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Friday, April 2, 2010

Muni's Expired Transfer Policy - Big Differences Between Metro and Buses

Muni's expired transfer policies are confusing and many would assume that an expired transfer while in-transit is a big no-no on all vehicles (even I believed that too). I have viewed the SFMTA's website for more information and found out how the policy works between the metro lines versus all the other services Muni provides. By reading this, you will know your rights as a passenger so Muni fare inspectors are not abusing or being ignorant of the rules.


Before I start, let's define "Proof of Payment" versus "fare checking:"
  • "Proof of Payment" covers all metro lines: J, K, L, M, N, T.
  • "Fare checking" covers all Muni lines excluding the metro.
When you read the SFMTA's website on Proof of Payment and Fare Checking, read it carefully as many POP rules don't overlap "fare checking" policies. Example: On POP lines, it's OK to board the rear doors with valid proof of payment. On "fare checking" lines, all riders must board the front door regardless of valid media in hand.


The next time you encounter a fare inspector, there is a difference in how the expired transfer policy works while riding the metro (POP) versus other vehicles ("fare checking"):
  1. If you ride the metro, it is considered a "Proof of Payment" (POP) line and your transfer must always be valid (not expired) during the entire journey, including waiting at underground station platforms. The rules state: "Your Proof of Payment must be valid for the duration of your entire trip within the Muni Metro System, including time spent within the paid area of stations or waiting at station platforms."
  2. However, the expired transfer policy cannot be enforced on Muni buses, and historic streetcars. As always, a passenger must always have a non expired transfer to board the bus, but if it expires during the journey, the fare inspector cannot cite for an expired transfer because Muni policy states the expired rule is only for POP lines (last bulletpoint). Fare inspectors can still cite passengers for not having any fare media in hand or a transfer or pass not covering the appropriate date/month.
Remember the keywords in the quote in number one: "within the Muni Metro System" as this is important to remember; enforcement of expired transfers can only be on the metro. Also, fare inspectors cannot enforce POP on outdoor station platforms (except West Portal) since it is OK to pay in cash to the driver.

Passengers should always be aware to always have a pass or transfer at all times regardless if riding the bus or metro as fare inspectors can at least check if all passengers have some kind of legitimate proof they paid or used their pass to board the vehicle.

A reminder to TransLink cardholders who use e-cash to pay for Muni rides: You don't have to fear an expired transfer for a bus line, but use a stopwatch while riding the metro in the very rare situation a fare inspector pulls out their PDA device to check the validity of the TL card. In my opinion it is relatively difficult to cite passengers for an expired transfer when passengers can't visually see if the e-transfer expired or not (versus a paper transfer).


If you get a citation for an expired transfer while riding a non-metro vehicle, make sure the inspector writes down which bus line you rode on the citation, and contest it. Print out the material from the links below and provide it as your appeal. Make sure to highlight the sections from the SFMTA website that clearly states that expired transfers can only be enforced on POP lines (metro lines).

Appealing and winning gets saves you $75 by not paying the fine; and why not ask the city to reimburse a postage stamp, the time wasted writing an appeal, and the doctor treatment of psychological trauma for fear of inspectors (a new condition called PTFID: Post Traumatic Fare Inspector Disorder)?

To review the city's transportation code (article 7), click here.
To review SFMTA/Muni's interpretation on article 7 of the transportation code, click here.


Dazed and Confused said...

Hi Akit,

I have a question that I've asked a few MUNI fare inspectors, but I just get puzzled looks. So I'm wondering if you would know--or at least be able to understand the question.

I have a TransLink card with a FastPass loaded onto it. I've been told that I have to tag my card whenever I get on a bus or enter the Metro POP areas, and generally I do. But today, the faregates at Montgomery were under construction and the only accessible tagger device was broken. A sign said that people with FastPasses could enter the gate, but people paying cash fares had to go to the other booth way down at the other end of the station.

Since I have a FastPass on my TransLink, I just entered the gate with my still untagged card. If I were stopped by a fare inspector, could I have been ticketed for not having a "tagged" TransLink card, even though it has a FastPass on it?

The intelligent answer should be "no," of course. But I have no confidence that the intelligent answer is the correct answer.

(Having the faregates under construction is unusual, but it seems like I find myself in similar TransLink dilemmas not infrequently.)

Akit said...

You have asked a great question! It could be possible you could get a nagging from the fare inspector for failing to tag the card, but even the odds of having the card checked is sort-of low as they are just well... lazy.

While I wait back for some answers in a recent discussion string from KPIX's Eye on Blogs about this, try these ideas: Walk to the other set of faregates or enter the station and tag the card on-board the first train arriving to the station.

Interestingly, the POP page on Muni's site says that a pass on TL card is OK, but does not say required to tag.

Here's the Eye on Blogs article, click on the comments link for the comment string:

Dazed and Confused said...

Thanks Akit, your answer was really helpful.

The way I read the SFMTA site regarding "What Constitutes Proof of Payment," there are two distinct ways that a TransLink card can constitute POP. One is "A TransLink fare card tagged for the current trip is valid for 90 minutes after tagging." The other is "A TransLink fare card with [a MUNI pass] purchased on it." This MUNI pass option does not say anything about the card needing to be tagged.

So I interpret this as meaning I cannot get ticketed for failure to have POP if I have a MUNI pass loaded, even if I don't tag the card. I'm going to print this page out and save it--this will be Exhibit A if I get ticketed!

James said...

Don't mean to be a buzzkill, but Translink's website says that TL cardholders with a fast pass loaded still need to tag their cards.


Akit said...

Buzzkill or not, there's a conflict between two agencies. I'm hoping Muni can give written clarification on the policy.

Anonymous said...

Howdy Akit,

I got a Clipper Card a few months back, and had question regarding transfers with the card (I thought I'd ask you first, SFMTA was never helpful).

I don't ride Muni often, so when I do, I use e-cash, not a pass. THis is about Muni Metro rides:

Clipper has that automated 90 minute transfer period. Suppose I board the N at 2:00, get off, go about my business and board the N again at 3:25. Technically, Clipper wouldn't charge me again since I'm still in my 90 minute period, but what about once that time expires during my transit ride? Could I get a citation for that (since I'm on a POP line)? Clipper is supposed to be all automated and stuff, so it's not like I know to 're-pay' my fare again.

Thanks for your help.

Akit said...

You asked a great question that I've been having a lot of questions about too.

That particular scenario can happen to anyone since while a paper transfer can easily tell you when it will expire, a Clipper card cannot unless if the user is paying attention to the little screen when tagging.

I don't really have an answer for this and hopefully the SFMTA can give some clarification about it.

Anonymous said...

I was just researching this exact question (the 90 minute transfer on Muni Metro expiring during a ride even though I tagged Clipper before riding; from above: tagging at 2:00 and again at 3:25). Was anything ever learned from SFMTA about this?

Akit said...

Nope. The SFMTA still has the same info on their site and still confuses the heck out of me.