Free bus rides for youth still an option, but plan lacks funding


Transit officials are deciding on whether or not give a free pass to the city’s youth. Creative Commons photo by Flickr user waltarrrrr.

Muni still hasn’t decided whether it can afford to let young people in San Francisco ride buses and streetcars for free. But a decision could come within the next two weeks.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s board of directors delayed a vote to approve a two-year budget on Tuesday, because members could not determine whether they should give out free Fast Passes for all youth or just those from low-income families. Both motions failed 3-3.

The two-year proposed budget, which includes free Fast Passes for low-income youth, must now go back to the board, but with an option to extend free passes to all youth.

Ed Reiskin, the director of transportation, said there would be a $6.7 million gap if the transit agency went the all-youth route. He said the proposed budget needed to reflect this change to show where the money would come from to fill the gap.

Funding for the two-year pilot project for either option would come from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, but the funding source has yet to be identified.

Board member Cheryl Brinkman said she did not think providing free Muni Fast Passes for all youth would be sustainable pass the two-year pilot project. Another board member, Jerry Lee, was concerned that Munimight fall short in funding operations if the free-for-all-youth option were approved.

The transit agency’s two-year proposed plan includes an operating budget of $816.4 million for the 2012-2013 fiscal year, and $844.1 million for the 2013-2014 fiscal year.

The two-year budget proposal would close out a projected $53 milliondeficit by enforcing parking meters on Sundays and cutting management and worker overtime. It also includes more funding for Muni maintenance, which he calls the “heart” of the budget.

The Sunday parking proposal has gotten heat from religious leaders who said the proposal would hurt those who attend church on Sundays.

The board of directors will take up the free-for-youth issue and its two-year budget again at the April 17 meeting. The transit agency must submit a balanced budget to City Hall by May 1.

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