Trains, Wasted Time, and a Phalanx of Fare Inspectors

uppermarket's picture

How many times has it taken far longer than it should to get downtown on the Metro, to be late, yet again, for a meeting, feeling so glad to have paid for such a fine transportation experience, to be confronted by 8 (count 'em - 8) fare inspectors strung across the Embarcadero Station exit?  Way too many times.  How productive is this exercise?  
Get real.  Make the rail system work within some semblance of reason and I'll be happy to show I've paid.  In the meantime, you're creating yet more lost time at work and an even unhappier rider.  Perhaps attention might be focused on the real issues, such as, ohhhh, running the system in an efficient manner, figuring out that running one-car trains at rush hour is flat-out ridiculous, and in a controlled tunnel how to avoid traffic jams.  Stop wasting my time.

Phil Ting's picture

Agreed - but are you saying we shouldn't have fare inspectors?

I totally agree MUNI needs to be improved - that's why we putting on a MUNI Reform Town Hall on Aug 23rd at 6:30 PM at the Hall of Flowers in Golden Gate Park by 9th Avenue and Lincoln Blvd.   Hope you can make it -
We need to actually implement our Transit Effectiveness Plan (TEP) - they are great ideas in there - fewer bus stops to make the system move faster and timing the streetlights for the streetcars.  Just think if we could make all 100 lines move just one minute faster, it would save us $20million which would allow us to implement our entire Phase I of the TEP.
Regarding - fare inspectors - we do need to make sure people are paying their tolls - do you think we should get rid of them entirely and allow some people who sneak on to not pay the fare?

starstuff's picture

Do we really need more public hearings?

With all due respect, I've lived (mostly) in San Francisco for over 35 years: There have been scores of public hearings about MUNI in those years and it seems to me things just keep getting worse.  We don't need more meetings and cutesy acronyms like TEP, we need solutions.  Having also lived in Boston, New York and London, I know that rapid transit systems can and do work... and we need only look to BART to see a system that works quite well.  Hearings are a waste of time and give the illusion of "something being done".  Politicians, please note: Scheduling a meeting does not constitute "taking action to improve MUNI".
Action to improve MUNI would include (for example) *NEVER* running one-car trains through the Metro tunnels during rush hour and ensuring that (unlike yesterday) there are *NEVER* ten-minute intervals between trains, especially during rush hour.  Over-crowded trains move much more slowly through the system due to the time it takes for passengers to reshuffle at each stop to accomodate exiting passengers and *trying* to accomodate those who want to enter the cars. 
If we must have fare inspectors: Fine.  But not on mornings when the system is already delayed. 

Nicole's picture

re: fare inspectors

I've seen light rail and bus systems in other countries work beautifully with fare inspectors. In Australia, each public transportation vehicle has a driver and a fare taker, so that people can get on the vehicle and then pay. I think the MUNI improvements to allow passengers to get on both the front and back exits was a terrific move, and I've observed more people ( on the 5, the 22, and the 24, at least) paying and using their Cliper cards.
I've only seen one fare inspector on those buses, ever. Granted, I don't take rush-hour buses often, but it seems that if the original poster has really experienced so many fare inspector moments, then the fare inspection may not be applied equally across all transit lines. There may or may not be justifiable reasons for that. If certain lines have been proven to have significantly higher incidents of fare evasion, then it seems reasonable to deploy more fare inspectors. I think that folks in general aren't used to fare inspectors yet, so they see that brief interruption as a terrible nuisance. I don't believe it is, and I think folks need to, and will, get used to it.
However I believe that is only one part of the solution.  Other practical options to prevent, rather than enforce, fare evasion should be considered. For example, a discounted, low-income ClipperCard would probably be more cost-effective than having extra fare inspectors kicking people off transit. Administrating it could piggy-back on relevant city programs, such as Healthy SF, which already screens income levels and would likely reach much of the same user base.

sfosparky's picture

Fare inspectors need to get out of the tunnels more

As uppermarket's original post pointed out, the problem isn't MUNI fare inspectors, per se, it's that so many of them seem to spend so much time solely in the MUNI Metro stations.
In fairness, recently I've seen a few inspectors on the 71 (and related Haight Street) lines.  But overall, the problem is that it's a rarity rather than the norm.
Let's for sake of argument agree that there's some mysterious reason that MUNI doesn't want its fare inspectors strewn all over MUNI's vast expanse of transit lines.  With that in mind, let's get some number of inspectors regularly riding the Market Street surface lines between Kearny and Church street.  As one who is often on one or more of those Market Street surface lines, I can tell you right now those inspectors would quickly be overrun with fare evaders to the point that they'd need clerical help just to write all the citations…

Paid for by Phil Ting for Assembly 2012. FPPC ID# 1343137