Gray Panthers of San Francisco
July 2007 Newsletter

Clear the Air, Reduce Oil Consumption:
Make MUNI Free!


A few weeks ago, Mayor Newsom came up with a new/old idea whose time may have come, an idea both environmentally and socially appropriate. Because of global warming we need measures to lower our carbon footprint. How can San Franciscans cut car travel in HALF? This is what we need to do in the current global emergency. First and foremost we must expand public transportation and lure people out of their SUVs. Underserved areas—in Bayview/Hunters Point in particular, where people have to drive just to access markets and other services—already need better schedules and more buses, and why not FREE? The MTA (Metropolitan Transit Authority) collects 18 percent of its funds through fares and spends 18 percent collecting fares. In other words: a wash.

A free Muni would also be of social value. Poor people spend a greater percentage of their income on transportation than the rich do, and would receive a greater benefit. In a world where the rich get richer . . .we could level the playing field a bit.

Two main concerns have been raised. First, if Muni were free, the number of riders would increase (we want that!—out of the cars) and Muni is already underfunded. Various sources of funding have been discussed. A downtown assessment district initiative narrowly lost 13 years ago as business interests poured hundreds of thousands into the effort to defeat it. The reasoning was that downtown businesses are major beneficiaries of Muni which brings workers and shoppers to their doors. Another possible funding source, which would also curb traffic, would be a fee for drivers entering the downtown district, as in London.

Another concern centers around more patrons trashing Muni, which would lead to more maintenance costs and possibly policing costs. Does Portland, which has a free system for its downtown, have a problem? We should research and find out.

The Committee to Save the Planet wants to work on this issue. Come and join us or debate with us.

(back to July 2007 Newsletter front page)