Plans pitched for youth Muni rides

A plan to fund free Muni rides for The City’s 40,000 low-income youth residents will once again be in the hands of regional transportation officials this week.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which operates Muni, approved the 22-month pilot project in April. However, the plan was contingent on receiving $5 million in regional funds from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, the Bay Area’s lead transportation planning agency.

Last month, an MTC committee balked on a pitch to provide $4 million for the plan — which still wouldn’t have covered the cost of the project. The MTC commissioners said they needed more time to review the effects of the proposal, particularly if the plan could be expanded to benefit low-income riders on other transit agencies around the Bay Area. In deciding to continue the proposal without support, several commissioners expressed concerns about a program that would use regional funds to benefit only San Francisco residents.

On Wednesday, three new funding proposals will go back before the MTC Programming and Allocations Committee, which needs to approve a plan before it goes before the full commission.

The first option would be to fund Muni’s plan with $4 million, since it’s the most fully-developed project in the region. As a part of that option, the MTC would create a $20 million reserve for similar pilot projects in other Bay Area cities. If that plan is approved, Muni’s free youth plans could be ready for the new school year, provided The City comes up with the remaining $1 million for the project.

The second option includes a plan to provide $4 million for Muni’s low-income program, $1 million for a similar plan in Santa Clara County and up to $3 million for Alameda County, provided its residents approve a series of transportation improvement projects in November.

The last option would establish a regional discount program for youth passes on all transit systems. Youth fares would be slashed by 50 percent — Muni’s monthly pass from $21 to $11, BART’s from $26 to $13 and Caltrain’s to $19 from $37. The program would cost $7.6 million a year and be funded through state sources.
Any plan approved by the committee would face a full commission vote later this month.

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