SAN FRANCISCO—On April 13, a proposal was set forth by San Francisco Board of Supervisors Dean Preston and Matt Haney to have a three-month pilot program this summer that would allow Muni fare rides to be free. The program would run from the first of July to the end of September. During the Board of Supervisors meeting on Wednesday, May 12, the program received approval from the Budget and Appropriations Committee. The SFMTA has concerns about the pilot program.
SFMTA’s Director of Jeffrey Tumlin expressed willingness to work with the SF Board of Supervisors on the pilot program, but that details on funding & project goals need to be finalized.
“Given our growing structural deficit, we welcome all the support we can get from the (city’s) general fund. However, we are unclear about the study objectives for the proposed pilot.”, said Tumlin in the board meeting. When the pandemic was at its peak the SFMTA did offer free ridership to commuters in order to keep ridership afloat. “Right now, we can only operate 70 percent of pre-COVID service levels and we’re forced to leave essential workers behind at the curb everyday.”
One of concerns Tumlin raised was the program would benefit more affluent riders, as the SFMTA already offers free or subsidized fare rates for low income riders.
The SF Board of Supervisors indicated to Tumlin that the program would be temporary and would not affect the SFMTA’s plan to reopen service. The proposal has a budget of $12.5 million for the temporary program that Preston estimates would save frequent Muni riders $81 a month and more for riders who pay for single ride fares.