Muni looks to cut down on fare cheaters

November 3, 2009 7:11:12 PM PST
People who do not pay their fare on Muni are costing the system $19 million a year -- money the cash-strapped agency desperately needs. So now, Muni is looking for ways to cut down on the cheating.

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The fines are $75, but lots of riders take a chance. A first of its kind survey by Muni found more than half of those who board from the back of the bus do not pay. It is not fair to those who do and it is hurting Muni's bottom line.

More than 700,000 people ride Muni every day. The transit agency estimates nearly one in every 10 who jumps on a bus or streetcar is not paying.

According to a three-month survey this summer, throughout the transit system fare inspectors found 42 percent of the customers they questioned had no valid proof of payment, like a transfer, 26 percent were using an expired, altered or illegally obtained receipt and 7 percent were improperly using a youth or senior discount pass.

Muni's board of directors says it all adds up to a $19 million annual loss at a time when the agency faces a $45 million deficit just three months into the new fiscal year.

"It takes needed revenues and resources away from the agency, so we know there's a cultural change that has to happen," Muni spokesperson Judson True said.

To change the culture of cheating, Muni will use the new study to target their crackdown. Muni riders can expect to see more of the so-called "saturation inspections."

"We also are looking to deploy more of our fare inspectors on our buses at the times when fare evasions are occurring, because in addition to giving us the picture of fare evasion, we also know when it's happening and what lines its happening on," True said.

San Francisco police, who are already supposed to be riding Muni when they walk their beat, have now agreed to actually do that as part of some officers routine patrols.

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