Free Muni for low-income youth, finally

After hitting roadblock after roadblock over the past two years, SFMTA has finally approved a pilot program that would allow qualifying low-income youth ride for free.

The board of directors unanimously passed the resolution on Tuesday. The $1.6 million pilot program will run for 16 months and start in March 2013.

To foot the bill, SFMTA is utilizing funds from a $6.7 million grant from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. Many lawmakers wanted the grant — which became available in October — to instead be used towards maintaining Muni’s ageing system.

Supervisor David Campos told CBS San Francisco:

“Because of these riders the system will be sustained. It’s helping low-income youth and making sure the system works.”

Getting to this final decision wasn’t easy. In April, the SFMTA board met and approved a free Muni program for youth contingent on $5 million in funding from the MTC. At the time, the MTC decided to spread the funding out to other regional groups.

For more two years, youth advocate groups like People Organized to Win Employment Rights have been fighting for the free Muni pilot. The program is expected to assist 40,000 low-income youth offset the $22 price tag on a youth monthly pass.

Donaji Lona, an organizer with POWER, said:

“It has been two years — we are really happy. We have to make sure all kids have access.”

In order to be part of the program, low-income youth must meet qualifications and submit an application. Applications for the program are slated to go out to families by the end of the month and SFMTA will begin accepting them starting in January.

After its 16-month pilot run, the program will be re-evaluated in June 2014.

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