Students, parents and school and city officials gathered in San Francisco today to celebrate the launch on Friday of a pilot program to provide free Municipal Railway rides for youth.
The 16-month Free Muni for Youth program will allow low- and moderate-income youth between 5 and 17 years old to ride Muni with a valid Clipper card.
More than 20,000 children have already signed up and organizers who held a rally this afternoon outside of Everett Middle School encouraged others to register as the program is set to start.
“Transportation is a right that everyone should be able to enjoy,” said Paul Monge-Rodriguez, a member of the San Francisco Youth Commission.
The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s board of directors in December approved $1.6 million for the program as part of a grant from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. The SFMTA and the San Francisco Unified School District also contributed additional funding.
“We had a hard decision to make,” said SFMTA director of transportation Ed Reiskin.
“The Muni system has a lot of needs,” Reiskin said. “But while our system has needs, our community has needs too.”
The cost of a Muni youth pass had gone up from $10 to $22 since 2009, while the school district had reduced its bus service by 43 percent since 2011 because of state budget cuts.
The program had support from some members of the city’s Board of Supervisors, most notably Supervisor David Campos.
“We’re investing in the future generation of riders,” Campos said at today’s rally.
“We have to make it so families can afford to live in San Francisco,” he said.
The program is important for parents like Donaji Lona, who has two children that go to public schools in the city, one at Everett Middle School and the other at Mission High School.
“I think it’s huge,” Lona said. “Imagine being worried to not have enough money to send our sons and daughters to school.”
For information on eligibility and how to sign up for the program, people can go online at www.sfmta.com/freemuni4youth.
Muni will provide a 30-day grace period for enforcement to educate new users on how to use a Clipper card.
Dan McMenamin, Bay City News