Free Muni: Riders pay nothing starting July 1 under 3-month S.F. pilot program

A fleet of Muni buses sits idle in June 2020 during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. San Francisco supervisors have approved a three-month, $12.5 million pilot project to offer free rides on Muni buses and trains beginning July 1. (Photo by Christopher Michel/Flickr)

San Francisco supervisors this week voted 7-4 to make rides on the San Francisco Municipal Railway free from July 1 to Sept. 1.

“People have talked about Free Muni for decades, and today, we took a historic step toward making it a reality,” Supervisor Dean Preston said. “This is the perfect time to put money into riders’ pockets, bring people back to public transit, and live up to our Transit First mandate. People are excited, and we can’t wait to get started.”

Preston first introduced the measure the board.

The $12.5 million program will be funded by the city’s COVID Contingency Reserve. With ridership down since the pandemic, Supervisor Matt Haney says this is a great way to increase passenger count on public transportation.

(Image via Jim Maurer on Flickr.com)

“This three-month pilot will not only reduce barriers to get people into and back on our buses and trains, but it will also put money directly into the pockets of people who need it the most, especially as the economy fully reopens,” Haney said.

Supervisors who voted in favor, like Hillary Ronen, pointed to the underprivileged communities that Muni disproportionately serves: 52 percent of riders make less than $45,000 a year. This pilot program means passengers can save $243 in monthly pass fees.

Low-income service groups like the South of Market Community Action Network are in favor of the pilot program.

“Our members are hurting right now,” said PJ Eugenio of SOMCAN, which worked with Supervisor Preston’s office to win the pilot. “We need this relief badly, and we are so happy it passed the board. Free Muni cannot arrive soon enough.”

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