Google Inc. has donated $6.8 million to let kids ride the Muni bus for free for two years. The company's generosity aims to help the city with its affordability crisis and to improve its image.
The generous donation is the largest endowment the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) has ever received from a non-government unit. It is destined to fund an existing pilot program that lets five to 17-year old kids ride the Muni bus for free. Kids who will be given passes must be from low- and middle-income families in San Francisco, and as of end of February, 31,000 kids have already registered and received their passes.
The donation came after Supervisor David Chiu's meeting with Google's corporate executives. In the meeting, he urged the company to be more engaged in the community.
"For those of us who encouraged Google to step up, we appreciate [the donation] as an important example of how tech can make long-term commitments to our transit and our city," Chiu told SFGate.
City officials and community members who support the free Muni program were happy to see Google getting involved. However, they hope that it won't just stop there and that the company will still continue talking with the most affected ones by the tech boom.
According to San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, it is just the first in the series of donations he expects from the tech giant as it aims to improve its local image and help residents curb the increasing cost of living in the city.
"This is so dramatically exciting because it's a catalyst for other companies," Lee told the SFGate.
Sam Singer, a San Francisco communications specialist, told SFGate that now that the industry finally realizes that it lacks strategies for public relations, they "are starting to take steps in the right direction. There is tension right now that shouldn't exist. The technology companies need to do more, which I think they're starting to do, but the people who are haters need to stop hating, too."