Lawmakers discussing free Muni for kids program


40,000 kids would be elgibile for the free rides and the Muni board of directors will vote on that next month. But before that, supervisors are now debating whether that's the best use of a new grant the transit agency just received.

San Francisco's Muni has an aging fleet. A retired transit operator says it's the oldest in the nation and in desperate need of a makeover. "The buses are not being maintained," Paul Slade said Monday at a hearing in favor of a resolution by Supervisor Scott Wiener. Wiener believes $6.7 million recently awarded to Muni by the regional Metropolitan Transportation Commission should be spent for maintenance and service improvements "Money that is eligible to aintain this system and reverse Muni's downward spiral is money that should be used for that purpose," he said.

However, for the past two years, there's been a strong push by community activists to fund free Muni for low-income kids who ride the buses to get to and from school. "These kids want to go to school. They need an education. They want to learn. They want to be able to come home and do their homework and they want to be able to get to school in the morning," supporter Glenisha Randleston said. A monthly Fast Pass costs $22, a 120 percent increase since 2009. At the same time, the old yellow school bus service is being drastically cut.

Muni's director has proposed spending the bulk of the new money, $5.1 million, on maintenance for the system and $1.6 million on free Muni as a pilot program for one year. "We don't see it as you do, one or the other. We believe we can do both," Director Ed Reiskin said.

Mayor Ed Lee's spokesperson says Lee supports the concept of free Muni, but he wants it balanced with the critical maintenance needs of the agency.

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