Wiener says Muni needs fixes, not youth passes

S.F. Examiner File PhotoMoney matters: Supervisor Scott Wiener introduced a nonbinding resolution that would oppose using $6.7 million in Muni funding on a pilot program that would offer free passes to needy youths.

The year-plus battle over a free Muni fare program for San Francisco’s low-income youths took another turn Tuesday.

Supervisor Scott Wiener introduced a nonbinding resolution urging that all available transportation funds be used for maintenance and repair work on Muni’s battered transit vehicles. It was a direct response to the recent approval of $6.7 million in federal funds for Muni, which many hope will be used to pay for a 22-month free fare pilot program for 40,000 low-income youths.

With Muni performing at historically poor levels — its latest on-time rate was 58 percent, well below the 85 percent goal — Wiener said the money should go toward repairing buses and other faulty equipment.

The funds are from the Transit Performance Initiative program, and they can be used for any project that increases ridership or improves maintenance. Wiener said the best way to increase ridership is to ensure that vehicles are reliable.

“If you give people a free Muni pass, but the bus doesn’t come, that doesn’t make much sense,” he said.

Supervisor David Campos, who has led the efforts to create the youth program, said there will be additional federal funds coming for maintenance projects. Right now, he said, San Francisco leaders and families have shown overwhelming support for the youth program.

Jaron Browne, an organizer for the grass-roots youth organization POWER, questioned the motivation behind Wiener’s resolution.

“People need to start asking why Scott Wiener is putting so much energy to stop things that would help San Francisco’s youths and their families,” Browne said.

The youth program was approved in April by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s board of directors, which governs Muni. However, that approval was contingent on receiving $4 million in regional funds from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, the region’s lead transit financing agency.

The MTC rejected that deal in July, but last week the SFMTA received the federal funds under the understanding that they could be used for the youth program.

Wiener’s resolution was introduced at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting. It will be voted on at a meeting later this month.

“We certainly agree that this agency needs more funding for maintenance and service improvements,” SFMTA spokesman Paul Rose said. “We will continue to work with the Board of Supervisors, the MTA board and all stakeholders as we look to find solutions to the various needs of this agency.”

wreisman@sfexaminer.com

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