San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency is a department of the City and County of San Francisco responsible for the management of all ground transportation in the city. The SFMTA has oversight over the Municipal Railway (Muni) public transit, as well as bicycling, paratransit, parking, traffic, walking, and taxis. (Photo courtesy SFMTA)

A proposed ordinance by two San Francisco supervisors to make public transportation free is one step closer to becoming a reality after the Board of Supervisors’ Budget and Appropriations Committee approved the pilot program Wednesday.

The program would provide free public transit for three months, in an effort to boost San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency ridership, which plummeted during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The committee passed the legislation 4-1, with supervisors Hillary Ronen, Gordon Mar, Matt Haney and Shamann Walton in favor and Supervisor Ahsha Safai voting against it.

The ordinance now moves to the full Board of Supervisors for a vote.

“This is a big step forward,” said Supervisor Dean Preston, who along with Haney, crafted the legislation.

“We have a unique opportunity to pilot Free Muni, put money in riders’ pockets, bring people back to public transit, and live up to our Transit First mandate,” Preston said.

“Free Muni is a great way to boost ridership on a transit system that has lost a significant amount of passengers for more than year during the pandemic.” Haney said. “This three-month pilot will not only reduce barriers to get people into and back on our buses and trains, but it will also put money directly into the pockets of people who need it the most.”

The vote comes as the city is in the midst of reopening and traffic congestion throughout the city is on the rise.

The ordinance calls for $12.5 million to be appropriated from the city’s budget and for the program to begin no later than July 1.

Preston estimates the move will help save frequent Muni riders $81 a month, the price of a monthly Muni pass, or possibly more for those who pay for single trips daily.

Major U.S. cities such as Fresno, Boston, Kansas City and Washington, D.C. have also recently taken steps to enact similar legislation providing free public transit.