The epic battle raged on yesterday at the Metropolitan Transportation Commission's meeting where they decided on the fate of giving $5 million in funding, which will cover over half of the $9 million needed for the 22 month project.
The vote was close and it failed with only seven commissioners saying yes, and eight commissioners saying no. Majority ruled and the attendees was angry because all the work they've done just went down the toilet in a very close vote.
I can sympathize the fact that the people who have been hard at advocating for the free passes are both upset and depressed. When you fight hard for a cause and it can be taken away with a simple vote, things can go from bright to dark in a flash. But just because the MTC voted against giving $5 million for the project doesn't mean you should get full blown emotional with anger and crying (as shown by the Chronicle), will not being able to get free passes affect your grades? I've seen people with much more difficult financial situations and those in foster care beat the odds.
I have to look at the whole picture. What can five million dollars be used for and how can it benefit everyone? It doesn't make practical sense to give the youth of SF free rides. I believe money should be invested in something that can benefit EVERYONE and would be a long term benefit versus a 22 month pass pilot project. For five million, it could partially pay for a new bus which can last at least 10-15 years and serve hundreds of thousands of passengers in its lifetime, rehabbing transit vehicles so they can operate longer with fewer breakdowns, fund transit routes to areas neglected with lack of transit, and plenty more.
There can also be the argument of discrimination; why should the MTC, a regional authority regarding transportation would give Muni a huge chunk of money for free passes, when other agencies such as AC Transit and VTA would only get some funding for a reduction in fares or passes? It could be argued that others that live in Marin County (which is under the MTC's jurisdiction) and San Mateo County can also demand for it too. So truly the project will be more than just several million, because other counties and their advocates will demand they should get free passes too; therefore a chain reaction will start. Even if the pilot program is successful, continued investment into it will be extremely expensive, and what will happen if the MTC decides to kill funding to it? I feel the youth of the Bay Area will revolt.
If there's a middle ground to all of this, I'd consider an option to only give the youth of San Francisco two rides per school day with the usual 90 minute electronic transfers on their Clipper card. This keeps both the costs lower and would supplement the years of neglect from the SFUSD for not funding school buses to get students to and from school. Having free rides on weekends, holidays, and non-school hours is a big no-no.
As I mentioned in my blog in March, the youth of San Francisco should be grateful of Muni's contribution to keep fares low. When comparing transit agencies within the region, Muni gives both the steepest discount (in comparison to the adult fare) and free transfers valid for 90 minutes to get to where they need to go. Other agencies gives a discount, but doesn't come with transfer privileges:
- Muni: $2 adult, $0.75 youth (62.5% discount) with free transfer.
- Samtrans: $2 adult, $1.25 youth (37.5% discount) with no transfer.
- VTA: $2 adult, $1.75 youth (12.5% discount) with no transfer.
- AC Transit: $2.10 adult, $1.05 youth (50% discount) with additional $0.25 for one ride transfer.