Seniors, disabled win fight for free Muni

After receiving endorsements already from city and transit officials, low- and moderate- income seniors and people with disabilities will be able to join The City’s youth in riding Muni for free starting March 1.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s board of directors made it official by unanimously approving the Muni free passes at its Tuesday meeting after reviewing the transit agency’s financial outlook over the next two years.

Before the 1 p.m. meeting, senior and disability advocates from the Senior and Disability Action and Chinatown Community Development Center rallied outside of City Hall to show their support for the free passes for low-income seniors and people with disabilities.

The SFMTA’s board Chairman Tom Nolan said at the rally that the board was most likely going to approve the free passes, which will cost the agency about $6 million over the next two years. He thanked supporters and advocates for working with the transit agency:

“I ride the system all the time. I’m very aware of the needs of people who ride it all over this community. I’m very proud we’re able to do this.”

Jessica Lehman, the executive director of Senior and Disability Action, said the free Muni for youth campaign helped pave the way to get city officials to start talking about expanding the program to low-income seniors and people with disabilities. She also talked about the affordability issues that low-income seniors and disabled riders face:

“With the widening gap between rich and poor that we see when entire communities, communities of color, poor communities are being pushed out of our city. This is a critical step in making sure seniors and people with disabilities can play an active role in our community the way we all need.”

Currently seniors and people with disabilities pay $23 for a monthly Muni pass and $0.75 for single rides on Muni.

Supervisor Norman Yee said at the rally that though the SFMTA was most likely going to approve the free Muni program, he wanted to make sure it was a done deal:

“I’m here today to continue my strong support to make sure that it’s not going to be a problem for seniors and people with disabilities who are on a fixed income to not be able to get to their doctor’s appointment, to not be able to go shopping, to be not able to visit other friends.”

SFMTA board member Cheryl Brinkman said this a great step forward for San Francisco:

“We’re here to provide transportation for the entire city and if there are people who can’t afford to use our transportation, it is our responsibility as a citizen to take care of people and to make sure that you have access to transportation.”

Unlike the free Muni for youth program, which started as a 16-month pilot program and funded by Google for the next two years, no one has picked up the tab yet for the free rides for low-income seniors and people with disabilities.

Mayor Ed Lee said in his State of the City Address and in a statement Tuesday that he is calling for the private sector again to partner with the City to help fund the latest free Muni program.

How to Apply

Applications are available online at the SFMTA’s website for seniors and disabled riders to apply. The transit agency said riders can also pick up applications at the Customer Service Center at 11 South Van Ness Avenue.

SFMTA spokesman Paul Rose said applicants can also call 311 for assistance for applying for the program.

People with disabilities need to have a registered Regional Transit Connection Card before signing up for the free Muni program. Seniors will need to have registered Clipper card.

The transit agency also lists on its website on who qualifies for the free Muni program. Seniors and people with disabilities with a gross annual income at or below 100 percent of the Bay area Median income level are eligible for the program.

For a single person, that would be $67,950. For a household size of four, it would be $97,100.