munipiece2.jpgSan Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency officials approved a two-year budget this afternoon that will provide free transit passes to low-income youth and extend parking meter hours to Sundays.

The board unanimously approved operating budgets in the amounts of $821 million and $840.5 million for fiscal years 2013 and 2014, respectively.

The SFMTA board also voted to revisit the transit pass pilot program and determine whether it can be extended to provide free San Francisco Municipal Railway Fast Passes to all youth in the future, if more funding should be identified.

Supporters of the transit pass proposal, including Supervisor David Campos, continued to make their voices heard at the meeting.

The effort to obtain free Muni for youth dates back to almost a year ago and was spearheaded by Campos, who introduced a resolution in support of the idea at a Board of Supervisors meeting in September.

“You owe it to the ridership to make sure that we do right by them,” Campos said during public comment at the meeting.

Rev. Arnold Townsend, of the city’s Without Walls Church, told the board that the youth passes are “something that should have been done a long time ago” when students could no longer automatically attend their neighborhood school.

Before the meeting, Mayor Ed Lee said that he likes “the idea of free Muni for all students,” noting that paying for transit “limits their ability to get around the city.”

The pilot program will be in effect between Aug. 1, 2012, and May 31, 2014.

The two-year budget also calls for enforcing meters on Sundays, tentatively between noon and 6 p.m., with the hope of creating parking turnover in commercial corridors.

Rev. Donna Wood, pastor at Park Presidio United Methodist Church on Geary Boulevard, was one of many faith leaders who said their communities and services would be adversely impacted by meter enforcement on Sundays.

Wood urged the board to consider the behaviors of parishioners who live outside of San Francisco.

“They not only worship here, they spend their money here,” Wood said during public comment on the agenda item. “If they have to pay for parking, they’re not going to come.”

Despite the exhortations by members of the public to vote down the proposal, many of the SFMTA directors said they were in favor of extending meter hours to seven days a week.

“We have to think of the folks that don’t get free transit on Sundays the way people get free parking,” SFMTA director Joel Ramos said. “We have to start thinking about a different way that we use our streets.”

SFMTA director Cheryl Brinkman said that she supported the proposal because she has been considering the reverse situation.

“How would we defend making parking free on Sundays if we’ve been paying all these years?” she asked rhetorically.

The board said at today’s meeting that it plans to gather public feedback about setting hours of enforcement before Sunday meter hours go into effect next January.

Patricia Decker, Bay City News

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