(Read back: a previous posting on my blog questioning the expired transfer policy)
And where is this happening? Our "wonderful" and "fabulous" Muni metro, home to the fare inspectors who could be considered by our city's citizens as the most hated bunch of people working for Muni.
I'm writing about this because I want to mention a recent unfortunate incident for this particular Muni passenger who got a citation for an expired Muni transfer that was ONLY 9 MINUTES EXPIRED. This was posted on Saturday, April 11, 2009.
"I rode MUNI Metro for the first time yesterday, took the N from Powell out to Ocean Beach. It was slow, uncomfortable and noisy. Surprisingly much less enjoyable than BART. I had a transfer that was good until 3:45. I got on the train to head back at just before 3:00, figured that'd be more than enough time to get back to Powell before my transfer expires. Of course, there was traffic and the train was backed up for quite some time. I got into Powell st at about 3:54, and of course ran into fare inspectors at the gates. I was fined $50 for fare evasion, for being 9 minutes past my transfer time. I explained, and he recommended I fight it, which I absolutely will. But I think they're taking this too far. I understand fining SERIOUS fare evaders, but it's obvious I wasn't trying to get something for nothing, my train was just a few minutes late!
It seems that MUNI is hurting, and this is a really good way of gathering a bunch of money very quickly. At $50 per person, or more if it's not the first offense, they can make up for all the people that get away with fare evasion regularly.
Really? It looks like fare inspectors don't give a shit if the train went too slowly, or maybe there was some incident in the system that backed-up all the trains.
Do you know what I think? They put fare inspectors on the metro system because Muni knows that's an easy way to rake money (yeah, but they are losing TONS of money when you compare their salaries vs. what they write for tickets). If they don't feel like maintaining their trains and they break down in the tunnel, Muni management would be dancing with joy and not giving a shit that pissed-off passengers who just got off a long delayed train are now being ticketed for "fare evasion."
Also, I believe Muni doesn't put fare inspectors on buses and the historic streetcars because if a bus gets delayed, passengers can easily get-off the surface vehicle and take another one, or just walk it. In the tunnel, if you get stuck, there's no escape, and you are just bait for the hungry fare inspectors ready to piss you off for an expired transfer. And it's not your fault if the train is stuck because some maintenance guy forgot to tighten the screws on a door that's now broken (see photo), so why should passengers be hassled by fare inspectors on an unexpected delay?
Fare inspectors are supposed to be for SERIOUS violations of the law (no proof or way too expired transfer), not this petty 10 minute expiration. For a system that only has seven stations underground (where most fare inspectors hang out), Muni sure has plenty of money to conduct fare inspections with people who make $50,000+ yearly, and they make much more than me, a person who has a Master's degree, plus, Muni fare inspectors only requires a high school diploma and basic math skills. I manage the day to day operations of two major accounts at my job, multiple purchase orders, and multiple corporate credit cards requiring more than just basic math skills.
Want to hire someone for a $50,000 salary? Find people who have at least BACHELOR DEGREE and knows the keywords COMPASSION and FORGIVENESS.
And just to note, an old article from the Examiner written by Ken Garcia mentions that many of the fare inspectors were hired because they completed the TURF program, an ex-Mayor Willie Brown program for at risk youth. Garcia also notes that people hired by the city through this program have been stirring up trouble for whatever city agency they work for. Putting them as ticket toting ticket writers is... um... not the greatest idea.
Now, I can't claim that all fare inspectors are total jackasses, there may only be a select few that are totally ruining the entire system.
Luckily, the SFMTA is eliminating 28 fare inspector positions due to the budget problems, and that's a very good thing. Hopefully some of those so-called "badass" fare inspectors will finally be shown the door, with no need for a hearing on the wide variety of complaints nailed on them from various citizens.
Let's just wait for the hell that will come when Muni may start charging for transfers and the fare inspectors asking themselves... if a passenger is taking one metro train directly home and doesn't need a 50 cent transfer, where's he/she's proof of payment? Or maybe they should ask themselves, where's the nearest unemployment office? Since it's pointless to ask for a fare receipt anymore.
Easy tip for everyone: Take the damn bus, and screw the metro. You might actually make it by bus faster.