KRON4 reporter Stanley Roberts’ People Behaving Badly segment today was on the issue of Muni’s back door boarders — a topic that’s been thrust back into the public conversation with Muni’s latest announcements of fare evasion crackdowns. (Hell, I’ve bitched about this, myself.)

In June, however, after eavesdropping on some questions and “answers” about the TransLink transponders rather curiously located at the back doors of all Muni buses over at 311’s Twitter page, we reached out to Muni spokesperson Kristin Holland to see what the deal was. Her response, via email:

“As you noted, Muni does have a front door only boarding policy on buses. We have looked at ways to decrease time spent on boarding, including all-door boarding. If we are able to do that in the future, the rear door transponders would be necessary.”

In a phone conversation, she elaborated. “Muni will be unrolling a back door entry plan for TransLink users in the future” but did not have any dates or specifics at that time.

If the media coverage of Muni’s new plans to hammer fare evaders is to be believed, back door entry seems to be off the table. So what’s the plan for those TransLink card readers? Are they just going to collect dust/tags/gum? We contacted Muni spokesperson Judson True to get the latest.

Back door boarding approaches, but we’re not there in terms of talking about it yet.“One of our goals is that we need to reduce fare evasion, but we also need to reduce the time it takes to get people on and off buses.” To his point, a report from yesterday’s Examiner noted that “If Muni were to bring its average speed up to 10 mph, the average cost per trip would drop to $1.60. That average price would then cost Muni less per ride than the newly instituted $2 cash fare.” “We have to reduce delays in the system,” said True “there are reasons why rail and subways are more efficient, and one of them is because they can get people on and off them a lot more quickly.”

But how to marry efficiency with bus fare enforcement? True says “At some point, at least at some locations and cases, we need to find ways to use back doors to reduce delays. As we’ve looked at deploying TransLink, we’ve been looking at having fare inspectors at certain key transfer points at places like Market and Van Ness, who would wave people on. But that’s labor intensive.”

Since True admits that they are still in the planning stages with back door entry for buses, why bother with the back door TransLink card readers? “TransLink is the future of Muni fare payment. We had in the budget to put them by back doors, so we did.” He hastened to add that, in cases of TransLink reader malfunctions, the front door readers take repair priority.

But, for now, use the front doors when you get on the bus. Said True, “Back door boarding approaches, but we’re not there in terms of talking about it yet. We don’t have a precise idea of how proof of payment or fare inspectors will be deployed. More to come.”

the author

Eve Batey is the editor and publisher of the San Francisco Appeal. She used to be the San Francisco Chronicle's Deputy Managing Editor for Online, and started at the Chronicle as their blogging and interactive editor. Before that, she was a co-founding writer and the lead editor of SFist. She's been in the city since 1997, presently living in the Outer Sunset with her husband, cat, and dog. You can reach Eve at eve@sfappeal.com.

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  • troymccluresf

    I never did get an answer to my question. If I have TransLink, but can’t physically get to the reader, will I get busted for fare evasion? It’s a pretty common problem leaving the ballpark, and also during normal rush hour. If you don’t remember which door’s TL placement, you’re kinda screwed. Not to mention a glut of people pressed up against the reader.

  • troymccluresf

    I never did get an answer to my question. If I have TransLink, but can’t physically get to the reader, will I get busted for fare evasion? It’s a pretty common problem leaving the ballpark, and also during normal rush hour. If you don’t remember which door’s TL placement, you’re kinda screwed. Not to mention a glut of people pressed up against the reader.

  • Eve Batey

    Well, practically, probably not — most TFIs just seem to look at your TL card and count that as proof of payment. But, literally, yes, you could be. At least for now, it’s your responsibility to pay your fare, and I suspect that saying “it was too crowded” will get you a hearty handshake and a ticket. If nothing else, you do have time to weasel your way over to the transponder as the ride goes on. My personal advice, which is worth as much as you pay to read this site? If this is a persistent problem for you, use a FastPass instead.

  • Eve Batey

    Well, practically, probably not — most TFIs just seem to look at your TL card and count that as proof of payment. But, literally, yes, you could be. At least for now, it’s your responsibility to pay your fare, and I suspect that saying “it was too crowded” will get you a hearty handshake and a ticket. If nothing else, you do have time to weasel your way over to the transponder as the ride goes on. My personal advice, which is worth as much as you pay to read this site? If this is a persistent problem for you, use a FastPass instead.

  • troymccluresf

    Yeah, I eventually manage to tag it, but it worries me when I get on at Church and can’t get to a transponder until Carl & Cole. I hear tell that fare inspectors have TL readers, so if there’s one of them between me and the transponder, I’m screwed.

    I don’t ride Muni often enough to buy a Fast Pass, but I hate having to worry about cash, which is exactly why I’m excited about TL. It’s been perfect for me aside from this issue, and non-working TL units (which I suspect simply haven’t been turned on).

  • troymccluresf

    Yeah, I eventually manage to tag it, but it worries me when I get on at Church and can’t get to a transponder until Carl & Cole. I hear tell that fare inspectors have TL readers, so if there’s one of them between me and the transponder, I’m screwed.

    I don’t ride Muni often enough to buy a Fast Pass, but I hate having to worry about cash, which is exactly why I’m excited about TL. It’s been perfect for me aside from this issue, and non-working TL units (which I suspect simply haven’t been turned on).

  • Akit

    I’d say, squeeze in the train, and scare the crud out of those ballpark folks when tagging your card. That beep is LOUD!

  • Akit

    I’d say, squeeze in the train, and scare the crud out of those ballpark folks when tagging your card. That beep is LOUD!