Opinions & Editorials

Point/Counterpoint: Should Muni be made free to the public?

No, it would be a disaster


As a frequent Muni rider, I know firsthand how Muni can be, with colorful Fast Passes to prove it. I’ve had my fair share of days of being soaked in the rain after waiting at the bus stop, only to watch my bus whiz by. I have dealt with the uncomfortable feeling of being pushed and shoved while trying to retain my balance. But I remind myself that taking public transportation is cheaper and better for the environment, so I try to grin and bear the ride. Because of the grievances just listed, I don’t think Muni rides should be made free, as Mayor Gavin Newsom hinted at last year.

If Muni were free, imagine how the larger crowds and reliability would be. The word “free” attracts everyone, and with so many people on a bus, things would be chaotic. Muni won’t be able to accommodate all their customers because they will still have the same number of buses running and won’t get money from fares to buy more.

Every Muni rider knows that with a crowded bus comes a slow ride. On numerous occasions I felt I could have reached my destination faster and more comfortably with my scooter from middle school. But I resist, trying to take full advantage of my wrinkly, damaged Fast Pass. With drivers often already grouchy enough with crowded buses and possibly lower wages, they would become ruder.

Just last year Muni introduced the environmentally friendly hybrid buses. With free Muni, many would be encouraged to take public transportation to helping reduce global warming. However, with free fare rides, there wouldn’t be enough funds to purchase more hybrid buses, which cost roughly $500,000 — approximately $150,000 more than the regular buses, according to sfmta.org.

Out of my love for Muni for taking students who can’t afford today’s gas prices to their various destinations, I think it is in the best interest of both Muni and for us faithful riders, Fast Pass handy, to keep Muni’s fares as they are.

Free fare is the best fare


Taking Muni in San Francisco requires three things: patience, time and bus fare. How many times have you been late because you waited for a bus that never showed? How many times have you stared at the announcement board which read something like “Next bus 73 minutes,” despite the bus schedule stating that it should run every 10 minutes? How many times have you spent your last quarter to take the bus home? Muni’s shortcomings add unnecessary complications to our busy lives.

It’s time for payback — Muni fares need to be reduced 100 percent!

In February 2007 Mayor Gavin Newsom asked the Municipal Transportation Agency to examine a system-wide free-fare system. The additional cost of purchasing new equipment and hiring additional staff to prevent fare evasion was shown to be almost as costly as if Muni ran for free.

For more than two decades, commuters have been riding the buses in downtown Seattle free of charge from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. It’s difficult to understand why we can’t implement such a system here. Shouldn’t the effort to reduce our individual carbon footprints be rewarded? This is an opportunity for us to contribute to save the planet.

Buyers of hybrid cars get a tax break of up to $3,150, but Muni passengers get nothing but talk about an upcoming fare increase. (The $45 price of the Fast Pass that entitles riders to unlimited use within San Francisco, is rumored to be going up as much as 33 percent in the next couple of years.)

Gas prices in San Francisco are the highest in the country so think about what you could do with the $4.25 or more that you are spending for each gallon of gas.

Taking public transportation isn’t always fun, so people could use an incentive. Making Muni free to ride would not only take hundreds of thousands of cars off our already overcrowded city streets, but also greatly improve the quality of the air we breathe.

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The Guardsman