SFMTA unanimously approves free Muni for seniors and people with disabilities 

click to enlarge Low-income seniors and the disabled, whose budgets are stretched often with added health care costs, will be able to ride Muni for free beginning March 1. - GABRIELLE LURIE/SPECIAL TO THE S.F. EXAMINER
  • Gabrielle Lurie/Special to the S.f. Examiner
  • Low-income seniors and the disabled, whose budgets are stretched often with added health care costs, will be able to ride Muni for free beginning March 1.

Low-income seniors and people with disabilities will soon ride Muni for free.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency board of directors voted unanimously Tuesday to allocate funding for free Muni transit services for seniors and people with disabilities, following raucous public comment that lasted for more than an hour.

"I support it because my mom is disabled," Rosa Chen, a city youth commissioner, told the board during public comment. "We're a low-income family, and every cent matters to us."

Supporters argued that seniors and people with disabilities often live on fixed Social Security incomes, typically around $700 a month, particularly in expensive San Francisco. They said they often are forced to make a choice between taking the bus to the doctor or eating their next meal.

Starting March 1, they will no longer have to choose.

But not everyone over 65 years old is eligible for free Muni. Seniors must be low to moderate income to be eligible, which for a single person means $67,950 annual income, $77,700 for a couple or $97,100 for a family of four. Riders may apply for the Regional Transit Connection discount card, which verifies a rider is a disabled veteran, a Medicare recipient, has a disability verification from the DMV, or is already verified by another transit agency.

"I'm here pleading for free Muni for seniors and people with disabilities," Ursula McGuire of Seniors and Disability Action told the board from her wheelchair.

More than 100 seniors and people with disabilities crowded the meeting and a nearby overflow room. But the vote was seen as a formality. In December last year, SFMTA Transportation Director Ed Reiskin told The San Francisco Examiner that board approval was likely, and Mayor Ed Lee's theme of affordability in his recent State of the City speech clinched the deal in the minds of City Hall insiders.

Supervisors Eric Mar, David Campos, Norman Yee and Jane Kim all thanked the SFMTA board for its efforts well before the vote was cast.

"Most San Franciscans are struggling to live in this city," Campos told the board. "I want to thank the community of advocates who made this possible."

Despite the unanimous approval, the road to free Muni had its share of challenges.

While the SFMTA board approved free Muni for youths in April, the board, at the time, rejected free Muni for seniors and people with disabilities.

Simultaneously, the SFMTA lost $11 million in funding as the board slashed Sunday paid parking meters.

Board President Tom Nolan tasked the SFMTA with finding new funding to expand free Muni to seniors and people with disabilities, which the SFMTA estimated to cost $4 million. He told The Examiner that he was touched by the plight of those on a fixed monthly income.

The free Muni for youths program had received a significant boost from a $6.8 million donation from Google. Hoping for a repeat performance, Lee announced Tuesday what some are calling the "tech sector Bat-signal."

"Today, I call upon the private sector to partner with us, once again, and help fund this vital service that supports our City's most vulnerable," Lee wrote in a statement.

City Hall insiders expected billionaire tech investor and Lee ally Ron Conway to show up in a cape and tights, but no sightings have yet been verified.

For more information on how to sign up, riders can visit sfmta.com, and click here to download a form, or call (415)-701-2311.

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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