Why The Plan for Free Muni for Low Income Kids is A Bad Idea – But Not For the Reason You Think

Oh, here we go again.
Once again, the Road to Hell Paving Crew (aka obnoxious city politicians) are firing up divisive rhetoric on an emotional issue to advance their personal political career. In this case, it’s “Supervisor” David Campos, who has done a great job whipping up emotions and catering to the extreme left in his district over the issue of free passes for low income students. It makes for great politics (who DOESN’T want to help “low income kids?”), but it makes for lousy policy.
That’s because it sets a precedent that an affordable Muni system is only for a few people, narrowly defined as “poor,” while the rest of Muni’s owner/riders, who have been stuck with spiraling Fast Pass and fare costs, are being set up to take even higher fare increases in the future to subsidize the so-called “free” passes. This continues San Francsico’s tradition of being a great place if you’re extremely poor or extremely rich, but everyone else gets screwed over. How “fair.”
This isn’t the first time a So-Called Progressive has invented a new way to de-fund Muni with feel good ideas. Nor is it confined to So-Called Supervisors. Our Allegedly Moderate Ex-Mayor Newsom was also playing politics with the “free Muni” idea, even though every analysis proved it to be utter bullshit.
I’d like to offer a few alternative takes on this. First, if Muni had simply bothered to collect the fares it was owed, the last fare increase would not have been necessary, thus ensuring that youth from all parts of San Francisco wouldn’t have had their fast passes raised. Muni’s fare enforcement plans were finally gathering some traction, until it was stopped by….”Supervisor” David Campos (and the same rent-a-mob he packed the hearing with last week.)
News Flash, Kids: When people steal from Muni by stealing fares, the people hurt most are the poorest owner/riders. That’s because when the thieves steal, fares go up, thus hurting the poor. This is logical, but we all know how far logic and reason go down at City Hall.
Second, as it stands, the SF Unified School District can’t even get the current program right – 12,000 eligible students weren’t getting passes they were entitled to, because of bureaucratic bullsh*t.
Third, all Muni owner/riders are entitled to an affordable system – it was the reason the system was created in the first place. Muni has steadfastly refused to consider funding proposals that would eliminate subsidies for auto drivers, stable, long term sources of revenue, and relies on gimmick funding (i.e. parking tickets) as a “solution.” Heck, the head of the SFMTA Board was more interested in parking permits for wealthy parents’ nannies than ever challenging the status quo (gotta love suburban politics in SF). Why didn’t Campos and his crew ever stand up for a better funding for Muni so this whole “issue” wouldn’t be a problem.
Oh, right. That’s hard work and no chance to make bombastic speeches at public comment time. I forgot, working on detailed problems to solve them doesn’t make for good junk mail or headlines.
Instead of engaging in the politics of division, and enhance the downward spiral of Muni, how about using a little capitalism of sorts, and do a good deed for everyone involved? (I proposed a modified version of this to progressive who supported that “youth fare” for 18-25 year olds – which became 18-21 as they bobbled around – and not one progressive would even let me finish explaining it before they said HELL NO. Oh well).

It’s a known fact that if one buys in bulk, the per unit cost goes down. That’s how Canada gets drugs for so cheap – they’re not buying a bottle of aspirin, they’re buying a zillion bottles. Hence, discount.
What if we applied this to Muni passes for young people?
Seriously. What if every school, junior high, high school, be they public or private, every institution serving young people all agreed to buy a set number of passes for the students in their institution? Heck, include the many colleges and trade schools too, if they want to participate. They’d buy the passes, in bulk, at a per-unit discount, then would simply give them away to EVERY student, regardless of income. This would eliminate any “stigma” about income status, and it’d be easier to distribute (especially if we get them all on The Clipper). Done and done.
Muni would now have a predictable source of revenue that would be easy to forecast based on enrollment, unlike a sales tax which fluctuates with the economy. The participating institutions would be enouraging more people to ride Muni to school, reduce traffic, and everyone wins. Sensible, right?
Which is why no one will listen. That’s the SF way!
One other thought: when I read stories about young people getting stabbed on Muni by other kids, or about gangs of kids punching a police officer, or go on YouTube to see the many, many kids brag about destroying Muni property, I wonder if giving everyone a free pass is such a good idea.
I have some ideas about how to fix this part of the equation (that Campos and his merry minions didn’t bother to consider, since they don’t mind people getting hurt on Muni, I guess), but I’d be curious to hear your thoughts first.

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