Demand is high for free Muni for seniors, disabled 

click to enlarge The City’s cost for the program that provides free Muni for seniors and the disabled is $6 million per year. Seniors with low to moderate incomes are eligible for the program, which began March 1. - JESSICA CHRISTIAN/2014 S.F. EXAMINER FILE PHOTO
  • Jessica Christian/2014 S.F. Examiner file photo
  • The City’s cost for the program that provides free Muni for seniors and the disabled is $6 million per year. Seniors with low to moderate incomes are eligible for the program, which began March 1.

A new program providing free Muni for low- to moderate-income seniors and people with disabilities is off to a fast start.

Approximately 39,000 people are participating in the program so far, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency said, with a thousand signing up in the first two weeks of March alone.

The program was unanimously approved by the SFMTA board of directors in January and is estimated to cost about $6 million over the next two years. It officially began March 1.

Some local advocates are saying the program is causing hiccups due to the unexpectedly overwhelming need from the community.

"[The SFMTA's] first projection said about 20,000 people would sign up, so it's much higher than anticipated," said Pi Ra, a transportation advocate at Senior Disability Action. It's taking about four weeks to process applications because, Ra said, "Muni isn't overwhelmed, but the Clipper provider is."

Ra works with Accessible Services at the SFMTA and goes into senior centers, senior housing and other places seniors congregate to help them fill out forms to get free Muni. The sign-up process should've been three weeks if a customer already has a Clipper card, he said, but it's now taking about four weeks.

The SFMTA was unable to verify the claims about Clipper delays.

Ultimately they are minor glitches, Ra said, and from what he's seen the SFMTA worked hard to keep up with demand.

And the response is a good sign, Ra added.

"For seniors and people with disabilities on a fixed income, the whole cost of living in San Francisco is going up," he said. "Social Security is not going up that fast. So their income isn't going up with the cost of living. Every little bit helps."

UPDATE: After publication, the SFMTA responded with comment on the program:

"We are still processing applications for seniors with Clipper cards and mailing them letters within three weeks, as promised, not four," said Emmet Nelson, manager of revenue program development at the SFMTA. He added that the SFMTA and Cubic, which runs the Clipper card program, "have been able to handle the need appropriately."

joe@sfexaminer.com

About The Author

Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez

Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez

Bio:
Born and raised in San Francisco, Fitzgerald Rodriguez was a staff writer at the San Francisco Bay Guardian, and now writes the S.F. Examiner's political column On Guard. He is also a transportation beat reporter covering pedestrians, Muni, BART, bikes, and anything with wheels.
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