Muni’s Wage Gap: Pricing Transportation for those Who Need it Most

Muni is considering charging passengers based on income instead of just age.

Existing Muni monthly passes

Type Cost Discount Sales
Muni only adult $64 N/A 55,514
Muni adult with BART $74 -15.63% 28,356
Lifeline pass $32 50% 19,535
Senior pass $22 66% 16,577
Youth pass $22 66% 6,430
Disabled pass $22 66% 7,444

Currently, Muni Passes are priced as seen above, with youth and seniors receiving 66% discounts. However, after struggling with severe deficits for years many people agree that it is time for Muni and Bay Area public transit in general to change. Amidst this cry for reform, SFTMA has considered providing free Muni service for the city’s low-income youth. This ong0ing debate has also opened the door to discussion of a new income-based fare system. With the Clipper Card System in place, the infrastructure already exists to implement this type of tiered pricing system and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission is conducting a major study to see if this it is feasible. One major problem is the independent pricing systems of the MTC’s 26 transit agencies. All of these agencies would have to work together and agree on a single fare system.

“If our goal is to make transit accessible, especially for people of low income, it shouldn’t be based solely on age, either young or old,” Cheryl Brinkman, a member of the SFMTA board of directors commented. And she is right. It isn’t fair for a young service worker making minimum wage to pay the same for a Muni Pass as a 45 year old making over $100,000 a year. However, the logistics of this system need to be addressed. Is it feasible? What may be the affect on ridership? Who does it really benefit? The findings of the MTA study will be important in determining if such a system would be the right way to address the Bay Area’s transportation woes.


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