As previously reported, after much support from the community, last month SFMTA Director Joel Ramos has proposed a three-year pilot project to create free youth passes for students between the ages of 5 and 17, after a Board of Supes analysis said the program would only cost $7 million to implement. However, a new report says that the program would cost nearly double that, and might not be compatible with Muni’s current fare collection system.
The cost of Muni’s monthly youth pass has climbed from $10 to $21 in the past two years, even as San Francisco Unified School District plans to cut back its bus service by 43 percent in the next two years.
District Superintendent Carlos Garcia said in September the free youth passes would help out the city’s students, more than 60 percent of whom qualify for the state’s free or reduced-price lunch programs because of their family’s income level.
SFMTA Director Joel Ramos introduced the proposal at the agency’s board meeting on September 20, while Supervisor David Campos also introduced a resolution in support of the proposal the Board of Supervisors meeting that same day.
Campos said the three-year pilot project would require a commitment of around $7 million to make up for the potential lost revenue. The funding would come from the SFMTA, San Francisco County Transportation Authority and Metropolitan Transportation Commission, along with private contributions.
He called the proposal “doable, feasible and practical,” and pointed out that New York City and Portland already have similar programs up and running.
However, as the Ex reports, it might not be as doable and feasible as all that.
An SFMTA report released last week contradicted the $7 million figure reached by the Board of Supes’ budget analyst, saying instead that it would cost at least $13.2 million.
According to the MTA report, the kids expected were Muni to become free (for them) would require Muni to spend $6 million to enlarge peak-time service by 25,000 to 37,000 hours, as well as buy new vehicles. The Supes’ study, reports the Ex, failed to factor those tiny details in.
Another problem with the plan: it’s designed to work with the Clipper card but, points out the MTA, there’s no way one can tell if you’re an SF resident with the card, possibly enabling kids everywhere from taking illicit advantage of the plan and riding Muni for free.