Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez/The S.f. ExaminerJoyce Calagos speaks in favor of free Muni passes for seniors and the disabled at a news conference Tuesday. After being shot down in April

SFMTA chief signals free Muni for seniors ‘very likely’

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency is “very likely” to approve free Muni service for seniors and people with disabilities as early as January, SFMTA Transportation Director Ed Reiskin said Tuesday.

The revelation comes on the heels of a news conference called by Seniors for Disability Action and supervisors Eric Mar and Norman Yee to put political pressure on the SFMTA board of directors to approve the program. A similar program is in place for low- and moderate-income youths up to age 18.

“Free Muni is an umbrella on a rainy day,” poet and activist Tony Robles said. “Seniors so often are isolated, and can barely afford to pay rent or get around town.”

Monthly Muni passes are currently $23 for seniors and people with disabilities, discounted from $68 for adult passes.

But activists such as Sam Alicia Duke and Joyce Calagos, both seniors, said living on a fixed income is especially difficult in ever-expensive San Francisco. They count pennies, they said, and even a $23 transportation expense can mean the difference between eating meals or taking a bus to go see a doctor during the month.

“For you, that may be nothing,” Calagos said. “For me, that's a lot.”

The SFMTA's free Muni for youths program was approved in April, following a $6.8 million donation from Google. But at the time, the SFMTA board also rejected free Muni for seniors and people with disabilities, which it estimated to cost $4 million annually.

Simultaneously, the SFMTA lost $11 million in funding as the board slashed Sunday paid parking meters.

Despite the senior program rejection in April, board President Tom Nolan tasked the SFMTA with finding new funding for the effort, which Reiskin said Tuesday has tentatively been done.

With the passage of propositions A and B in the Nov. 4 election, “we're in as good a shape as we can hope to be,” Reiskin told The San Francisco Examiner.

The SFMTA is developing a funding plan for free Muni for seniors and those with disabilities to present to the board in late January, when Reiskin says he believes the board will be “very likely” to approve the free Muni plan.

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