Youth Push for Discounted MUNI Pass

root - Posted on 20 May 2007

Bay Area youths fight for a discounted MUNI pass for struggling young adults aged 18-24.

by Peter Lauterborn

While the legal status of young adults changes upon reaching the age of 18, their lifestyle, economic standing, academic and societal pressures do not improve, and more often than not become more challenging. Nevertheless, youth are struck with a 450% increase in their monthly transportation expense as a birthday present to celebrate their adulthood.

The fact is by turning 18 most youth do not have doors of opportunity flying open, allowing them to take on more financial responsibilities. Rather, the opposite is most often the case.

For youths 17 and younger, a modest $10 MUNI youth pass becomes a drastic $45 monthly expenditure the day they turn 18. The result of this aggressive jump in fares for youth is additional challenge for transitional youth, and lowers ridership creating less revenue for Muni.

This issue was heard Monday, December 4, at 4:00pm at City Hall, room 263. The proposal is being pushed by the San Francisco Youth Commission, which is the City body charged with advocating and advising the rest of local government with better policies, programs, and budget priorities that pertain to youths’ lives.

Shadi Elkarra, appointed by Mayor Newsom to the Youth Commission, commented on the issue, saying, "San Francisco should be promoting public transportation, but how can we if we're not making it financially accessible for young people who are already struggling?"

Commissioner Kemi Shamonda, of District 6, agrees, "I know how low the wages are for working youth. Many of us are low-income and our jobs help support our families."

Supervisor Jake McGoldrick, who is sponsoring the Youth Commission's initiative, wrote, "Young adults are 16.5% of MUNI's readership and the most economically disadvantaged 18-24 year olds are most dependent on public transportation to fulfill their responsibilities."

Legislation pertaining to this issue will be heard in the City Operations and Neighborhood Services committee before going to the full Board of Supervisors.

Youths between the ages of 18 and 24 contribute $11.7 million annually to the MTA in the purchase of adult MUNI Fast Passes, and make 34 million bus trips annually, according to the Office of the Legislative Analyst at the San Francisco Board of Supervisors (OLA). The OLA also found that a 30% discount to the Adult Fast Pass would spark a 7.2% increase in ridership among 18-24 year olds, according to the forthcoming report from the OLA.
This makes the fiscal impact of having this discount approximately $5.7 million annually.

"The statistics speak for themselves," says Commissioner Elkarra.

The upside of giving this discount is that the City could promote life-long mass-transit users. Currently, the sharp price hike deters many from continuing their use of the public transit system.

"We should be afforded the opportunity {to be life long transit riders] at a fair rate," says Commissioner Anthony Albert, appointed by Supervisor Bevan Dufty.

The National Center for Transit Research agrees, stating that, "travel habits developed at a young age could influence subsequent behavior, and that those who were not regular transit users as young people were less likely to be transit users in adult life."

But even if the benefits of the plan were undesirable, and even if the costs of the plan were unfavorable, the City of San Francisco must recognize that—in our era of fleeting families—anything that can be done to support young people must be pursued. The ability to move effectively around the city is, for young people, a question about their safety, education, employment, and overall well-being.

"With the cost of living escalating in San Francisco," says Iqra Anjum, who as Chair of the Youth Commission conceptualized the plan, "the City and the Municipal Transportation Authority must re-affirm their commitment and invest in young adults."

Peter Lauterborn was a member of the San Francisco Youth Commission from 2003-2005, and served as Government Affairs Officer. He is currently an undergraduate student at San Francisco State University. Contact him at

For more information on the San Francisco Youth Commission, please visit City Hall room 345, log on, or call 415.554.6446.


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