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A Huge Victory for Youth, Education, and San Francisco

Muni is my school busBy Mario Navarro

For the first time in its history, San Francisco youth will be able to travel to and from school, work, after-school programs and other activities throughout the city for free.

A vote by the San Francisco Municipal Transit Agency board (SFMTA) on Wednesday to approve the Free Muni for Low-Income Youth means that the cost of public transit no longer will be a barrier to opportunity for young people in San Francisco.

For the past two years, youth and transit advocates tirelessly fought to transform the free Muni program from an idea into a reality.

On Tuesday, the board unanimously passed a resolution to approve $1.6 million for a 16-month pilot program to provide free Muni rides for youth who apply for the program and are eligible. The funding comes from a $6.7 million Transit Performance Initiative grant from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (that also puts $5.1 million into vehicle rehabilitation & maintenance) as well as from the SFMTA low income pass program and San Francisco Unified School District.

“The victory demonstrates that campaigns based on local transit needs and led by youth and those most impacted by our current transportation system can be achieved through addressing regional inequities in transportation funding and planning,” said Bob Allen, Urban Habitat’s Director of Transportation Justice.

2012 SF ExaminerOver the last three years, state budget cuts have forced more than 20 schools across the city to eliminate bus services for their students. The hard-won program is expected to help 40,000 low-income youth use public transit in the face of rising bus pass costs. A youth month pass on Muni costs $22 a month.  

The program’s initial 16-month pilot phase begins on March 1, 2013 and runs through the end of July 2014, with the option to extend should additional funding be identified in the future. The San Francisco Unified School District has agreed to partner with the transit agency to distribute applications for the passes as quickly as possible.  

“By targeting regional resources, such as funding from the Metropolitan Transit Commission, we can create a more just local transportation system,” says Allen. These bottom-up efforts by community residents and organizations really can achieve regional equity.”

Bay Area organizations that backed the proposal includes: People Organizing to Win Employment Rights (POWER), the Chinatown Community Development Center, the San Francisco Youth Commission, Urban Habitat, Jamestown Community Center, the Chinese Progressive Association, Jobs with Justice, Senior Action Network, SRO Families Collaborative, the San Francisco Organizing Project, the Filipino Community Center, Causa Justa:Just Cause, and Mujeres Unidas y Activas.