The Fare Inspectors messed up again. When will it stop?

What is going on with the MUNI fare inspectors? Here is a guy that is out $190 because a fare box does not work. The driver tells him it is ok but he still gets a $150 ticket and is left with trying to sort it out. I am sure that the people running the system do not want it to work this way but the bottom line is that this is what is going on. MUNI - what is your response to this? more

When is the system going to start working better? The SFMTA is clearly broken and does not care about running a transit system and only seems to be interested in removing parking and building more bike lanes. I imagine MUNI employees might be pretty fed up.

Here are some ideas for Fixing MUNI:
1. Acknowledge that the basic problem of MUNI is a management problem.
2. Drivers and mechanics and most others who work for the system want to work for an organization that they can be proud of and feel that their contributions are useful and appreciated. No one wants to work for an organization that is constantly being trashed as incompetent.
3. So what is wrong? My sense is that the basic problem is old style top down dictatorial management is at the heart of what is not working at MUNI. Most drivers I see are trying to do a good job in what must be a very difficult environment driving large buses in a congested city. The maintenance people from what I hear are frustrated and would love to work where they feel supported. Something needs to give because a lot of money is spent, a lot of people are unhappy and things are basically not working. This combined with SFMTA’s complete lack of interest in running a quality transit system is resulting in a mess that should work better.

What do MUNI workers think – would love to offer more constructive feedback. We need good ideas and need to name names about who is doing their job and who is not.

Always interested in Feedback:

recent media ...

The time is now to fix Muni
08.13.13 - 2:58 pm | Guardian Editorial

Can Anything Be Done to Fix Muni? by Matthew Roth

Basically SFMTA is not doing the job it was created to do and has been hijacked by a few people who have a vision of the city where public transit no longer works and the only way to travel is by bicycle – we need a more balanced approach where the priority should be affordable quality public transit, bicycle friendly streets and appropriate use of private vehicles.


The Muni Death Spiral - an excellent article by Joe Eskenazi and Greg Dewar!
Your transit system is terribly inefficient, extremely slow, and wildly expensive. Here’s how you can fix it.
An article in the Wednesday, Apr 14 2010 issue of Sf Weekly.

My comments: You should be commended for putting the blame where it belongs – Gavin Newsom and the head of the Union, Erwin Lum. As you point out, Newsom’s people are in control of MUNI – there may be some benefit to keeping him accountable for the sucess of MUNI. After all, if he cannot run MUNI well - why should we ever elect him to another office. The guy seems like an incompetent manager to me – at least for a large organization like the city of San Francisco. I liked his gay weddings – but there is more to running a city than just instructing city clerks to issue marriage certificates to same sex couples. He wanted the job – he should do it. Not sure that some more lame picks by the board of supervisors to the MTA board will make any difference as the current board is really unaccountable anyway. Sorry to see one good person, Leah Shahum kicked off the board – she is a voice of reason and had the impression that she was very effective in the Bicycle Coalition. The other person that should be held accountable for the current state of MUNI is Erwin Lum – the head of the drivers Union. This guy doesn’t get it that MUNI is owned by the people of San Francisco and they have a right to be involved in what goes on with their public transit system. The best thing that the drivers could do is vote him out of office and elect a leader for their union that understands that bad drivers who continue driving give the vast majority of MUNI drivers a bad name. Message to MUNI Drivers: find some way to at least reassign the accident prone drivers to other non driving jobs. Not everybody is good in every job. I would probably make a terrible MUNI driver – so I have a lot of respect for the very competent drivers that I see every day on MUNI. Congratulations on a great article Joe and Greg! Who says that good journalism is dying - and this in a free weekly. I think that you compete with the best of the journalistic tradition.

Learning from Muni
On the bright side: What's working at the SFMTA - article appeared in the February 2010 issue of Urbanist (A publication of Spur).
Comments: Lots of interesting information about the Transit Effectiveness Project. As a rider and citizen of the city I am more concerned with areas such as – Is MUNI being run as efficiently as it could with the current budget? Who should be held accountable for the system not working as well as it could? What about drivers that have an abnormally high number of accidents or citizen complaints? As a publically owned institution I feel that there needs to be a higher level of accountability within the management of MUNI as well as acknowledgement by union leadership that they are answerable to the citizens of the city.

A site worth looking at. May be part of the solution. Wonder what Dave Snyder thinks of this. - Website of the Transit Riders organization being spirheaded by Dave Snyder. While I still think that we should Keep San Francisco parking meters free on Sunday - the organization says that they only want parking meters to operate “Only where it helps small business by keeping parking spaces available for paying customers” - seems like a reasonable safegaurd. And Dave – I don not think you will never get an inclusive riders union if you only welcome people who are against the Central subway. There may be many MUNI riders that think the Central subway is a good idea.

MUNI Positive: The new information signs are slick:


How Not to Fix MUNI

Erwin Lum

Muni video vault: Bus drivers' misconduct - amazing video from abc7 News - What do you say to this Erwin Lum? Your idea that it is none of the public's business how bad drivers are diciplined is just plain wrong - it is the public's business. We as citizens of San Francisco pay the salaries of public employees and we have every right to know what is going on. What part of freedom of information do you not understand Mr Lum. Fuck You and your kind. Does anyone know what happened to Anthony Jones?

Seems like not all MUNI drivers are not happy with their union. See: MUNI employees in a union, we suffer!

Then there is a page at Rocket Shoes ... Dear SF Muni, Fuck you.Let me start over. Fuck you. - An Open Letter To SF Muni Seems like both the management of MUNI and the union are messed up if stuff like this is leaking all over the web.

The Translink card is supposed help MUNI – but perhaps all the have not been worked out.

Today was an experience of everything that can go wrong with the Translink card. First the card did not work on the N Judah near Carl & Cole. One passenger that was watching even said – looks like you got a free ride. Then I got to worrying what the fare Nazis at Montgomery St would do. So just as the N was approaching the Market St tunnel I tried the card again – this time it worked. Boy was I relieved – disaster averted. Then on the way back at Van Ness I swiped the card and nothing happened – the turnstile did not open and there was no one in the booth. So I had to use the emergency exit. Seems like it would be good to have a sign or something telling people it is ok to use the emergency exit in this situation. Then when I got off the N at Carl and Cole what do I find but a bunch of MUNI employees talking about something. I politely interrupted to ask who I should talk to at MUNI about my problem with Translink. I was told to call 311 and was told by the main guy that he did not know anyone at MUNI that I could contact. When I asked politely for his name, he refused to give it to me. Is this MUNI policy not to be willing to identify themselves? Anyway he the guy with glasses (2nd from left) in the photo below. At a minimum I think he needs some customer service training.

Then I called 311 as instructed. After a somewhat annoying phone tree (do I really need to tell people that I wish to talk in English?) I get to a human being. I was told that I should have immediately contacted the driver. When I asked how I should have known this I was made to feel stupid for not knowing. Perhaps there should be some kind of sign on the Translink terminal to the effect “If for any reason this machine fails to work please notify the driver immediately” . Not sure how this would really work in the 2nd car of the N Judah. When my first call to 311 got cut off I called back and talked to a nice guy who told me that if I needed to resolve my issue with my lost Translink card I need to call 877 878-8883. After a second call (the first time the line was down) I talked to a nice woman who said that she could send me a new card – but that there would be a $5 fee. I asked her the same question about what I should have done when the translink machine did not work and she said that I should have contacted the conductor or paid the $2 fare in cash. When I asked about what I should do if I was in the 2nd car of a 2 car N Judah she said that she did not know but was kind enough to give me that email address of someone at Translink that I could ask. I plan to follow this up.

Fare Inspector Hell

MTA Responds. After I posted this I got an incredible response from a woman at MTA who indicated that it was not appropriate for the fare inspector to photograph me in response to me taking pictures. She pointed me to the MUNI photo policy which seems pretty reasonable.

Today I was greeted by what looked like a wall of cops ready to draw their guns at the eastern exit to the Montgomery MUNI station. You had to look closely to see that they did not have guns. But they did look mean and ready to do business. It sure did not contribute to the joy of the experience of riding MUNI that the Translink card was starting to provide. When I got out my camera to take a few pictures - one of the ninja looking inspectors shot a cellphone image of me. Are they now collecting files on anyone who dares to photograph them. I would like to know what he plans to do with the photo he took of me. Does he put it into some special file of people that dare to photograph MUNI fare inspectors? The photos I took are online here. I formally request that MUNI disclose through freedom of information what they plan to do with the photo(s) that the inspector took of me (have not recieved a response to this yet). I only wish I could have captured the full force of the line of SWAT looking fare inspectors that I confronted when I got to the top of the escalators.

This guy looks like he is ready to shoot the next passenger up the escalator. Whoever at MUNI came up with the idea of dressing the fare inspectors to look like SWAT Team cops deservers to be fired.

Other cities have found a way to dress their inspectors in more friendly human like garb.

Fare cop ... inspector Sergio Fiorenza checks passengers' tickets on a Sydney bus. (source)

There is a lot more about MUNI fare inspectors online as a simple google search will revel.

Hey SF Muni Fare Inspector #32, Photography is Not a Crime

Yelp even has a discussion form on the subject of MUNI fare inspectors.

Update based on the March 6, 2010 meeting at the Woman's building in San Francisco

March 7, 2010

The "Fix the MUNI" page has not been updated for quite awhile - guess I got bored and felt that whatever I put on this page would not ahve any effect on how MUNI functions. I have suddenly become optimistic about the potential for improving MUNI. The reason for this change is a meeting I attended last Saturday (March 6, 2010) at the Woman's building in San Francisco. Seems like a group of people are hatching a plan to make things better for public transit in the city. What gives me hope is that some of the people are the ones that got the bicycle paths that we now see in the city. They obviously have a history of making things happen. My sense is that they are smart – they put on an amazingly well done event. They minimized the bitching and did a lot to energize people into thinking about practical ways for improving MUNI. I was stunned – finally a group that I feel I can get behind. And as a lapsed MUNI rider (I used to regularly buy fast passes) and now use MUNI only occasionally to go downtown I welcome being part of a new and vibrant public transit system in the city. It was and great and exciting meeting. In the future it might be good to have more representation from MUNI drivers and from others who use MUNI. It was a great start and look forward to helping in any way I can. Still looking for their website – the site listed on the bottom of several of the wall posters seems to be mostly about stopping the central freeway. Would like to see where they are putting the material generated at the meeting.

Two major themes I took away from the conference – the need for consistent financial funding and an improvement in labor relations with the drivers. Other issues like policing and the constant stealing of money from MUNI by other city departments also came up. The SFPD especially - with what seems is the Mayors blessing - why are the police getting any money at all from the MUNI budget - mostly from what I have seen is the cops are distracting MUNI drivers so that they can fill out their silly forms? And the SFPD does not even respond to email sent the either the stations or their PR department - <<<Correction I did get a very good response - which I need to follow up with the captian at the Park station>>>.

Here are some writings from a person I met at the conference:


I even started a Fix MUNI Blog

Creative Financing, MUNI style ... (an old page from this site)

Any feedback? Contact me at