Free Muni

Analyzing the costs and benefits of waiving the San Francisco Municipal Railway (MUNI) fares charged to youth from the ages of 5 to 17, the legislative analyst report dated September 19th considers projected revenue loss, decreased fare enforcement, administrative costs, projected ridership levels, associated bus service changes, projected reduction of truancy rates of SFUSD, potential fiscal impact on SFUSD, estimated numbers of youth currently evading fares, and related estimated loss of funds from youth fare evasion. Currently, youth between the ages of 5 to 17 may pay $0.75 per ride or purchase an unlimited ride youth pass for $21 per month. The price of a monthly youth pass increased from $10 in June 2009 to $21 as of July 2011. The price for monthly youth passes was $10 per month since September 2003. The Budget and Legislative Analyst estimates that there are currently 36,600 youth riders on MUNI per month, which is 15 percent of Muni’s 240,000 weekday riders. The Budget and Legislative Analyst estimates that a youth fare waiver program would increase the number of youth riders from 36,600 to 47,580, which represents a 4.6% increase. More youth will soon require access to public transportation as the SFUSD implements its plan to reduce its yellow bus services from 44 buses to 25 buses by 2013. In FY 2011-12, 11 out of 65 elementary schools will completely lose yellow bus services. Currently, New York City and Portland, Oregon already waive fares for some or all youth. Portland waives fares for high school students (24 hours a day, seven days a week). New York City students are eligible for three rides a day for free or reduced fare based on their grade level and their distance from school. Both cities’ transit agencies receive funding from the public school districts and their respective States to offset the estimated lost revenue from providing free and/or reduced fares. The estimated fiscal impact of waiving fares (24 hours a day, seven days a week for youth between the ages of 5 and 17 enrolled in public or private school or residing in San Francisco) is the loss of current youth fare revenue of $6,432,739. However, if school identification cards are used to identify eligible youth, the revenue loss would only be $5,871,119 because of less transaction fees and fare enforcement costs. Youth Clipper Cards would have a net fiscal impact to the SFMTA of $7,036,169 annually. Minor costs associated with additional maintenance are included in the projected costs.

Possible benefits of waiving Muni fares for youth include possible reductions in student truancy, enabling youth to be able to get to jobs at more distant locations, a reduction in youth’s use of private vehicles, reducing the number of Transit Fare Inspections, a reduction in dwell times, and the enhancement of San Francisco as a youth and family-friendly city.