With a recent gift from Google to cover the cost of a free Muni program for youths, advocates have turned their attention to senior and disabled residents in hopes that tech will provide a similar offer.
Ed Reiskin, director of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, acknowledged that there is strong support in the community and from some SFMTA directors for the proposed program, which would reduce the agency’s revenue by $4 million to $6 million annually by providing free Muni for low-income seniors and people with disabilities.
“It’s just a matter of tradeoffs,” Reiskin said of the costs. “If we forego that revenue, maybe it’s less Muni service we can add.”
Google has pledged $6.8 million over two years to cover free Muni for The City’s low- and moderate-income youths. But whether Google or another tech company will step up for the seniors program is unknown.
“I think there’s many discussions with many tech companies about many possible city funding needs,” Reiskin said. “I imagine this one is on the table along with many others.”
Alex Tourk, managing director of the nonprofit sf.citi that represents the interests of tech companies, told The San Francisco Examiner last week that he “did not find any other companies who are internally discussing” the Muni for seniors program.
Cities that already have free bus service for seniors or disabled people include Chicago; Lancaster, Pa.; Palmdale; and San Jose.
Last week, hundreds of people rallied outside City Hall calling for free rides for seniors and the disabled. They reiterated that the monthly pass for their demographic increased from $10 in summer 2009 to $23 this past July. Norman Yee, the only city supervisor to attend the rally, said he supported the proposed program because many seniors live in his District 7.
“There are many challenges they face living on a fixed income,” Yee said. “We’re a city that supports seniors and we should be compassionate to seniors.”