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SFMTA budget freezes fares for two fiscal years

Muni fares will hold steady over the next two fiscal years, according to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s approved two-year budget.

The SFMTA’s operating budget for the 2022-2023 fiscal years is set at $1.356 billion, with another $1.407 billion allocated for the following year.

Responding to public feedback given during budget listening sessions, the SFMTA Board of Directors decided to pause automatic fare adjustments based on the consumer index. 

The fare freeze also applies to the Free Muni for All Youth program, which allows people through the age of 18 to ride for free. Mayor London Breed and Supervisor Myrna Melgar last year allocated $2 million to the SFMTA to launch the youth program that launched in August

Transit officials pointed out the budget appropriation was a one-time deal and that a permanent funding stream will need to be identified in order to continue the Free Muni for All Youth program beyond the two years.

The San Francisco Youth Commission passed a resolution urging the SFMTA board to keep the fares free for all youth through the age of 18.

During public comment, Adrianna Zhang, a junior at Lowell High School and the District 7 representative on the San Francisco Youth Commission, said:

“As representatives of young people in The City, this resolution is a testament of what youth want and need in our city.”

The agency’s budget will also support exploration of a MuniMobile app 10-trip pass and an accumulator pass pilot program that has been under consideration for some time.

In addition, the budget allows the agency to hire for new positions that will support communications, outreach, transit safety and security, as well as the customer experience program.

Jonathan Rewers, the SFMTA’s acting chief financial officer, said at Tuesday’s board meeting that the budget includes 22 transit ambassadors to staff presence on Muni vehicles. The budget also sustains the agency’s Muni Transit Assistance Program.

Transit car cleaners, temporary positions created during the pandemic, will be made permanent as part of agency’s budget, Rewers said.

He said:

“We want to maintain that level of cleanliness. It’s no longer because Covid was here, but it’s because the rider expects that level of quality on our vehicles.”

Others who called in during public comment made a last ditch effort to implore the board to make Muni fares free for adults at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level.

People also called for free or discounted Muni rides for City College of San Francisco students.

On the topic of fare policy, Rewers said staff will wait and see what happens at the state level. As part of a $11 billion package designed to help Californians weather the storm of high gas prices, Gov. Gavin Newsom last month made a proposal that would give transit and rail agencies funding to provide three months of free public transit service. The proposal needs approval by the state legislature.

Rewers said staff will resume detailed fare policy discussion in October, including consideration of City College student rates.

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