There’s no question that SF’s Municipal Railway or “Muni” system is infamous for having the most fare evaders board their trains and buses. Whether it’s a tween or an 80-year old daily rider, one can always be certain to spot several riders sneaking in through back doors.
But this is nothing new, as avoiding Muni fares has become part of our city’s culture, according to The Chronicle. As of January of this year, the number of riders caught sneaking onto Muni trains had increased by almost 50%.
In May, The Examiner team decided to see just how easy it is to sneak onto Muni trains and buses during a 4-day trial.
Examiner reporters rode 16 different buses and light-rail lines during peak commute hours, and in 27 of those rides, were not asked to show proof of payment.
Muni is losing “tens of millions of dollars a year,” in unpaid fares, says San Francisco’s transportation chief.
Now Muni is expecting to crack down on these fare evaders. Nathaniel Ford, Municipal Transportation Agency Executive Director says, “We’re going to get much more aggressive.”
Though this has been promised many times before, Muni is planning to employ a strategy that focuses on more serious enforcement, educating drivers, and installing new fare boxes and fare gates.
To better their understanding of fare evaders and how they can fix this problem, Muni has sent out employees on its trains, buses, and cable cars to observe how well (or not-so-well) fares are collected. 35,000 observations have been logged so far.
According to The Chronicle, the agency is also attempting to restructure payment options to make fare payment easier for riders. There are currently 60 different types of ways to board Muni.
With this strategy and stricter fare rules, Muni plans to make $181 million in revenue this year.
It will definitely be difficult to break the habit of fair evasion that is so deeply embedded in SF culture, but change, nevertheless, is always possible.