Mayor Breed could veto free Muni pilot program despite board approval

Bay Area

SAN FRANCISCO – APRIL 25: Passengers board a MUNI bus along Market Street April 25, 2006 in San Francisco, California. With gas prices soaring past $3.00 a gallon, many commuters are choosing public transportation over driving in order to save money. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

SAN FRANCISCO (BCN) – After San Francisco supervisors on Tuesday passed legislation providing $12.5 million in new funding to support free public transit, Supervisor Dean Preston urged Mayor London Breed to approve the pilot program.

The Free Muni for All program, authored by Preston, would provide free rides along San Francisco Municipal Transit Agency buses and trains for three months, in an effort to boost the agency’s ridership, which plummeted during the COVID-19 pandemic and resulted in the agency discontinuing several lines.

The Board of Supervisors voted 7-4 in support of the ordinance, with supervisors Myrna Melgar, Rafael Mandelman, Catherine Stefani and Ahsha Safai voting against it.

The legislation calls for $12.5 million from the COVID Contingency Reserve to be provided to the SFMTA to offset any fare revenue loss during the program, which is expected to run from July 1 through September 30.

“This proposal proposes to put hundreds of dollars into the average Muni rider’s pocket. It’s the least our city can do for Muni riders after this nightmare year,” Preston said in a statement.

Despite approval from the Board, Preston said Breed is likely to veto the newly approved ordinance. “The mayor has an opportunity to show that despite a year of suspended lines and endless waits, the city still cares about Muni riders and wants to welcome people back to transit,” he said. “It’s time to sign this legislation to help struggling San Franciscan workers recover from this pandemic.”

Andy Lynch, a spokesperson with Breed’s office, indicated Breed would not approve the Free Muni program, saying she would instead support initiatives that focus on bringing all Muni lines back to service first.

“Passing a supplemental spending proposal during this time does not make sense,” Lynch said. “The mayor believes we need to return Muni to full service to support our economic recovery, especially for our lower income communities, before we use precious general fund dollars to provide free rides for those who don’t need them.”

Muni did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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