In San Francisco, Free Muni for Seniors, Disabled Seems Likely

FILE PHOTO: S.F. Muni bus (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

San Francisco's Municipal Transportation Agency has a program that provides free Muni to low- and moderate-income youth, and on Jan. 20 its board will consider extending the free passes to seniors and disabled riders. SFMTA spokesman Paul Rose says the program has broad support and is likely to pass.

"We want to make sure that people who are on fixed incomes do have access to Muni so they can get where they need to go," said Rose.

Each month Muni issues about 17,000 discounted senior passes and 7,000 passes to riders with disabilities.

The proposed free program is expected to cost anywhere from $4 million to $8 million. Last April, when the board approved free rides for youth, it rejected bringing seniors and the disabled under the program.

While the SFMTA has lost revenue from the discontinuation of metering for Sunday parking, the passage of Proposition A and B has provided new funding.

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Extending the free ridership program has been on the agenda of advocates for the past year. Donna Willmott is a transit justice activist with Senior & Disability Action, an organization working to educate and bring seniors and people with disabilities together to fight for their rights. She  told KQED's Bryan Goebel last year that with the rising cost of city living, namely rent, the burden of paying for a Muni pass or even an individual Muni trip can be overwhelming for some.

Jessica Lehman, executive director of Senior & Disability Action, told Goebel that many elderly and disabled riders don’t own cars and rely on public transit as their primary mode of transportation. But for some, discounted fares represent a luxury.

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“Even when you’re talking about discount fares, seniors and people with disabilities often don’t have money for that,” she told Goebel. “If you’re living on SSI or Social Security and you’re only getting about $800 a month, we all know how expensive rent is right now, and it’s only going up.”

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