The Free MUNI for Youth Campaign (FMFY) addresses a growing crisis for school-age youth in San Francisco. Families were facing the end of yellow school bus service due to budget cuts, the rapidly rising cost of MUNI youth passes, and increasing criminalization from fare enforcement. Yet San Francisco youth still needed to get to schools outside their neighborhood and access jobs and after-school programs. A group of community and advocacy organizations formed the Free MUNI for Youth Coalition (FMFY) to address these conditions, the politics of austerity budget cuts, and the affordability crisis confronting San Francisco’s working class and immigrant communities. Coalition members include Urban Habitat, POWER, Chinatown Community Development Corporation, the San Francisco Youth Commission, Jamestown Community Center, and the Office of San Francisco Supervisor David Campos.
FMFY launched a campaign to win free transportation for all youth in San Francisco. The campaign seeks to create the next generation of transit riders, getting more youth out of cars and into more active transportation. It also seeks to address the climate crisis by reducing school commute car trips and changing youth attitudes towards public transit. This youth-led campaign fought for over two years to identify local funding sources that enabled a sixteen-month pilot program, which successfully launched in March 2013. Over 40,000 low and moderate-income youth were eligible across San Francisco; over 30,000 youth enrolled in the pilot phase. The FMFY pass is valid year-round so that youth can access school, after-school programs, jobs, internship opportunities and city-wide amenities such as parks, arts and cultural institutions, and recreation centers.
But the campaign didn’t stop there. They continued to organize and advocate, and in the spring of 2014, the Board of Directors of San Francisco MUNI voted to continue the program for two years and seek permanent funding. FMFY coalition members are now working with allies in senior and disability rights organizations to expand free transit to their communities as well as develop a regional version of this successful program, which has become a national model.