Bankrollers needed to make Muni free for San Francisco students 

click to enlarge The price of Muni's youth pass has increased 110 percent, while the number of San Francisco Unified School District buses has been cut. (Examiner file photo) - THE PRICE OF MUNI'S YOUTH PASS HAS INCREASED 110 PERCENT, WHILE THE NUMBER OF SAN FRANCISCO UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT BUSES HAS BEEN CUT. (EXAMINER FILE PHOTO)
  • The price of Muni's youth pass has increased 110 percent, while the number of San Francisco Unified School District buses has been cut. (Examiner file photo)
  • The price of Muni's youth pass has increased 110 percent, while the number of San Francisco Unified School District buses has been cut. (Examiner file photo)

Faced with rising Muni costs and dwindling school transportation resources, parents and lawmakers are pushing a $7.3 million plan to provide every student in The City with free public transit.

In the past two years, the monthly price of Muni’s youth pass has more than doubled, from $10 to $21. At the same time, the San Francisco Unified School District has cut its free transportation service by more than 13 percent, and more downgrades are expected by 2013.

“It’s getting to the point where parents either have to move out of The City or their kids have to walk long distances to school,” said Leonor Jackson-Flores, a Bernal Heights resident whose daughter goes to Gateway High School on Geary Boulevard. “A family with three kids has to spend over $60 a month on Muni, and that’s just too much for many parents.”

Supervisor David Campos is expected to introduce a resolution today urging various city agencies to provide funding so kids ages 5 to 17 will have free access to Muni. The plan would affect 12,000 students and cost $7.3 million.

Although the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency is already facing a $23 million budget shortfall, board President Tom Nolan said he would support the plan — if other agencies do their part to provide the funding.

“We don’t have $7 million lying around here right now,” Nolan said.

Campos’ legislative aide Sheila Chung Hagen said the money could be cobbled together from an array of local and regional sources, including Muni, the school district, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and the San Francisco County Transportation Authority. Campos is a board member on the latter two bodies, which control discretionary and programming funding for local transit projects.

If approved, the resolution, which Campos claims has the support of five other supervisors, would be nonbinding.

It would, however, provide the initiative for various groups to begin working together on funding the plan, Hagen said.

She said the proposal is to establish a free, three-year pilot program to collect information about student travel patterns.

SFUSD spokeswoman Gentle Blythe said a free Muni system would be a great opportunity for families to explore schools in all neighborhoods. This school year, the district cut the number of its buses from 44 a day to 38. By 2013, Blythe said, that number will be reduced to 25 a day.

“Transportation shouldn’t be a barrier for students,” Blythe said. “That said, we’ve made some really tough cuts at the school district. Hopefully, we can work with Muni on finding a way to make sure every student can find a way to get to every school.”

wreisman@sfexaminer.com

Bus burden

110% Cost increase in past two years of Muni’s Youth Fast Pass (from $10 to $21)
43% Projected decrease in SFUSD buses between 2010-13
$7.3M Cost to provide free Muni for 5- to 17-year-olds
12,000 Student passengers projected to use free pass
$23 million Current SFMTA budget deficit

Sources: SFMTA,
David Campos’ office, SFUSD

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Will Reisman

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