San Francisco — The fight to make San Francisco’s municipal transit — Muni — free for riders has staunch supporters within City Hall, but failed by a single vote to overcome the Mayor’s threatened veto. One of the “no” votes was Supervisor Melgar, whose district spans the city’s southwest neighborhoods. Despite her position on the issue, independent polling has found her district is heavily in favor of free Muni.
On June 7, the Daybreak PAC announced recent text and phone banking results — conducted in Supervisor Melgar’s district — which showed an overwhelming approval rating of the proposed free Muni program.
Daybreak confirmed in an email to the author that they received an “extraordinarily positive and enthusiastic” response. The PAC supported their findings on Twitter by posting that 91% of District 7 voters they contacted supported Free Muni. They text banked District 7 during the afternoon the Thursday before the vote, and the team further phone banked those without mobile phones on Friday and Sunday.
Daybreak also confirmed that their reply rate was higher for texts than for phone calls. The text message asked the constituents of D7 to help pass free Muni by explaining Melgar’s crucial role as a swing vote to make the vote veto-proof. Those texted were also encouraged to sign an online petition in support of Free Muni.
The Board of Supervisors passed that pilot on a 7-4 vote, just one vote shy of the eight votes needed to override a mayoral veto. The Free Muni Pilot would offer to fund all riders from July to September as our economy slowly opens. The venture would put money in riders’ pockets and bring riders back to the City’s buses and trains. The legislation would allocate an additional $12.5m to the MTA for the pilot to ensure that the quality of service stays the same.
The phone banking by Daybreak was conducted in part as a response to a tweet by Melgar. She announced that she would not support Free Muni as long as Muni does not run in her district. The SF Muni COVID-19 Muni Core Service Plan Map shows at least three trains and five buses currently running in the Supervisor’s district. Albeit less than most other districts, it is still more than the neighboring Sunset District jurisdiction, District 4, which has just two buses and one train.
The D7 Supervisor wants to see her District better connected. She pointed out in a tweet reply that poorer areas of her district–Parkmerced, SF State Merced Extension, Lakeview– are still disconnected. The supervisor explained a desire to see economic recovery arrive to her district first.
Proponents of Free Muni point out that Free Muni and economic recovery go hand in hand And that Free Muni is a way to help the most vulnerable curb costs. Most riders of Muni and public transportation skew towards a lower economic scale. San Francisco State is also located in Melgar’s district, and Free Muni could be an incentive for students to return to in-person instruction for when classes begin a phased return in the Fall.
Access to free public transportation is one of the easiest things the City can do to alleviate the economic burden of the lowest income. The fight for Free Muni has faced recent setbacks from both the Mayor and Melgar. However, both have agreed to move forward with free Muni for adolescents. Melgar was quoted in the SF Chronicle saying that this move is an “equalizer for all kids.” She has not specified why this equalizer should not be granted to all of San Francisco’s citizens.