If you do down to the BART station at 16th and Mission today (Thursday) from 3-5 p.m., you'll see banners that read ‘Get Your Free Fast Pass.” The PR blitz is the work of the MORE Public Transit Coalition, which is conducting a series of community bus pass clinics in the Mission, the Bayview and Chinatown in the coming weeks to help low-income families apply for free MUNI youth passes.
Last week, at the urging of the MORE Public Transit Now Coalition and Sup. David Campos, the MTA Board approved the Youth Lifeline Program, which will provide 12,000 low-income youth with free MUNI bus passes in April, May and June.
But to access the free bus pass program, low-income families need to fill out an application and return it to the MTA Office. As a result, community organizers are setting up the bus pass clinics to inform low-income parents and students about the program and to help them to apply.
“We fought hard to get these free bus passes,” Gloria Esteva of POWER (People Organized to Win Employment Rights) said in a press release. “Now we want to make sure that children get these passes in their hands and don’t have to worry having bus fare in order to make it school each day.”
More than 20,000 transit dependant students in San Francisco rely on public transit to travel to and from school daily. But last year, the price of the Youth Fast Pass doubled from $10 to $20.
“We take the bus everywhere we go,” Un Un Che from the Chinese Progressive Association. Said. “My family depends on MUNI to get to school, to work, to the doctor. Buses are not a luxury; they are a necessity.”
A similar clinic will be held in the Bayview on Monday March 14 at the Mandela Plaza at the corner of 3rd Street and Palou. A second clinic will be held in the Mission on Thursday March 17 and a second in the Bayview on Monday March 21. Future clinics are planned for Chinatown, though dates are not yet available. But applications will be available at all locations in English, Spanish, and Chinese, and assistance will be provided in all three languages.
Organizers note that while the program is a positive step, the 12,000 passes still fall short of meeting the need for affordable public transportation in San Francisco.
“We know that next year the city plans to continue to cut yellow school buses,” POWER organizer Beatriz Herrera said. “We need a permanent program that will ensure that our children can travel safely around the city, get to school each day, and meet their basic transit needs.”