Support mounts for Muni youth discount

A Muni fare discount for young people is well-deserved and smart policy even if it might cost up to $15.5 million a year, advocates of the proposed discount say.

Supervisor Jake McGoldrick has drafted a resolution urging Muni to implement discounted fares for those between the ages of 18 and 24.

The possibility of a fare discount comes as Muni is facing a projected deficit as much as $17 million this fiscal year. The transit agency expects to generate $691 million by the year’s end, not enough to offset the projected $708 million in expenses. In recent years, Muni has cut service and raised prices to offset deficits.

Nevertheless, advocates say the transit agency could find a way to make the discounted fare work.

“If this was made a policy then there would be a way to fund it,” said Iqra Anjum, chair of The City’s Youth Commission, which came up with the idea. “Muni has been in a deficit for quite a while.”

Muni is undergoing the Transit Effectiveness Project, a study that is analyzing ridership and routes, which has not been done in decades. The hope is that the results will provide Muni officials with data that will help the agency increase ridership and revenues.

The fare discount would achieve such a goal, advocates say. The fare discount would hook more young people into the transit system, turning them into Muni users for life, Anjum said.

The Board of Supervisors City Operations and Neighborhood Services Committee will hold a Dec. 4 hearing on the resolution.

No other transit agency offers a discounted fare for this age bracket except for the Transport for London system, according to a legislative analyst report.

If Muni followed the Transport for London system model it would cost $15.5 million a year, according to the report. Following London’s model, Muni would drop the $1.50 per trip to 75 cents and the $45 monthly Fast Pass to $31.50.

“It’s not just about dollars and cents, it’s about helping the younger people,” McGoldrick said. Other benefits would include a decrease in congestion and a cleaner environment, he said.

Anjum said the current difference in price between the $10 Muni charges for a Fast Pass for those riders between the ages of 5 and 17, to the $45 they must pay when they are 18 years old is too much.

“A lot of young people are not riding Muni as much as much as they should because there is no incentive, they’re not giving them a reason,” Anjum said.

San Francisco is home to about 39,125 people between the ages of 18 to 24, which represents 5.4 percent of the city population. Of the 218.2 million Muni trips last year, 34.1 million were by riders who fall within the 18- to 24-year-old age bracket, the report said.

“I think it’s one of the most important things that we can do for the future of Muni and for the environment,” McGoldrick said.

jsabatini@examiner.com

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