Press Release: SF Board of Supervisors Passed Free Muni Pilot Program

For the office of Supervisor Dean Preston:

Pilot Legislation to Fund 3-Months of Fare Free Transit Starting July 1

The Board of Supervisors voted 7-4 to pass Supervisor Dean Preston’s Free Muni Pilot. Supervisors Ronen, Walton, Chan, Mar, and Peskin joined Supervisor Preston and lead co-author Supervisor Haney in supporting the measure. Under the proposal, Muni would be free from July 1, 2021 through September 30, 2021.

“People have talked about Free Muni for decades, and today, we took a historic step toward making it a reality,” said Supervisor Preston. “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.”

The Free Muni Pilot passes at a crucial time. Traffic congestion is on the rise, already at pre-pandemic levels. Transit ridership plummeted during the pandemic and has been slow to recover. With commuters returning to reopened workplaces, expanding Muni ridership and service is essential. Free transit will incentivize use of mass transit over congestion and pollution causing alternatives. 

With the Free Muni Pilot program, San Francisco is poised to join Boston, Washington D.C., Kansas City and other cities that have implemented free transit or are testing the waters. Most recently, Fresno announced fare-free public transit during the pandemic. 

The beneficiaries of the pilot are overwhelmingly low income, with 52% of MUNI riders earning under $45,000 a year, 73% under $75,000, and 84% under $100,000. Through the pilot, the typical Muni rider will save $81 per month, the cost of a Muni monthly pass. That’s $243 each rider will save over the duration of  the pilot– and those who pay for individual rides will save even more. For families with children returning to school on Muni, a parent taking two kids to school pays $5 each way each day, or $10 a day. 

“Free Muni is a great way to boost ridership on a transit system that has lost a significant amount of passengers for more than a year during the pandemic,” said Supervisor Haney, Chair of the Budget and Appropriations Committee. “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. 

“Our members are hurting right now,” said PJ Eugenio of SOMCAN, which organized 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.”

As California reopens, social distancing guidelines on transit are being loosened — Los Angeles County has lifted them entirely, and the MTA is poised to update theirs by mid june, just in time for the pilot to begin. This will dramatically expand capacity on Muni, just in time to accommodate additional ridership from Free Muni. A key part of recovery for the economy is getting people back to work and frequenting small businesses. Free Muni will remove transit-related financial burdens imposed on an undoubtedly struggling working class and incentivize people to get out and about.

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