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Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Muni Fast Pass goes up January: How to still save money

If you thought the $55 cost for a Muni fast pass was totally crazy, just wait for the odd price change coming up on January 1, 2010.

SF Appeal reports SFMTA/Muni will raise the price of the adult Fast Pass to:

$60 without BART
$70 with BART

Update: The pass hike has been confirmed by the SFMTA on November 6, 2009.

Doesn't this remind you of the era of Mayor Frank Jordan when Muni changed their passes to reflect a "basic" pass that only gave passengers regular and limited buses, and the "premium" pass that included express buses, BART, and Cable Cars? The public was not happy and quickly changed their policies back to a single adult pass with all privileges.

For now... we just have to bite the bullet with the new pass structure. And once it goes into effect, make a big ruckus that this sucks.


Let's do a little bit of math:
For the average passenger, one day's worth of Muni rides is $4 a day.
  • At $60 per person is 15 days to match the value of the pass.
  • At $70 a person is 17 days, plus one ride to match the value of the pass.
There are 20 working days this month (not including Labor Day), so assuming that you ride five days a week, you would save $20 for the $60 pass, or $10 for the $70 Muni/BART pass.

Just to note, this does not count for days when you may ride Muni on weekends, take the Cable Car, and/or using the BART benefit. Using it more often will increase your savings.

But be aware, BART only costs $1.75 for a local ride within San Francisco, so while you get to your destination faster (assuming you don't need to transfer to a Muni bus), you'll lose 25 cents per ride than taking Muni using your pass.
  • Doing the math on this, you need to ride BART within San Francisco six times to make it worthwhile to purchase the BART add-on feature (assuming if you also ride Muni round-trip at $4 per day).
  • If you ONLY ride BART within San Francisco (NO MUNI RIDING) and use the BART privilege on the Muni pass, you must ride it 40 times in a month to break even.
Also, you can save even more (around 20%) if your employer offers a pre-taxed commuter benefit program such as Commuter Check.


How about the "BART Plus" pass, is there any savings?

The answer is no if you only travel on Muni, but actually worth it if you take BART outside of San Francisco and ride other agencies, except AC Transit, Caltrain, and Golden Gate Transit.

The cheapest one you can get is $86 a month ($43 half-month passes) and comes with $30 in BART fare value ($15 BART 15-day fare due to the half-month ticket policy). Inter-San Francisco free rides with the BART Plus ticket is not allowed.


Will Muni actually print two types of passes?

While there is no official answer, it would be in their best interest to at least sell the higher pass price to only be used with a Translink card. Why? BART station agents would not be repeating the same answer to Muni pass holders that their cheaper pass can't be used on BART. Plus, if a "cheap" pass holder rides BART with the Translink card, BART makes money on that trip since the fare is deducted from the user's e-cash purse.

But it should be noted that Muni will start replacing their metro fare gates with new Translink only gates starting with the Forest Hill station in January and full conversion should be completed by the end of 2010. With this fact in mind, it would just be beneficial and cost efficient to stop printing passes and get all pass users on Translink.

This is why I keep telling people, there's the potential for a shortage of Translink cards if a transit agency mandates all pass holders to switch from paper to an electronic card. Get your card NOW. You can buy one at a Walgreens location (green dots) if you don't want to buy one online at Translink's website.

Update (12/29): Muni has printed two types of passes. The "M" pass is $60 and the "A" pass is $70. TransLink also sells both types of passes online and at their automated machines, but if you are getting them automatically loaded on a monthly basis, your pass will be automatically converted to the $70 pass. If you need the "M" pass, tell TransLink NOW.


Jamison said...

On Muni's fare gate replacement.

The tentative schedule I was informed of last month (though this wasn't firm) had work beginning in January at Forest Hill completed in October and other stations following after that.

The gates aren't strictly Translink only. There will also be a paper ticket purchased from new ticket machines that will be installed. It will be more like BART where you can purchase a ticket (using cash, change or credit card) with a stored value for multiple rides, and single- or multi-day passes.

There will only be one kind of machine used for both selling paper tickets and adding value to Translink cards (instead of separate machines for each).

Akit said...

That's correct Jamison about the paper tickets.

From what I researched from the MTC's meeting notes about Translink, it's called "limited use" Translink cards that are sold at the metro station vending machines.

While they haven't described what "limited use" is, it is more likely that the RFID cards can only be used for Muni purposes.

lacadaz said...

Well that's it for me. Muni expects me to pay $60 for all my transportation for the month that's insane. No way. It's so much better for me to get a monthly space at the garage down the street from my apartment for $250 a month another $150 for the garage near work, a car payment at $300 a month, insurance at $150 a month and pesky gasoline at $200 a month.

Why on earth would I pay $60 a month for something I can get for a thousand? Muni is crazy to think I would continue to do that.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone else had problem of TransLink pass breaking (internal antenna) when carried in hip pocket? That's why some of us are sticking to printed Muni and BART passes. We don't want to be forced to adopt a faulty technology.


Anonymous said...

This is so unfair. One thing i do not understand is why is it only those with the adult fast pass who have to suffer this price increase.

NONe of the other types of passes or transfers will receive an increase.

a regular transfer will still be 2, and the youth/senior passes will still be 15.

Anonymous said...


Has anyone else had the problem of printed muni passes breaking (paper or plastic crumpling, tearing, dissolving when wet, or demagnetizing) when carried in hip pocket?

If you cant take care of a plastic RFID card, then god help whatever printed media you may be carrying.

saltyfresh said...

Thanks for the post. Does anyone know which BART/MUNI stations SFMTA considers "within the city?" Obviously Embarcadero is on the north/east end, but how far south can you go with the Fast Pass?

Akit said...

saltyfresh: Great question. The furthest south you can ride with a Muni "A" pass is Balboa Park.

Here's the stations the pass covers within SF:
Civic Center
16th Street Mission
24th Street Mission
Glen Park
Balboa Park

Strangely, Daly City is right next to the SF/DC border, but is considered outside San Francisco; it's a popular stop for SF State folks due to the free campus shuttle and free Muni ride w/transfer.

saltyfresh said...

great info, thanks akit!

Anonymous said...

Wow! Those bastards are taking advantage of BART riders simply because they know we have no other choice. The new fast pass would be taking up 25% of my paycheck and I can't qualify for the low income one because it doesn't offer BART anyway. I say we do something and protest.