Fare Evasion Citation.. NOT

ahendy's picture

I rode MUNI Metro for the first time yesterday, took the N from Powell out to Ocean Beach. It was slow, uncomfortable and noisy. Surprisingly much less enjoyable than BART. I had a transfer that was good until 3:45. I got on the train to head back at just before 3:00, figured that'd be more than enough time to get back to Powell before my transfer expires. Of course, there was traffic and the train was backed up for quite some time. I got into Powell st at about 3:54, and of course ran into fare inspectors at the gates. I was fined $50 for fare evasion, for being 9 minutes past my transfer time. I explained, and he recommended I fight it, which I absolutely will. But I think they're taking this too far. I understand fining SERIOUS fare evaders, but it's obvious I wasn't trying to get something for nothing, my train was just a few minutes late!

It seems that MUNI is hurting, and this is a really good way of gathering a bunch of money very quickly. At $50 per person, or more if it's not the first offense, they can make up for all the people that get away with fare evasion regularly.


Unfortunately, the N runs with a lot of mixed flow traffic... and it is very slow especially at the time you were traveling. I feel for you that you were just 9 minutes over your transfer period. That being said, the transfers aren't really designed for round trip travel all the way out to Ocean Beach and back. The transfers are a benefit to riders who need to take different routes because one bus/train may not serve both their origin and destination. Muni's realizing what a steal they've offered, and now they are proposing the elimination of free transfers and raising one way fares to $2 this Sept. And Muni wouldn't dare challenge the unions to cut wages/benefits.

Yes, Muni is hurting. Every transit agency in California is. This isn't directed at you, but rather to those who have the misconception that transit agencies actually break even or should pay for themselves (there is NO large transit agency in the nation (BART doesn't come close either) that breaks even... Muni farebox recovery ratio came in at 27%, meaning the average fare covers just 27% of what the ride actually costs. The rest comes from local and state funds (though state funds will now be eliminated for the next four years because of Sacramento's incompetence and short sightedness). Based on the operating cost per pax mile of $1.16 (NTD 2007), your one way trip of 7 miles had cost Muni over $8 to operate. so that makes the ride between powell and ocean beach about $16 round trip for a trip of your distance, but you're already getting a good deal at $2.50 round trip. that's why you have a BART -> Muni coupon AND Muni -> BART coupon.

What you can do next time based on my experiences...
1) tell the train operator your transfer is close to expired b/c of sitting in traffic and you just need to get to Powell, they may give you a new transfer.
2) just pay the $1.25 to come back.
3) get off at civic center? if you were taking BART back to MacArthur, it might have saved you a few minutes (maybe 4-5 so you'd be closer to your allotted time) to get out of the Muni system.

ahendy's picture

It's clear that transit agencies aren't doing well, and haven't been for quite some time. AC Transit is at $1.75, and continues to threaten fare increase. BART is always discussing fare increase, and to be honest, I'm surprised MUNI has stayed at $1.50 for as long as it has. Like I said, I'm never one to try to get something-for-nothing, and am generally more than happy to pay what it costs. This being my first time on MUNI Metro, I think they were a little bit more understanding. But I've been riding the MUNI bus system for years, and they're much more lenient with transfer time. I understand it's not "made" for round trips, but if you can fit in a round trip within the transfer time, there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. It seems like the elimination of free transfers could save them a lot of money, and a lot of hassle too.. not that I am enthusiastic about the idea.

Now, all that being said, I agree there are some measures I could've taken to possibly prevent this from happening, but having had no issue on the MUNI bus lines over the years, I had no reason to believe that this would be any more strict. It seems even 4-5 minutes closer to my transfer expiration time wouldn't have saved me from getting written up; the officer claimed that 1 minute after transfer expiration is officially considered fare evasion and you will incur a fee. I understand the concept, and I understand why they do it, I'm just not sure that it's handled as well as it could be. I've sent in my rebuttal, and the officer seemed sure that I will be able to get out of it. I'm not concerned.

An off-topic question: Why aren't the trains designed so that you can walk between cars, like on BART? Had I needed to get a new transfer, I would have to get off the train, and get back on in car 1.

Yeah, it definitely sucks that you were ticketed for being just over your transfer time. But you said it... Muni is hurting. Hopefully your rebuttal goes through. In LA, if you are ticketed you are required to show up in the court closest to where the ticket was issued. A coworker of mine commutes from Long Beach to Downtown on the Blue Line, he was ticketed for drinking coffee in his mug while passing through Compton Station, and he was required to show up at the Compton Courthouse (couldn't just pay online). Not the safest place to be!

Off topic answer: Light rail vehicles are not designed the same way heavy rail vehicles are. Today's LRVs are already articulated in the middle, effectively making a 1 car train a 2 car train. There are train controls in every LRV, so they can detach them if they are making reassignments. The N Judah usually runs 2 car trains, while the other lines usually run one car trains. Heavy rail vehicles such as BART have cars in the middle which do not have any controls, but must be paired with A or C cars. But basically, passengers without a monthly pass or cash paying passengers should board the front car in a 2 car set.

What is ridiculous is you getting a ticket when is was clear you tried to have a paying fare while at the same time they turn a blind eye to the buses being loaded with freeloaders that do not even pretend to pay the fare.

ahendy's picture

My thoughts exactly. Thousands of people ride the MUNI busses and trains for free everyday, without even making an attempt at paying the fare. It's very clear that I made a legitimate attempt to do the right thing, yet I'm the one that gets fined. Again, I understand the idea behind the system, it's just not implemented correctly at all.

Also, I believe it should be stated on the ticket itself that travel has to be completed by the time stamped on the transfer. All it states is "use before time above"... I don't think that's clear enough. Then again, if the rules were more clear, maybe they'd miss out on some $50 tickets they could write.

I sent in my rebuttal on Monday. We'll see what I hear back.

boopiejones's picture

i am sure this ticket will be waived if you fight it. my coworker went to a giants game last season. it was her first time riding muni and she just bought a one way ticket at montgomery. in the commotion of everyone getting back on muni at the ballpark for the return trip, she didn't realize she needed to buy a new ticket. she came back on muni with no valid return ticket at all, and got busted coming up the escalator at montgomery station. she fought the ticket and they waived it.

in her case, she had no ticket at all, and they still waived the citation. you did have a ticket, but it expired a few minutes before you exited the station. i see no reason why you won't win this dispute, but it is a pain in the ass nonetheless.

ahendy's picture

Apparently I need to continue to fight it. I received a letter on Friday saying that my citation was reviewed and is valid. AFTER 4 MONTHS! I don't have any time to have an in person hearing, so I will pursue a mail-hearing. It's too bad though, I have to send in a check for $50 along with my mail-hearing letter. What'a joke!!!