KIDS GET FREE BUS AND TRAIN PASSES IN SAN FRANCISCO

By Henni Espinosa, ABS-CBN North America Bureau

Feb. 28, 2013

SAN FRANCISCO – Some school kids in San Francisco will have more lunch money to spend. If they travel to school using city buses or trains.

Beginning March 1, low and moderate income students living in the city, ages five to seven, will be able to ride MUNI buses and trains at no cost.

Students, parents, advocates and city officials gathered at Everett Middle School yesterday to celebrate its official launch.

This pilot program by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) is said to be the most comprehensive of its kind in the country.

The city said it would cost taxpayers $8.7 million for the 16-month test run. About 45,000 kids and youth are eligible to apply.

Seventeen-year old Paolo Acosta said he is glad that the two years of lobbying for the passage of this program is over. His daily allowance is only $5 a day and he spends half of it on train and bus tickets.

Acosta said it helped that the lobbying effort came from the youth and their families. He said, “We got a lot of support from families, who brought along their little children. This really helped the campaign.”

This free MUNI program is a big help for 13-year old Gillian de Guzman and her family. Her mother is in the Philippines and her father has not been able to work. She said, “He’s disabled and nobody can take me school. I feel so happy because children like me can take the MUNI now for free.”

The need for youth transportation has become more urgent than ever, since the San Francisco Unified School District had to cut its bus services by 43 percent and youth transit fares increased.

Jay Jasper Pugao, youth mentor and after-school program coordinator at Mission High School said this free MUNI program will not only keep his students in school — but keep them away from the dangers of the streets.

He said, “It gives access to students to get to places where they need to be after school, instead of being in the streets, getting in trouble. They could be in libraries, in places where they could cultivate themselves.”

The SFMTA has already received about 20,000 applications for free access to MUNI service via clipper card.

Proponents said this is a temporary victory. The program lasts until June next year. They are now asking city officials to extend this kind of help on a permanent basis.

Students may apply online at www.sfmta.com/freemuni4youth.

You may contact Henni Espinosa at henni_espinosa@abs-cbn.com for more information.

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