Fare evaders cost Muni $19 million a year

Fare evaders cost Muni $19 million each year, according to a first-time study that chronicled the fiscal effects of transit scofflaws.

Muni’s ticket fare inspectors pulled aside 41,000 customers from the end of April to mid-July, and found that nearly 10 percent of those riders lacked a proper proof of payment form, according to the report, which is scheduled to be discussed Tuesday at the agency’s board of directors meeting.

From those statistics, the department was able to determine that it lost $19 million annually in uncollected fare revenue. Before, Muni officials estimated that the losses were in the “million to tens of millions,” according to spokesman Judson True.

Half of the illegal riders uncovered by Muni fare inspectors had no proof of payment at all, while a little more than a quarter had an expired or altered fare receipt, according to the study, which was carried out during 1,100 vehicle runs throughout The City.

The infractions occurred most commonly during the evening commute, and the bulk of the fare evasions were reported along
heavily-travelled transit corridors on Market Street, Mission Street and Van Ness Avenue.

Muni officials have long acknowledged the problem of fare evasion, and last summer the department began conducting stings on its transit lines aimed at nabbing travelers trying to get a free ride. City officials have also tried to help, with Supervisor Bevan Dufty successfully leading the push to increase the fine for fare evasion from $50 to $75.

As a way to deter further illegal boarders, Muni is retraining its ticket fare inspectors and changing scheduling so that more inspectors will be out in the field during the evening commute.

“We've stepped up our push against fare evasion in recent months with efforts like the highly visible saturations,” said Muni chief Nathaniel Ford. “This study points us toward even more improvements in our strategy.”

The chronically cash-strapped department entered this fiscal year with a $129 million deficit, and as a way to balance its budget, Muni introduced fare hikes and increased the fines for some parking infractions. The department also recently announced a controversial proposal to extend payment times of The City’s 25,000 parking meters.

wreisman@sfexaminer.com

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