Foiling the Free Riders

Mayor Gavin Newsom surprised the city this week by suggesting San Francisco consider eliminating fares on the Muni. Despite having the lowest fares of any big city in the country, San Francisco collects less income than most cities. Many Muni riders have watched riders slip out the middle door of a trolley car as the fare checkers come in the front. During rush hour no one has a hope of pushing through the cars to check fastpasses and transfer slips. Newsom’s answer seems to be: If you can’t catch the cheaters, then eliminate the barriers. How about trying enforcement instead? Or getting new fare boxes similar to the ones in New York where cash fares have disappeared and all riders have to slide their Metro card through a scanner? The cost of buying the fare boxes would be saved in a couple of years by collecting more fares. And in the meantime, the risk of turning the Muni buses and trolleys into rolling homeless shelters would be avoided.

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