Muni considers free rides for seniors, disabled

In hopes of making The City more affordable, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee called for The City’s transportation agency to hand out free Muni passes for its most vulnerable riders.

Following the mayor’s plea at his State of the City address Thursday, the board of directors at San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency will decide Tuesday on whether to approve free passes for low- and moderate-income seniors and people with disabilities.

SFMTA spokesman Paul Rose said that it will most likely pass.

Board members said in April when they approved their 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 operating budget that giving free Muni passes to low-income seniors and disabled riders would be one of their top priorities when reviewing the agency’s financial outlook.

Projections for the current fiscal year show the transit agency with a surplus of $10 million. The transit agency projects higher revenues for transit fares, operating grants, parking fees and fines and a higher amount of general funds from the City.

The total cost of the program, which is already included in the SFMTA’s two-year budget, is $6 million.

Currently, the transit agency already has a program in place for low- and moderate-income youth between the ages of 5 and 18 with gross family incomes at or below 100 percent the Bay Area median income level.

Muni’s free program for youth launched in 2013 as a 16-month pilot.

Last year, SFMTA board members didn’t have to decide on whether to continue the program during budget sessions because Google donated $6.8 million to continue the program for another two years.

Mayor Lee is calling for the private sector once again to help fund the program for seniors and Muni riders with disabilities.

If approved, the free Muni program will take effect on March 1.

The transit agency officials said seniors and riders with disabilities will be able to sign up by Feb. 1 online or at the SFMTA’s Customer Service Center.

The SFMTA board members will also consider a seven percent Muni service increase, eliminating fees for telephone and online computer customer service transactions and additional funding for cleaning Muni vehicles.