At yesterday’s Board of Supervisors Government Audits and Oversight Committee meeting — yes, the same one where the MTA admitted they’d been spending $3.6 Million in Fare Inspector salaries to generate $900K, and, yes, the same meeting where they admitted that, nope, they don’t do anything to make sure adults pay their fare evasion tickets, Budget Analyst Harvey Rose, who was responsible for performing an audit of Muni’s proof-of-payment plan, made a kind of surprising suggestion: that Muni “develop a policy and program for excluding habitual offenders from the Muni transit system.”
According to the Examiner, the SF MTA disagreed with this recommendation, saying that “It is unlikely that this recommendation is operationally feasible in The City’s transit system.”
However, MTA safety chief James Dougherty, who the Chronicle says is definitely headed out of Muni and to DC’s Metro system (after a call made to confirm this with Metro, I was told that “no announcement has been made yet, so we can’t confirm anything”), said that “a prohibition of using transit was used for a transit system he worked for previously and seemed to suggest it has benefits.”
What I can’t figure out is how this would work! Is this like how when you go to the liquor store, there are pictures behind the counter of people they won’t take checks from? Does ANYWHERE take checks anymore? So, I turned to my informal transit advisors: Appeal contributor Matt Baume, SFMTA Citizens’ Advisory Council member Jamison Wieser, and Greg “N Judah” Dewar.
How is a policy like this implemented elsewhere? I asked. This seems impossible, what am I missing?
Baume: I think what it comes down to is being sort of like a suspended driver’s license. You’re not likely to get caught if you keep a low profile; but if you do something dumb and attract police attention and they notice that you’re on the “do not ride” list, then you’re in even bigger trouble.
Dewar: Basically, it’s like a restraining order. You issue the “banishment” and if they’re found on the system, they’re in violation of the order.
Wieser: Supes could pass a law banning anyone who enters through the back door for life, but if fare inspectors only ever inspect people as they leave downtown metro stations, exactly 0 people will ever be caught.
Baume: I suppose they could also refuse to sell those people Fast Passes, which would obviously be a dumb move on Muni’s part (“oh, you want to give us money now? well, we refuse to accept it”) but I wouldn’t put it past them.
Dewar: The problem with this is that Muni doesn’t have a transit police force, and enforcement would be costly without the reciprocal benefit, necessarily. POP enforcement is spotty as is.
Baume: I also think this is politically unfeasible. There will absolutely be accusations that it is a form of racial discrimination.
Wieser: I believe the target needs to be getting the masses who don’t pay because they know they aren’t going to get caught and that means creating a perception of “anywhere, anytime” enforcement. A lot of people believe Muni is bankrupt because they aren’t bothering to collect fares, and if you don’t ride metro or major lines at peak hours, you may never see a fare inspector.