Why free Muni for kids makes sense

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For a moment this morning, Mission Street looked the way it might in a world where the city actually got beyond cars. About a million people were a block away, on Market, and everyone with an ounce of sense knew not to try to drive downtown. So I rode my bike along a busy city street that was given over entirely to pedestrians, bicycles and Muni buses. The buses moved at a rapid clip with no traffic to slow them down. And despite the parade a few hundred feet to the north, it felt ... quiet. Peaceful. Yes, Mission Street.

How totally cool.

Imagine how easy it would be for transit to serve the downtown corridor if nobody drove cars. Imagine how comfortable people would be biking and walking to work. It just takes a Giants World Series (and a huge regional parade) to show us that a different urban world is possible.

Which brings me to free Muni for kids.

There's enough money now, from a federal grant, to do a pilot program in San Francisco. Except that Sup. Scott Wiener thinks the money should go to general system improvements. I get it -- Muni has lots of problems and Wiener thinks we should fix the system for everyone before we make it free for some.

I admit I'm biased -- I have two kids who go to public school, and ride Muni. The school bus system is nearly gone; most kids can't get an old-fashioned yellow bus in the morning or at night. So their only option is the have parents or friends drive them, or to ride Muni. Yeah, it would save me a little money if my kids didn't have to pay, but it's not making me choose between food and rent.

For a lot of low-income familes, the cost of Muni fare is a real issue -- and it's difficult getting a reduced-fare youth pass. (Among other things, you need a birth certificate or passport to prove your age; you think immigrant families including some members without documents are going to go to a government agency and present that sort of information?) It seems to me it's the city's responsibility to help young people get to school, and since we can't afford school buses, this is one of the best options.

There's another side of the story, though. Getting kids to ride Muni as a matter of normal course -- showing them that it's the best way to get around town -- is a huge investment in the future. We can't keep going on the way we are with personal automobiles, particularly in urban areas. We want to get to the point where just about everyone uses Muni or rides a bike or walks -- and I say, start young.

 

Comments

Including the homeless, bicyclists, millionaires who want to influence elections and yes - minors who feel they're entitled to use the transport system for free. MUNI service is terrible - it needs more funds to get better - not less. Aren't you always claiming that we need to properly fund our public services so they function more efficiently Tim?

Posted by Troll II on Oct. 31, 2012 @ 2:20 pm

If you can't afford your children, don't have them.

If you and your offspring are here illegally why should we foot the bill for every aspect of their lives.

The social contract to progressives is a middle finger to the citizens.

Posted by matlock on Oct. 31, 2012 @ 5:15 pm

Yes- it would be lovely if Muni was free for kids. Only problem being that MTA already is in the red. So what is a little more red ink? Maybe when things are better this could be built in, but not now.

And of course I totally disagree with your whole notion that if you make a kid ride Muni now, when they grow up they will love it and not get cars. Guess what Tim, I grew up in SF, my family never had a car- rode Muni for years all over town- and HATED it. All it did was make me a dedicated car owner- total opposite effect of your dream of social engineering.

Posted by D. Native on Oct. 31, 2012 @ 2:58 pm

were less ratialist there wouldn't be a need for free MUNI as the kids would be going to their local school.

Tim wants to solve a problem he helped create.

Posted by matlock on Oct. 31, 2012 @ 5:11 pm

Agree. I think it's great to get kids on Muni. That and the occasional City Car Share are all my kids have known. And it is the future.

I would just push further. Make it universal. Yes, there should be some hoops and guidelines. Public transit is a public good and should be valued and respected. But when things are universal they are much harder to take away.

Posted by Gust on Oct. 31, 2012 @ 5:28 pm

They should pay us to ride Muni.

Posted by marcos on Oct. 31, 2012 @ 5:36 pm

Kids should bet free MUNI. Also free iPhones and PCs from the state.

We should all get free stuff. MUNI bus maintenace be damned

Posted by Guest on Oct. 31, 2012 @ 7:28 pm

If I didn't have to walk 1.5 miles myself because the trains broke down tonight, would feel better about this

Posted by Guest on Oct. 31, 2012 @ 11:24 pm

(oops, sorry, I meant "Affirmative Diversity strategy" and then your kids wouldn't need to take a bus at all. they could walk to your local school as all American kids should be able to.

That would get rid of a lot of those car trips that you dont like either.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 01, 2012 @ 12:27 am

For everyone! Tim also gives money to the homeless so that they can buy booze. Of course, he would never take one in...they're dirty...a little crazy...and anyway, it's up to the rich to finance Tim's Society of Free Stuff. Yes, Tim hates the rich...but no matter! Free stuff!

Posted by Orwell's Uterus on Nov. 01, 2012 @ 11:37 am

Because in his world, there is an over-arching imperative. He believes that the rich "owe" the poor and so it's easy for him to cross the line into punitive confiscation.

In his mind, what's his is his, but what's yours is also his.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 01, 2012 @ 11:54 am

The rich don't "owe" us anything, we get to use the political system to take back that which they've stolen via the political system.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 01, 2012 @ 12:07 pm

All great wealth derives from a great crime, as that froggie homo Balzac opined.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 01, 2012 @ 12:47 pm