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Regional funding revived for Free Muni for Youth

October 24, 2012

Full Metropolitan Transportation Commission to consider new funding proposal Wednesday, Oct. 24, 10:30 a.m., at 101 Eighth St., Oakland

by Jaron Browne

POWER empowers young people to campaign and win Free Muni for Youth.
The Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) is scheduled to consider a new funding option for Free Muni for Youth when it meets on Wednesday, Oct. 24, at its Oakland headquarters, 101 Eighth St., at 10:30 a.m. Youth pass advocates will hold a brief press conference in front of the MTC building immediately following the commission’s vote on the funding proposal.

At its Oct. 10 meeting, the MTC’s Programming and Allocations Committee unanimously supported the proposal to fund the youth pass through the Transit Performance Initiative (TPI). The initiative includes a $6.7 million allocation for San Francisco and specifically encourages local transit operators to fund youth and low-income pass programs.

“We are really excited that funding for Free Muni for Youth is moving forward,” said Nicholas Persky of the San Francisco Youth Commission. “School started last month and many families don’t have the bus fare needed to get their children to school. We want to see this program implemented by the New Year.”

Over the last two years, thousands of youth, parents and community members have organized to secure free transit passes for youth to get to and from school, work, volunteer opportunities and recreational activities. This is especially important because the price of Muni’s Youth Fast Pass has gone up 120 percent since 2009, and the School District is cutting yellow school bus service in half.

Earlier this year, the Free Muni for Youth Coalition secured over $4.9 million in local funding and formal support from the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, the Board of Education, Mayor Edwin Lee, the San Francisco County Transportation Authority and the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency board for a pilot program providing free transit passes to low-income youth. The program faced a temporary setback when the MTC voted against supporting the pilot program with regional climate funds.

“We are really excited that funding for Free Muni for Youth is moving forward,” said Nicholas Persky of the San Francisco Youth Commission. “School started last month and many families don’t have the bus fare needed to get their children to school. We want to see this program implemented by the New Year.”

“The new proposal before the MTC is a testament to the power of the people. When we stay focused and don’t let setbacks stop us, we are able to improve the lives of our families and our community,” said Anali Padilla, a parent leader with POWER.

The $6.7 million in funding from the TPI would allow San Francisco to implement the pilot project for Free Muni for Low-Income Youth and invest the remaining funds in other programs that encourage new transit riders.

“Our vision from the beginning of this campaign has always been to encourage a new generation of transit riders,” said San Francisco Supervisor David Campos, a key proponent of the program. “We know from New York that youth who start using public transit early are very likely to remain lifelong transit users because they understand and are comfortable using the system. We can do this in San Francisco, too.”

“The new proposal before the MTC is a testament to the power of the people. When we stay focused and don’t let setbacks stop us, we are able to improve the lives of our families and our community,” said Anali Padilla, a parent leader with POWER.

Organizations backing the proposal include People Organizing to Win Employment Rights (POWER), the Chinatown Adopt-an-Alleyway Project, the San Francisco Youth Commission, Urban Habitat, Jamestown Community Center, the Chinese Progressive Association, Jobs with Justice, Senior Action Network, SRO Families Collaborative, the San Francisco Organizing Project, and the Filipino Community Center, Causa Justa::Just Cause and Mujeres Unidas y Activas.

Jaron Browne, lead organizer for POWER (People Organized to Win Employment Rights), can be reached at jaron@peopleorganized.org or (415) 864-8372.

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