Google covers free Muni for low income youth

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(Mayor’s office news release)

Mayor Edwin M. Lee, Board President David Chiu, Supervisor David Campos, Supervisor Scott Wiener and the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) today announced an unprecedented $6.8 million gift from Google to fund an additional two years of Free Muni for Low Income Youth. The popular pilot program is currently funded by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission through June 2014 and provides monthly free muni passes to more than 31,000 low-income San Francisco youth ages 5 to 17. The $6.8 million gift is one of the largest private contributions towards direct City services in San Francisco history.

“Continuing to provide free Muni for thousands of young people from lower-income households will help make our City more affordable for working families,” said Mayor Lee. “With this unprecedented gift from Google, we can keep this successful pilot program running for at least two more years at no cost to taxpayers or Muni riders and free up critical funds for other vital Muni maintenance and services. Google is demonstrating with real action and real resources that they are a true partner in addressing our City’s affordability crisis for lower and middle-income families. I want to thank Google for this enormous gift to the SFMTA, and I look forward to continuing to work with this great San Francisco employer towards improving our City for everyone.”

Preliminary data shows that Free Muni for Low Income Youth has had a positive impact on San Francisco’s transportation network. Clipper card data shows 266,000 more rides by youth Muni riders in May 2013 than in May 2012. Approximately 45 percent of Free Muni for Low Income Youth participants plan to ride public transportation as an adult, while 70 percent would recommend Muni to their friends, according to the San Francisco Unified School District Student Survey results.

“It’s good to see Google support the next generation of Muni riders,” said Board President Chiu. “Along with the Mayor, community members and others, I have publicly and privately urged technology companies to increase their civic engagement. We appreciate this positive step.”

“This is a good first step. I’m glad that the people of San Francisco have been heard on this issue,” said Supervisor Campos. “I’m looking forward to working with the tech industry in the future on other important issues like housing, jobs, and tenant protections. We need further collaboration to support more community driven solutions to the displacement crisis.”

“Google’s agreement to fund free Muni passes for low income youth for two years is a very positive step forward,” said Supervisor Wiener. “The agreement shows Google’s commitment to our city, and it will help low income families, many of whom are struggling. Given Muni’s massive deferred maintenance and the need for the agency to pour every available dollar into improving the system’s capacity and reliability, paying for this program with a source outside of Muni’s operating budget is the right way to move forward. Now, we need to make sure that when the two-year program ends, we have sustainable long-term funding identified so that Muni’s operating budget isn’t impacted in the future. We have two years to achieve that goal.”

The program was launched by the SFMTA on March 1, 2013. The 16-month pilot program waives Muni fares for low and moderate income youth residents of San Francisco between the ages of 5 and 17. The program was launched after the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) decided to reduce the use of yellow school buses for transporting students to and from school.

“The SFMTA is proud to be moving forward with this program and providing access to Muni for San Francisco’s low-income youth,” said SFMTA Board of Directors Chairman Tom Nolan. “This generous gift allows us to continue a very popular and successful program that ensures that Muni works for everyone and is one less demand for the board as we consider our upcoming two-year budget.”

“Encouraging our youth to use public transit furthers our Transit First policy goals,” said SFMTA Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin. “The Free Muni For Youth program allows us to make Muni a more welcoming option for youth who need to get to school and other destinations.”

“Well over half of our 56,000 public school students come from households where their families struggle to make ends meet, so having free access to Muni removes a barrier to their educational opportunities,” said SFUSD Superintendent Richard A. Carranza. “Keeping Muni free for low-income youth is a great way for Google to support our children and their families.”

“The Free Muni for Youth program has been tremendously beneficial in allowing youth to afford getting to school, work, and after-school programs,” said San Francisco Youth Commission Chair Nicholas Persky. “This contribution will help hardwire the program and our youth into lifelong ridership.”

“We’ve seen over the past year, how much Free Muni for low income youth has meant to the community,” said Chinatown Community Development Center (CCDC) Youth Organizer Angelina Yu. “Google investing in this program is a great start to partnering with the City.”

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