data about transit riders in the city. Low income communities and communities of color have the highest rates of transit dependency, but the SFMTA doesn’t consistently track information about the ethnicity, gender, or income levels of riders. San Francisco should look to the data tracking and transparency practices of Los Angeles and other cities to find ways to ensure that public transit serves the communities who depend on transit the most.

8. Create a mechanism for greater democracy and community accountability in the SFMTA. All members of the SFMTA Board of Directors are appointed by the mayor and have little direct accountability to transit riders. The agency manages a multimillion dollar budget and decisions made by its board have huge public impacts. Its board should be publicly elected, like the Board of Education and the Community College Board. Even splitting appointments to the SFMTA board between the mayor and the Board of Supervisors would allow for greater public accountability and more motivation to refocus transportation priorities on the needs of the environment and the community

For the article click here.



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Low-income kids to have free Muni passes thanks to SF advocacy group

Single mother, Donaji Lona came to San Francisco from Mexico 12 years ago in search of the land of opportunity. What she found was a barrage of rising rental and transportation costs that made caring for her two sons a major challenge.

Lona became a member and then a staff organizer for People Organized to Win Employment Rights, commonly known as POWER, a membership-based advocacy group of Latino and African-American workers in San Francisco. Since then, she has been a part of some important victories for low-income families in the city – including her own.

In 2009, POWER’s group of youth and transit advocates started calling for the Free Muni for Youth Pilot Program, to provide free transportation for the youth of more than 40,000 low-income families in San Francisco. The San Francisco Municipal Railway (Muni) operates the broad fleet of streetcars, light rail vehicles, diesel buses, alternative fuel vehicles, electric trolley coaches and the cable cars around the city.

It started as 20 San Francisco schools began eliminating yellow school-bus service for their students over the past several years to cut costs, leaving many students to rely on Muni to get to class. Then the price of a Muni Youth Fast Pass skyrocketed from $10 in 2009 to $21 in 2012.

“This perfect storm led to a number of situations where kids were having to choose between paying for Muni on a given day or paying for lunch,” San Francisco Supervisor David Campos, a big supporter of the free Muni program, said in an interview.

He said some kids would choose just to walk to school. Others would hop on Muni without paying, risking fines or disciplinary action.

As a single mother of two children, ages 17 and 12, Lona said she encountered this problem firsthand. One son wanted to take music lessons because the school he attends does not have art classes. He applied and won a scholarship. But that was just half the battle.

“Sometimes I just don’t have enough money to let my son take the bus to go to these classes,” Lona said. “It’s a challenge.”

As the prices continued to rise, the number of kids paying for monthly transportation passes declined. People in the community reached out to POWER about the growing problem. And POWER answered.

“We started making things happen,” Lona said. “How is a young man to get to school if he doesn’t have the 75 cents to do that?”

While the support from much of the community was evident, some were not in favor of the program. In July 2012, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission rejected a proposal for funds, disappointing POWER and the youth advocates that had been fighting for the program for almost two years.

San Francisco Supervisor Scott Wiener also opposed it. Wiener voiced concerns about the youth program being funded directly out of Muni’s operating and maintenance budget. He said Muni’s transportation system is in need of significant upgrades, and more children riding Muni would just put additional pressure on the system.

“Muni is dramatically underfunded,” Wiener said in a phone interview. “We should not be paying for this and taking away the critical funds from Muni’s budgets.”

And although free transit for youth is a pilot program, Wiener said there is no way it will end once it begins.

“Muni will have permanent ongoing operations to fund this program,” he said. “If you give it to people for free, it sends a signal that somehow the system doesn’t cost money. Once we give it for free, it’s inevitable that low-income seniors and the disabled will come forward as well.”

At $21, the monthly youth pass is a 75 percent discount from the $72 adult pass. Wiener said it would be better to consider lowering the cost, rather than giving it for free.

But Campos argues that a free transit program is vital. The city is becoming increasingly less affordable for families. Free Muni is just one step forward for low-income families, saving them $21 per child a month. For Lona, that amounts to $42 total per month.

“That’s huge,” she said. “It’s enough money to buy enough food for three days. Can you imagine? I can tell you really honestly I can get more quality food for my kids, more fresh vegetables, with this money.”

“Sometimes you really, really want to give quality food for your family, and it’s something you cannot do.”

Now that’s something Lona can do.

After a two-year fight, the POWER youth and transit advocates are victorious. Last December, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency approved funding for the program.

Starting March 1, the agency, which operates Muni, will launch the Free Muni for Youth Pilot Program. Low and moderate income students who live in San Francisco will have free access to Muni for a 16-month period when using a Clipper card, the all-in-one transit payment card for Bay Area.

All San Francisco youth ages 5 to 17 with a gross annual family income at or below 100 percent of the Bay Area Median Income level are eligible for the program. That means a family of four making a median income level of $103,000 annually would qualify for the program.

“What’s remarkable about this whole campaign is I’ve never seen so many young people come to city hall and advocate,” Campos said. He thinks the adoption of the program in San Francisco may spur other cities in the Bay Area to look into programs of their own.

Some other U.S. cities offer similar programs. New York City provides three free swipes for kids at the subway each day – one to go to school, one for an after-school program, and one to come home. Cities like Portland and Chicago have variations on the free youth passes as well.

While free Muni is one victory for Lona and the people of POWER, Campos said there is always more work ahead of them.

As Campos put it, “We need to continue to make every effort as a city to make the city affordable, so that families of all income levels are able to live here.”

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Free Muni For Youth Program Begins Friday

Students, parents and school and city officials gathered in San Francisco today to celebrate the launch on Friday of a pilot program to provide free Municipal Railway rides for youth.

The 16-month Free Muni for Youth program will allow low- and moderate-income youth between 5 and 17 years old to ride Muni with a valid Clipper card.

More than 20,000 children have already signed up and organizers who held a rally this afternoon outside of Everett Middle School encouraged others to register as the program is set to start.

"Transportation is a right that everyone should be able to enjoy," said Paul Monge-Rodriguez, a member of the San Francisco Youth Commission.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s board of directors in December approved $1.6 million for the program as part of a grant from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. The SFMTA and the San Francisco Unified School District also contributed additional funding.

"We had a hard decision to make," said SFMTA director of transportation Ed Reiskin.
"The Muni system has a lot of needs," Reiskin said. "But while our system has needs, our community has needs too."

The cost of a Muni youth pass had gone up from $10 to $22 since 2009, while the school district had reduced its bus service by 43 percent since 2011 because of state budget cuts.

The program had support from some members of the city’s Board of Supervisors, most notably Supervisor David Campos.

"We’re investing in the future generation of riders," Campos said at today’s rally.

"We have to make it so families can afford to live in San Francisco," he said.

The program is important for parents like Donaji Lona, who has two children that go to public schools in the city, one at Everett Middle School and the other at Mission High School.

"I think it’s huge," Lona said. "Imagine being worried to not have enough money to send our sons and daughters to school."

For information on eligibility and how to sign up for the program, people can go online atwww.sfmta.com/freemuni4youth.

Muni will provide a 30-day grace period for enforcement to educate new users on how to use a Clipper card.

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