Muni could receive a boost for its free youth plan after a $4 million allocation from a regional agency was recommended, but it’s unclear if that will be enough to fund the $5 million undertaking.
In April, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency board of directors approved a $9 million pilot program to provide free rides for about 40,000 low-income youths in The City. However, that approval was contingent on receiving $5 million in available regional funds from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, the Bay Area’s lead transit agency.
MTC staff recommended a $4 million allocation for Muni. The remaining $1 million would go toward a similar pilot program for low-income residents in Santa Clara County.
David Campos, the San Francisco supervisor and MTC commissioner who has led the drive for the free Muni plan, said the $4 million funding recommendation is a positive sign.
“I think this is a very significant movement, and the MTC recommendation shows that,” Campos said. “We will do what we can to figure this out.”
Campos said he will talk with the SFMTA and other city officials about where the remaining $1 million could come from. The SFMTA does have regional funds it could tap, but they are intended for transportation and infrastructure improvements in low-income areas.
Additionally, the agency recently announced a new $14.6 million deficit that needs to be filled for the upcoming two-year budget. The SFMTA had expected to save $7 million annually from new labor contracts, but those savings were not realized.
Supervisor Scott Wiener, Campos’ colleague on the board and MTC, said he has concerns about the free youth plan.
“If there is no bus for these kids to ride, then obviously the plan doesn’t make much sense,” Wiener said. “We need to find out if the SFMTA can afford this.”
SFMTA spokesman Paul Rose said the agency has not charted out a specific funding plan because the MTC has yet to sign off on the $4 million allocation.
Jane Martin, political director at POWER, a local organization that has been behind the grass-roots advocacy effort for the plan, said the entire city family — from the Mayor’s Office to the various transportation agencies — should work together to find the $1 million.
“Right now, the region is showing their support for the plan,” Martin said.
The $4 million allocation will be up for approval at an MTC committee meeting Wednesday.
Correction: This story was revised to clarify that MTC staff only recommended allocating $4 million for Muni's free youth plan and that the funding still needed to be approved by the regional transit agency.