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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Muni Modifies & Clarifies the Definition of "Proof of Payment" & Expired Transfers

Muni Transfer and Muni to BART Coupon

Muni fare inspectors, many of us don't like them, but they do one thing well, make sure everyone pays their "fare share" for riding public transportation.

In a blog post I did just a year ago, I asked Muni to clarify the "Proof of Payment" system. The program's rules was too complex and didn't make a lot of sense to everyone. My particular topic with the POP system was the expired transfer policy and how that is blurred between what Muni called "POP lines" and "non-POP lines."

One of the reasons why I wrote the blog post is accusations from the Chinese American communities of fare inspectors citing people for expired transfers, but I knew the expired transfer policy was much different on buses than trains.

Let's take a look at the rules:
  • Muni defined "POP lines" as all metro lines.
  • Muni defined "non-POP lines" as all bus lines and the F-Market.

Let's say I ride a Muni bus (a "non-POP" line), board the bus with an unexpired paper transfer and it expired during the journey... here's what Muni's POP rule said:
"There is no need to correct the problem on non-POP lines, but you will not be able to subsequently board a POP line or enter the paid area of a subway station without obtaining Proof of Payment."
I challenged Muni to clean-up their rules to make it simpler and universal across all Muni modes of service as the non-POP and POP lines was so blurred in conjunction with the expired transfer policy.

As a result, I did a little looking around the current Proof of Payment policy for Muni under their "expired transfer" FAQ section. Here's what says now:

What if your Proof of Payment expires during your trip?

If you have a paper transfer:
  • Don't get stuck entering with a transfer that will later expire while you are waiting on a platform or riding in a vehicle. If you are not sure your transfer will last, then pay for a fresh trip on the surface or at a Ticket Vending Machine in the subway.
  • If your Proof of Payment is about to expire, be sure to obtain a new Proof of Payment before the old one expires.
  • If your Proof of Payment has expired and you are riding a Proof of Payment vehicle,
  • If you are on the surface, go pay your fare immediately if it is safe to do so, and get a transfer as Proof of Payment, or else exit the vehicle at the next stop.
  • If you are inside the paid area of a Muni station, or on a vehicle in the subway, exit the station and obtain Proof of Payment .
  • Don't try this 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.

If you have a transfer on a Clipper card or Muni ticket:
  • You will need to have cash or a ride available on your card or ticket for a new payment.
  • If the transfer loaded on your card or ticket is going to expire during your trip, do not board the second car of a two-car train unless you are absolutely certain your card or ticket has sufficient cash or ride value to pay an additional fare.
  • You will need to track when your transfer will expire.
  • Upon the 90-minute transfer expiring, you will need to re-tap and hold your card or ticket to a Clipper reader to get an additional 90 minutes of travel time.
  • If the reader rejects your card or ticket, you will need to go to the operator and pay a fare in cash and receive a paper transfer.

In summary, here's what Muni changed after my challenge to clean-up the rules:
  1. There is no such thing as a "non-POP lines" that made separate and confusing rules, currently all Muni lines are now "POP lines." This means the rules for proof of payment is the same regardless of whatever mode of service you take on Muni.
  2. If riding the bus with a transfer that is unexpired when boarding, but expires while aboard the bus, it's now considered a violation; unlike the old rule saying it's okay, but can't ride the next bus without paying for a new transfer.
  3. They now warn passengers paying with e-cash on a Clipper card to keep time of when the e-transfer will expire vs. a paper transfer that easily tells when it expires (when paying cash).

Muni should at least do some other things to clean-up the rules a little more:
The website's POP rules was updated to end the blurred policies regarding non-POP lines, but many of the sentences still reflects the old rule about when the phrase "POP lines" meant metro lines only.

Here's an example I found on the POP website today. This was found as a general question, and not specific to buses or metro only:
How do you board a Muni vehicle on the street or at an outside Muni station, excluding West Portal Station?

If you already have Proof of Payment:

  • Make sure you have your Proof of Payment before boarding, and that it will be valid for the duration of your entire trip within the Muni Metro System.
In this particular example, Muni's POP website didn't do a great job of doing a full clean-up after redefining what a "POP line" is. They still mention in portions of their website that the POP rules still applies to the METRO ONLY.

They should rephrase the bullet point like this:
  • Make sure you have your Proof of Payment before boarding, and that it will be valid for the duration of your entire trip within the Muni system.
There's other parts of the Muni website that needs to be cleaned-up to make sure the rules are the same throughout the entire system and not separated by metro lines and non-metro lines. If there's a Muni official who can read and rephrase words in the the POP websites here and here, the public would appreciate it.


cfhanes said...

Does this mean that if I board a Muni bus, tagging with Clipper at the front of the bus, after having previously ridden a bus or train, that I have to keep track of when I rode the first time and re-tag after 90 minutes?

If so, this is not an improvement!

Akit said...

It's a stupid rule. My proposal to Muni is to extend an upcoming expiring transfer by giving a 30 minute leeway. Say at the 89th minute you get the OK to board w/the transfer, but my idea would to give extra time to complete the trip instead of forcing a re-tag of the card.

Jim said...

As a stopgap measure, I suggest Clipper put a clock on the readers. Either as one of the cycling on-screen messages, or have the time stationary at the top of the tiny screen. This will also address the issue of whether the clock on the readers are accurate.

Also, eCash customers should be allowed to check how much time they have left on their transfer by tagging their card on the reader. Instead of the stupid message, "already tagged, travel denied", it should display the transfer time remaining, and when card was first tagged.

Janice said...

It is so frustrating to get on and tag when you only have a few minutes of the 90 left. Wish there was a way to pay for a new ride other than cash. Especially frustrating when it is a crowded train. Don't want to be a door hog, or heaven-forbid give up a seat just to re-tag.

Mike said...


I agree. Even a grace period of an hour or more is fine. I really hate to see someone who legitimately purchased a ticket and is running a bit late or who tried to do an entire round trip on one payment treated the same as someone who never paid a fare. They strike me as different crimes.

And I've been in situations where I have no clue how much time is left on my Clipper transfer. Sounds like a perfect use for those cards with embedded e-paper. We can dream, can't we?

Unemployed Dragon said...

What about, when you board say at Montgomery street, with a transfer that has say, 20 minutes left, figuring that that this will get you to 18th and Church on J, but then, there are delay and no J train arrives. What happens when you finally get on a J, and after all that waiting, your transfer has expired?