A couple sit next to a young man on the 38r Geary bus outbound to the Richmond district on Monday, Feb. 15, 2016. Youths who don’t give up their priority seat to elderly or handicapped passengers face criminal penalties and fees up to $380 (Yesica Prado/Special to the San Francisco Examiner)

A couple sit next to a young man on the 38r Geary bus outbound to the Richmond district on Monday, Feb. 15, 2016. Youths who don’t give up their priority seat to elderly or handicapped passengers face criminal penalties and fees up to $380 (Yesica Prado/Special to the San Francisco Examiner)

Muni may decriminalize citations for youth who don’t give seats to elderly

It’s already against the law to not give up your public bus seat for an elderly person, or person with disabilities.

But in San Francisco, the penalties for doing so are harsher if you’re under 18. Youths who don’t give up their seat face criminal penalties and fees up to $380, whereas adults are charged administrative citations for the same offense, with fines up to $112.

A vote Tuesday by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s Board of Directors could change that disparity, easing fees for youth and making them more on par with adult citations, while also decriminalizing them.

“Continuing to process youth violations under the criminal system is not consistent with the current policy for adults,” SFMTA staff wrote in a report, adding “The SFMTA believes this change will promote equity within the system.”

Criminal bus citations for youth, unlike those of adults, are handled by local courts. Children and their parents must go into juvenile court to ask for fines to be dismissed — possibly resulting in missed school or work time.

Under the new administrative fines, parents and their children could seek to pay or address those fines by mail, online, or by phone.

Other changes will come to citations for youth as well, including establishing administrative penalties — as opposed to criminal penalties — for youth who evade paying their fares.

SFMTA staff’s proposing to set the penalty for youth transit violations at $56 — half of the $112 penalty adults face.

A total of 819 citations issued to youth were processed by the juvenile court in fiscal year 2015, according to the SFMTA’s staff report. That included citations issued by both the San Francisco Police Department and the SFMTA, which has its own “Proof of Payment” officers.

Matt Haney, president of the San Francisco Unified School District’s Board of Education, was a leading voice on an effort to transform the way SFUSD punishes youth in schools called “restorative practices.” The effort sought to divert kids from penalization that may, some advocates say, lead to incarceration.

“I think we should make every effort to keep young people out of the criminal justice system, wherever possible,” he told the San Francisco Examiner.

“We have thousands of students who take Muni every day,” Haney said, “the last thing we’d want to have happen is for them to be caught up in criminal penalties as a result of behavior taking place to or from school.”

Localities were given the authority to restructure penalties for fare evasion and other citations by Senate Bill 413, which became effective Jan. 1.
citationsfaresMuniSFMTATransit

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