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Google Donates $6.8 Million to Free Muni Program

San Francisco Muni Bus
San Francisco Muni Bus
(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images) Mar. 7, 2007

Google announced today a donation of $6.8 million to the Free Muni for Low Income Youth program, providing free public transit rides for underprivileged youth in San Francisco.

The announcement comes amid widespread criticism for pricing longtime San Franciscans out of the housing market, forcing many to move out of the city. With increased rental costs, forced evictions, gentrification in rent controlled housing and egregious insults from people like AngelHack CEO Greg Gopman, the Bay Area tech community is not well appreciated in this ongoing culture war of inequality. Google's corporate buses transporting employees from San Francisco to Google headquarters has experienced a wave of protests, with activists routinely blocking buses from departing

Still, Google’s decision to provide additional funding to Muni’s youth program is a postive start. The program has helped more than 31,000 low and moderate income youth aged 5 to 17 to ride buses and light rail for free. The sizable donation is one of the largest in the city’s history and will fund the program for two more years.

In a statement released today, Mayor Ed Lee said:

“Continuing to provide free Muni for thousands of young people from lower-income households will help make our City more affordable for working families. With this unprecedented gift from Google, we can keep this successful pilot program running for at least two more years at no cost to taxpayers or Muni riders and free up critical funds for other vital Muni maintenance and services. Google is demonstrating with real action and real resources that they are a true partner in addressing our City’s affordability crisis for lower and middle-income families. I want to thank Google for this enormous gift to the SFMTA, and I look forward to continuing to work with this great San Francisco employer towards improving our City for everyone.”

The Free Muni for Low Income Youth program launched last March after the San Francisco Unified School District citing costs, was forced to reduce use of school buses to transport students. The program has been credited for allowing youth to get to school, work and after school programs and is invaluable to the city's public education efforts.

In a statement today to the Verge, a representative from Google said

"San Francisco residents are rightly frustrated that we don't pay more to use city bus stops. So we'll continue to work with the city on these fees, and in the meantime will fund MUNI passes for low income students for the next two years."

While the $6.8 million grant is an incredibly generous gesture and helps thousands of students in San Francisco, Google may need much more positive cooperation with the city, in order to offset the seething anger amongst countless numbers of residents who have been affected by rising housing costs. In a press conference today at City Hall, Mayor Ed Lee said the gift was a good start but only time will tell how much more Google will need to do to earn greater acceptance in the City by the Bay.

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