Dozens of San Francisco youths and several city leaders, including supervisors David Campos and John Avalos, gathered Wednesday afternoon on the steps of Everett Middle School to celebrate a new pilot program that will allow local youth to ride Muni for free. As of Friday, March 1, kids from 5 to 17 years of age who live in San Francisco households of low to moderate income will be eligible for a free Clipper card.
“Transportation is a right that all people should enjoy,” said Paul Monge-Rodriguez, a member of the San Francisco Youth Commission who campaigned for the program and spoke at Wednesday’s event. Students from Mission High School, Everett Middle and other schools crowded the steps, carrying handmade posters that read, “All power to the people,” “Muni is my ticket to the city” and “Muni is my school bus.”
The kickoff event marked a hard-fought victory for supporters of the program and for the local group People Organized to Win Employment Rights, which helped to orchestrate the grassroots campaign for free Muni passes. POWER worked with families, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency and city leaders for over two years to make the pilot program a reality.
Campos said that the idea of free youth passes was not an easy sell when he began pushing it a few years ago. The supervisor gave one of his aides, Sheila Chung Hagen, the credit for coming up with the concept.
“Everyone we started talking to about it at the time said, ‘This is never going to happen. You can’t be serious about this,’” Campos said Wednesday. He said that organizers had to gain support from a long list of city, county and regional government agencies in order to make the pilot program possible. Providing youth with transportation is not only about making sure that San Francisco remains affordable for families, he said, but also about “transforming how we as a city think about transportation.”
The new program comes in response to cuts to the San Francisco Unified School District yellow school bus system. According to a press release, the school district has decreased its bus service by 43 percent since 2011 because of state budget cuts. Compounding the problem, the cost of Muni’s youth Fast Pass jumped from $10 to $22 between 2009 and 2012.
“A child’s last thought should be how they’re going to get to school,” said Howard Nelson, a father of two children and Muni operator on the 14 Limited and 38 lines. Students who spoke at Wednesday’s event said that the new program will make it possible for them to get to school, jobs and internships that may lead to future careers. Supporters of the program hope that after the 16-month pilot period, city leaders will move to make the program permanent.
The SFMTA has already received 20,000 applications for the free Clipper card pass for youth. Organizers of the campaign said that the vast majority of those applications were accepted and the cards sent out to the families. To help prepare for the influx of youth on Muni, schools are implementing lessons about public transportation safety and responsible ridership behavior.
The pilot program will cost $8.7 million, to be funded by local and regional agencies, including the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, SFMTA, school district and San Francisco County Transportation Authority.
Applications for youth passes are currently being accepted on a rolling basis. Youth with a gross annual family income at or below 100 percent of Bay Area median levels are eligible for the program. To see those levels explained for various household sizes, see the SFMTA web page for the pilot program here. For instructions on how to apply for a youth Clipper card, see below.
How to Sign Up for Free Muni for Youth
The pilot passes will only be available on Clipper cards.
- If you already have a youth Clipper card, you can fill out the program application online or mail a completed application (PDF) to 11 South Van Ness Ave., San Francisco, CA 94103, Attn: Youth Pilot Pass.
- If you do not have a youth Clipper card, fill out the program application form (PDF), attach supporting documentation establishing proof of age, and mail or drop off to the SFMTA at 11 South Van Ness Ave., San Francisco, CA 94103, Attn: Youth Pilot Pass. You will receive your Clipper card, loaded with your pilot pass, in the mail.
For all other questions, call 311; from locations outside the city, call 415-701-2311.