But while this program is supposed to catch the people who fail to pay for their train fare (in which I applaud), it also has a disturbing side to it as well, when it comes to the "validity" of the "proof of payment." More in particular, the Muni transfer, which is issued in a few ways: the tear-off that comes from the vehicle operators, the fare gates at metro stations, ticketing machines at platforms like S.F. State, and the Translink e-transfer.
According to SFMTA/Muni's policy on POP in the metro, it states:
- "Don't get stuck entering with a transfer/fare receipt that will later expire while you are waiting on a platform or riding in a vehicle. If you are not sure your transfer/fare receipt will last, then pay for a fresh transfer/fare receipt on the surface or at a faregate in the subway."
Maybe Muni should add signage saying: "If your transfer is expiring, please buy a new one."
How about this one? "If your train is delayed, ask the operator for a FREE fresh transfer since you just been probed in the butt by our poorly maintained equipment." Actually, in Japan, if your train is late or delayed, you are given a little note about the delay to give to your supervisor at work so you don't get in trouble.
An even more disturbing policy is highlighted here in their FAQ section of their website, where they answer the question on what to do when your transfer expires, in particular:
- "Don't try this (get a new transfer) if Proof of Payment enforcement officers are aboard the vehicle or present in the paid area of the station; it is too late to correct the problem."
In my point of view, the "expired" transfer policy doesn't even seem really that fair at all. Journeys can be longer than we may sometimes expect due to delays, incidents, etc., and people who ride Muni generally knows that once you enter a Muni vehicle with a valid transfer that has not expired, you will be allowed entry without question; even if a passenger has just 15 minutes left on the transfer; that's not a problem on the buses and historic streetcars, but will be a problem on the Metro 15 minutes later.
Here's a few situations that may happen to you:
- Say your train is stuck in the metro tunnel due to a train ahead that is disabled, or possibly an incident that occurred (which is more likely to happen today). Once the train finally enters the station and you exit, you get nailed by a fare inspector simply because your transfer was expired, but surely your transfer was valid while suffering in the tunnel.
- Your paper transfer issued by the operator was less than 90 minutes or the ticket machine at the metro platform cut it short (which happened here), how the hell do you contest that? Muni could argue that you didn't look at your transfer when it was issued. Yeah, tell that to a visually impaired guy appealing his ticket.
- If the transfer is expired by no longer than one hour, then it is fine. Now, I'm saying just an hour because traveling on the Metro should not take more than an hour. It takes 45 minutes on the 38L-Geary Limited from end to end (Transbay to 48th/Pt. Lobos), so an hour is fair enough on a metro ride.
- But if it is more than an hour, then a citation should be issued, especially if it is by more than two hours, that's obviously a violation of someone trying to cheat the system.
Also while you are at it, how about reducing the number of fare inspectors at one station? Recently, I saw NINE at Powell (four at the main gate area, three at the secondary gates, and two on the platform). Even worse, three of them was harassing a family of Japanese tourists. Gees, that's a nice welcome mat we put out.
Photo courtesy of Flickr user: "rick" from a Creative Commons license.