Muni loses $11 million due to cheaters

March 25, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
San Francisco's public transit system made as much as $180 million last year. While that may sound like a lot, Muni could have made millions more if everyone who uses the system actually paid. There is now a debate on how to make that happen.

One Muni official says it would be "transit nirvana" if everyone paid their fares. As it is the agency faces a $56 million budget deficit this year and after a hearing on Thursday, one supervisor told ABC7 the system lost $11 million because of cheaters.

San Francisco's Muni system has long been known as an easy mark for people who want to get on without paying.

"That's not the case anymore," says John Haley, the new director of transit operations.

After a critical city audit last year, Muni is stepping up its efforts to stop fare evaders.

For example, now there are measures being taken like sting operations and increasing the number of inspectors from just four in 2006 to nearly 50 now.

Those inspectors' salaries add up to about $4 million and they have collected under $2 million in fines in the latest count, but Muni believes the effort is cost effective.

"There's a number of people, a percentage of people who use to evade the fare, that are now less likely to do so because they may see someone in uniform and they may get cited," says Haley.

That is what one rider ABC7 spoke to sees.

"They have all these inspectors on the bus and people are used to them and they say, 'Well, you know, I don't want to get into a hassle with them,'" says rider Liam O'Neill.

The #38 Geary is one of the most notorious for cheaters.

"It's getting a little worse because people are still going through the backdoor without paying and the driver is not paying any attention at all," says rider Rosario Tubig.

At a City Hall hearing Thursday there was talk of banishing repeat offenders, but that is not something Muni management supports.

Supervisor Bevin Dufty says the culture of cheating has to change.

"It's very interesting to see that their average profile is a young white male of 30 with a laptop. That's their highest demographic is of fare beaters," says Dufty.

Data from a sting operation conducted from July 2009 through March 2010, shows adults received 96 percent of the citations, teenagers four percent.


Load Comments