Google To Fund Next Two Years Of Free Muni for Youth Program

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and other city officials announced today that Google is donating $6.8 million to fund the next two years of the city’s Free Muni for Youth program.

The program, which started as a 16-month pilot last March, currently allows more than 31,000 qualifying low- and moderate-income youth between 5 and 17 years old to ride San Francisco Municipal Railway buses and light-rail vehicles at no cost.

Before the Google announcement, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s board of directors had been considering whether to renew or possibly expand the program.

“With this unprecedented gift from Google, we can keep this successful pilot program running for at least two more years at no cost to taxpayers or Muni riders and free up critical funds for other vital Muni maintenance and services,” Mayor Lee said in a statement.

“Google is demonstrating with real action and real resources that they are a true partner in addressing our city’s affordability crisis for lower and middle-income families,” Lee said.

Mountain View-based Google and other local technology companies have come under criticism recently because of concerns over gentrification and rising costs of living in San Francisco, as well as for problems related to the companies’ commuter buses that could soon begin using Muni bus stops for a small fee charged by the city.

Supervisor David Campos, an initial advocate for the Free Muni for Youth program and one of the critics of the so-called “Google buses,” said in a statement that the company’s donation is “a good first step.”

Campos, who planned a 1 p.m. news conference at City Hall today to discuss Google’s donation, said, “I’m looking forward to working with the tech industry in the future on other important issues like housing, jobs, and tenant protections.”

Dan McMenamin, Bay City News

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