Free Muni for Kids?

Photo by Lulu Vision

Should San Francisco kids ride Muni free of charge? The question, already floating around town on- and offline, might finally make its way to the deciders: the SFMTA board of directors may discuss it at next month’s meeting.

Supervisor David Campos is one of the proposal’s biggest supporters. Though details are still being hammered out, Campos envisions no restrictions for time of day: that is, youth riders could ride free anytime. Supervisor Sean Elsbernd, on the other hand, says the idea will cost Muni way too much, especially in light of current and projected multimillion-dollar operating deficits.

So who picks up the tab instead if kids ride Muni for free? The current proposal calls for Muni to kick in $1.4 million per year, according to SFGate, with the rest of the estimated $7 million coming from a variety of area funding sources, including the San Francisco Unified School District.

Muni advocacy group Rescue Muni says free Muni for kids is a nice idea, but some important issues haven’t yet been addressed: additional security to handle more kids is one, as well as better use of public funds. For example, Rescue Muni prefers voter-approved bond money — which would be used to offset the cost of the free youth riders — be used for its intended purpose: a bus rapid transit route on Geary Boulevard.

If you favor the idea of allowing San Franciscans under the age of 17 ride Muni free of charge, head over to to sign its petition. If you don’t think it’s a good idea, let us know why.


  • This idea makes sense.

    The costs are overstated. If “more” kids are going to be riding MUNI, giving passes to those kids costs MUNI nothing in lost fares, they were not riding MUNI before and thus not paying. Prior fare evaders were not paying. Additional security is offset by less need for fare enforcement. Security on a bus is cheaper than truancy officers. Kids in school are cheaper than kids not in school – today and 10 years from now when adults are better educated. Children who switch to “free MUNI” from parents driving them provides safety benefits around schools, reduces traffic congestion, and frees up their parents time for productivity.

    We have no yellow bus system. This reaches an ideal situation where we provide comparable service using our existing MUNI infrastructure – doubly important in a city with school choice.

  • Jeremy Baker via Facebook

    i never see kids paying fares or showing passes anyway, so how does this differ?

  • Tofu

    The easy answer would be say, yes, let’s just make it free for kids. But we need to think about what this means. Do we make it for free for all kids? Or just San Francisco kids? Should we be subsidizing the fares of kids from the suburbs? And I do like seeing families of tourists taking MUNI, but I don’t think teenagers from Norway and France really need a free ride.

    Growing up on the East Coast, I was issued a free bus pass that was valid in the to-and-from school hours. One also had to live more than a mile from school to be eligible. For many parents, the Youth MUNI pass is not too expensive. I prefer the idea of giving low-income kids a pass for free and also free passes for all kids to get to and from school if they live far enough away. We also need a discounted pass for full-time college students who attend school in San Francisco or reside here while attending college.

    I rather keep passes and make MUNI easier and less expensive for kids to use. And serious enforcement has to be part of the plan. MUNI can get kids where they need to go but it also can do much more. A better run MUNI can be a vehicle (pun intended) to teach kids to be good public transportation riders and better citizens.

    I fear that free fares for all just might be a free for all.

  • Paul J. Lucas

    I don’t see why “kids” aged, say 13-17, should ride free when teenagers spend more than Muni fare on Lattes, iTunes, and hair products. If you want to let kids of only low-income families ride free, we can discuss that; but to let all kids ride for free is a luxury Muni can’t afford.

  • Susan

    NOOOOOOOO……. first & foremost, Muni can’t make thier budget today… so to reduce the income will mean that those of us who buy passes & pay our muni “fair share’ will get hit up more. I agree with previous posters- figure out a system to give passes to the really needy, but don’t make it across the board, and only allow it during school transit hours. Teach kids repsonsibility, and why they need an education in the first place, don’t just give it to them for free. If the supervisors start to ride Muni daily, not just for some PR shots, then they can bring up Muni policies. Until then? NO! No! No!

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