On a recent evening in the Sunset district, a patrol officer stepped onto a crowded N-Judah train and asked to see passengers’ proofs-of-purchase. Riders began digging out their Clipper cards and holding them out to be scanned, but instead the officer simply nodded and walked by.
Asked why he was taking their word for it that they’d scanned the card when they got on, rather than checking with a handheld Clipper-card reader, he appeared chagrined.
“We actually asked about that again just today,” the officer said. “They’re supposed to get us some, but they haven’t yet.”
Every patrol officer in San Francisco is obligated to conduct two Muni inspections a day, according to SFPD Lt. Troy Dangerfield, but only the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s dedicated transit police and 30 city officers have been outfitted with Clipper-card readers, which are hand-held machines that scan a Clipper card and determine if it has paid a fare in the past 90 minutes.
Muni spokesman Paul Rose said the agency is “working on” placing the readers in every police station in San Francisco so officers can use them when they do fare inspections. However, he could not provide a schedule by which they would be available.
Muni recently transitioned from Fast Passes, in which people purchased a paper monthly pass, to the Clipper card, in which passengers load money or a monthly pass onto a magnetic card.
Patrol officers are required to perform two transit inspections each day, and that can entail riding a bus or light-rail train for at least a block, or checking on a Muni yard, Dangerfield said. He said the primary goal is to spot crime and provide a sense of security on the public transit system. But if the officers board a train, they typically do a fare inspection as well.
Muni is currently facing a $21 million deficit, and that’s after cutting services to the tune of $22 million. The transit agency estimates it loses about $19 million a year due to passengers who fail to pay for rides.
700,000 Daily boardings on Muni
217,550 Daily boardings on Muni using Clipper card*
8.6% Muni fare evasion rate
$19M Revenue lost annually due to fare evasion
* As of March 11; April was first month SFMTA required “M” Fast Pass holders to use Clipper