Muni aggressive on catching fare cheaters

July 30, 2009 7:06:21 PM PDT
San Francisco's Muni inspectors were out in force trying to stop passengers who don't pay to ride streetcars. It's a problem that costs the city millions of dollars a year.

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There were 11 fare inspectors and three police officers at Saint Francis Circle station on Thursday afternoon, and instead of riding the light rail vehicles as usual, they stayed put and let the fare evaders come to them.

"We decided that we could spread our folks out evenly through the system, but we weren't getting the same effect that we could if we saturate, get our awareness out there and do these in lump groups," said Muni supervisor Robert Wolfgang.

Muni calls it a "saturation" inspection. It's part of a new plan to crack down on passengers who don't pay their fares.

"Our estimate for how much we lose because of fare evasion is in the millions if not tens of millions of dollars each year," said Muni Spokesman Judson True.

Each citation is $50, but that amount is set to go up on Monday to $75 per ticket.

Ava Perkins says the program is getting mixed reviews from the riding public.

"Some people like it, some people don't. Some people like us out here, some really are having a bad time," said Perkins.

"It sucks. Yeah, it really sucks," said a Muni rider.

"I guess it's a good thing, I mean, everything's not free, so I guess this keeps everything in order. Make sure everybody's paying," said Muni rider Algic Streeter.

"It's about time. They never come out this far. People ride for free out here all the time," said Muni rider Ashley Myers.

The inspections will continue every day at random locations across the city for the next two and a half weeks. After that, Muni plans to do an inspection -- one or two days a week.

"If we can continue a consistent saturation plan, I think we're going to generate more visibility and more awareness, which will slowly lower the fare evasion in the system," said Wolfgang.

These saturation inspections are only happening on light rail vehicles for now, but Muni says it may expand the program to include buses in the future.

More than 250 citations have been issued since Monday, and 50 of them were handed out this afternoon.

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