How "Fair" is a "Youth Fare" for MUNI?
The other day while perusing the pages of the Examiner, I happened upon this Op-Ed piece by Supervisor Ed Jew on a proposal being fast-tracked through the Board of Supervisors to offer a discounted "youth fare" for people 18-24. Now, I'd heard of this idea a while ago but I had no idea that suddenly it was being rushed to a vote so quickly by the Board. So, since I was heading to City Hall anyway, I decided to drop in on the Board of Supervisors meeting Monday afternoon to hear some more, first hand.
Now, some info: the Board of Supervisors can't arbitrarily order MUNI or the MTA to do anything on a whim - the resolution, spearheaded by Everybody's Friend, Sup. Jake McGoldrick, is after all, just a resolution, and it alone can't really do much. However, as Sup. Daly pointed out, while it wasn't an ordinance, it could have some influence on MUNI and the MTA if enough supervisors supported it.
Now, I have no doubt in my mind that Supervisor McGoldrick means well with this move, so much so he was willing to ram this through as quickly as possible (although eventually agreeing to hold it up a week for more discussion, etc.). I respect his opinion and I have no doubt he's trying to do something good. What I don't understand, though is why this is so important that it needed to command the Board's attention when other matters were more pressing.
Nor have I heard a single argument that persuades me that this is such a crisis, we need to hand out a discounted fare to a small group of people, at a time when MUNI's ability to collecte revenue is not as well organized as they should be.
Plus, the 18-24 grouping was a bit arbitrary - what's the difference between a 24 year old aggrieved youth and a 25 year old? Or the difference between a "senior" defined as 65 or older and a person who's a mere 63 or 64 years old? You see where this kind of policy chatter can end up.
Besides, if MUNI was collecting more money, more efficiently, from fare-evaders, there'd be no need to raise monthly pass prices so often. Cynics might argue it's the "youth" that are doing the bulk of the fare evasion, but I have no proof of that so I'll let that slide in the interest of goodwill.
Rather than play the game of "divide and name-call" I'd like to offer a suggestion to Supervisor McGoldrick, Supervisor Jew, and, well every Supervisor that represents the N-Judah line, and heck, all the rest too. You too, Mr. Mayor:
If indeed, it's a heinous burden for young people 18-24 (who can vote, pay taxes, go to war, etc. just like those 25+) to pay the same $45 my fellow citizens and I paid for our FastPasses, maybe it's time to consider another option besides busting the budget.
Why not cut a deal with every trade school, junior college, state college/university, private college, whatever, to buy MUNI passes in bulk for their students. If each institution buys a base amount every year, they get a bulk discount, just like when you buy anything in bulk up front with cash.
Then they could give away the passes to their students, or pass on the cost of the discount pass to students. Many colleges and universities do this already - and frankly it'd be even better if such a system were literally, extended to all scholastic institutions that operates in Our Fair City.
MUNI would have a new, stable customer base that would be guaranteeing FastPass purchases every year. The downtrodden youth would get their discount pass, and MUNI would not be stuck with a giant hole in its budget, as it would be under the McGoldrick resolution.
It's nowhere near a perfect solution, but I'm just a citizen who wants my MUNI to be run responsibly and efficiently. Plenty of geniuses are paid big salaries at the Board, the MTA, MUNI, and the Mayor's office.
Surely someone there can use their policy wizardry to come up with something everyone can live with, and we can focus our attention on more important matters.