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The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency is set to launch its expanded Free Muni for Youth program on Aug. 15, just one day before the school district reopens all classrooms for the fall semester.

According to the transit agency’s website, the program will provide free Muni service to all youth under the age of 19 and drops the prior income limit requirement. The transit agency will no longer require an application, proof of payment or valid Clipper card for most rides, though passes will be needed for cable car use and can be requested from the SFMTA for youth riders who use cable cars regularly and live in The City.

Youth who had already enrolled in the more limited, income-based program can continue using their Clipper cards for free cable car access. Non-resident youth are not entitled to free cable car rides under the expanded program.

Muni transit fare inspectors will not request proof of payment from youth who appear 19 and younger, but youth over the age of 16 are encouraged to carry student ID or another form of identification for age verification, officials said.

Mayor London Breed said in a statement Monday:

“I can’t wait to see Muni buses packed with students eager to return to the classroom this Fall. This expansion will make San Francisco more accessible for all of our youth and, hopefully, foster a new generation of Muni riders.”

It was just a month ago that Breed and Supervisor Myrna Melgar announced expansion of free Muni access with a $2 million budget allocation to kickstart the program’s first year. Melgar introduced a resolution in support of the funding allocation, which was co-sponsored by supervisors Dean Preston and Matt Haney, at the June 29 Board of Supervisors meeting.

The SFMTA originally debuted its Free Muni for Youth program in 2013 as a 16-month pilot program for low-income youth residents. Families had to complete an application and meet specific income requirements in order to qualify.

Melgar said the program’s expansion relieves families of the application process burden, adding:

“In 2013, we were able to roll out a free Muni for low income youth program. That program, while great, did present barriers, especially for the lowest income youth whose parents had to submit documentation that they sometimes didn’t have or because of language barriers or were intimidated to do these things. That will no longer be the case for a year.”

In May, the Board of Supervisors voted 7-4 to approve an ordinance and $12.5 million funding allocation that would have extended free Muni rides to residents of all ages for a pilot period of three months. However, Breed swiftly vetoed both the ordinance and funding request. The mayor claimed there was a lack of evidence suggesting free Muni service would increase ridership, which sponsors Preston and Haney outlined as a primary goal of the proposed pilot.

According to Preston and Haney, the larger pilot program also aimed to provide fare respite for residents still struggling to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic. Supporting supervisors lacked the votes needed to override the mayor’s veto.

Jerold Chinn
Jerold Chinn is the San Francisco Bureau Chief of SFBay and covers transportation and City Hall. He has spent a decade covering transportation in San Francisco. Jerold is a San Francisco native and frequently takes public transit everywhere he goes. Follow Jerold on Twitter @jerold_chinn. Email tips to jerold@sfbay.ca.

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