MUNI Gets Some Good News: Fare Collection is UP?

Photo Credit: Flickr User CBCastro

Once in a while MUNI has a little good news to report…our friends at the Chronicle report that fare collection is up – meaning MUNI is collecting more of the money they actually are owed. As we’ve talked about, MUNI fare and parking meter collection has traditionally been abysmal – akin to one refusing paychecks 70% of the time, then wondering why one has no money for rent or food.

The increase can be attributed to a variety of reasons – more people are riding MUNI when gas prices go up, and cable car fare collection has been increased significantly as well. It helps that they’ve made it easier to pay for a cable car fare by spending the nickels to staff kiosks to buy tickets. The agency is also selling more passes as well.

There was a lot of clucking of toungues a few weeks ago when people were complaining that fare inspectors “cost too much” because they weren’t pulling in the fines to pay their salaries. That, however, is a foolish way to view the situation. Fines are not mainline revenue sources – they are punishments designed to correct future behavior.

More to the point, if the only way success is to be gauged is to “get more fines issued” then it would have behooved MUNI to make it impossible to buy a pass or pay a fare, and simply write $60 citations to everyone in its path. Sure, paying $60 to go from the Sunset to the ballpark would be a total rip off, but hey, it’s “money” right?

No transit system in the world makes every dollar off the farebox, but if MUNI can collect more and more of the money it’s already owed, at today’s prices, from those who enjoy use of the system, they can avoid circling the “higher fares/cutting service” drain that the good people at SPUR have reported on in the past.

In the meantime, I’m going to toss out an idea to the Smart People at the SFMTA for a local revenue source that doesn’t involve tickets, fines or beating people over the head: bulk sales of MUNI passes to every college, trade school, heck any school in town.

Think about it: MUNI could negotiate a bulk sales rate to all the colleges and schools. They’d have a revenue stream that they could have some predictability with, that is independent of the folks in Sacramento or Washington.

The schools could give the passes away for free to their students, or simply do a pass through, with the discount. Either way, students of all ages could enjoy the benefits of a discount pass, and MUNI would have a better way to raise money for itself.

That’s just one idea…I have to believe in a city with so many Smart People, we can come up with some ways to fund MUNI on the local level, with stable sources, and in ways that do not punish one group of people over the other.

The phrase “yes we can” is rather popular these days…can San Francisco do better? We’ll see.

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7 Responses to MUNI Gets Some Good News: Fare Collection is UP?

  1. “No transit system in the world makes every dollar off the farebox”
    Not true. There are plenty of profitable transit lines:
    Are they subsidized? Sure. Every form of transportation is subsidized to some degree. But generally speaking, they make enough off the farebox to cover all their operating expenses.

  2. Ciaran says:

    But how does it work for students currently? I regularly see USF students flashing some kind of ID at the driver as they get on the bus.

  3. Belgand says:

    Isn’t that how it already works? A friend of mine used to go to USF until recently and she only paid about $15 or so IIRC to the school to get a little sticker on her student ID that functioned as a FastPass.

  4. david vartanoff says:

    FYI Cal Berkeley has pass deals for both students and staff w/ AC. Student ridership has mushroomed.

  5. Greg Dewar says:

    @Captain: Hmm…I think you’re right…I was intending to quote a document from SPUR but re-reading it I realize now the phrasing isn’t correct. Thanks for the link, btw.

  6. Greg Dewar says:

    @ciaran, belgand: when I came up with this idea a while back, when the progressives wanted to unilaterally cut MUNI funding under the guise of doing so for “young” people (and in the process threw half of their target group “under the bus” to try and get it passed), I called around, but no one from USF ever called me back.
    When I attended UCSC, included in the cost of the student fees and ID was a transit pass and so long as you were an enrolled student with what they had at the time was a little sticker indicating so, you could ride the bus. Because of the scale of the local transit agency, the student pass money collected each quarter made a big difference in the agency’s budget. Plus, the campus was so remote, you kinda HAD to take the bus if you wanted to go downtown and didn’t have a bike or didn’t feel like walking.
    The idea is a bit rough – I’ve tried to put it out there and let others run with it, but progressives in town responded very angrily to it, so I doubt the Board of Supervisors will do much with it, and I never got a response from the Mayor’s office either. So, I figured I’d put it out one last time for fun.
    There are plenty of ways we can try and declare some fiscal independence from the folks in Sacto and DC…at this point I don’t see Pres. Obama or Gov. S as having some sort of silver bullet to solve all our problems, so instead of mucking about with silly shenanigans, Board President Chiu, the Mayor, and anyone who wants a decent MUNI system should get together and figure out a better way. That IS why they’re paid the big bucks…

  7. Eric says:

    When I was at SF State, the idea of selling discount passes to students was floated many times. But nobody at Muni listened (or cared.)
    It’s too bad, because a lot of State students live off campus, and those who lives on campus often want to go out. This would help get the young folks used to living without a car, i.e. city life.

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