A week ago today, reader Mike sent us this photo after taking it:

While boarding inbound at Van Ness. When I walked down the stairs I saw both of these “data collection” agents playing solitare on the PDAs they had attached to lanyards.

The one chewing his fingernail had just stopped playing when he noticed I was getting my phone out. As the train pulled away they both went and sat down on the old people benches. Not pictured are two other data collection folks shooting the shit.

In his email, Mike asked us “Do you have any idea what we are paying these guys to do??”

Which is a great question, so we emailed SF MTA spokespeople Kristen Holland and Murray Bond three times in the past 7 days, but they haven’t been able to figure out what these folks do, either.

Which is surprising, given that the MTA’s shortfall is still, uh, shortfalling. You’d think that every job would be under scrutiny, wouldn’t you?

What do you think these guys are supposed to be doing (and how much do you think they get paid?)? Any ideas, suggestions, or speculation are welcomed in the comments.

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

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