OAKLAND (KCBS) — The Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) voted on Wednesday to reject a proposal that would fund free bus passes for low-income youth, saying larger policy questions still need to be answered.

The board voted down funding the pilot program in an 8-7 vote, which would offer passes to low-income youth in San Francisco, Alameda and Santa Clara Counties.

Randy Rentschler with the MTC said the discount system may need to be reformed.

KCBS’ Margie Shafer Reports:

“Now everyone gets a discount because public transit is heavily subsidized. In many cases 80 percent of the cost is subsidized by the taxpayer. But those who do pay a fare get a discount based on age. They don’t get a discount based on means,” said Rentschler.

Those offering public comment explained the need for the program and told stories of having to walk miles to school as the yellow school buses are being phased out. They said it can lead to the difficult decision of choosing between bus fare and lunch money.

Sandra Hitala of Santa Clara County spoke about those in a “donut hole,” people who are not making enough money for a pass, but also not qualifying for a free pass.

She said there are 1,800 free passes in Santa Clara County and that they’re primarily for the homeless who are being case managed.

Some commissioners voiced concerns about the sustainability of a program that would have only been funded for two years.

Proponents of free passes promise to continue their efforts.

San Francisco’s Muni has said in the meantime it will regroup to see what can be done with $5.4 million in local funds that are available for low-income passes.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)


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