Obsolete Muni fare system becomes token of the past

As Muni moves into a new era of payment options, the metal transit token is going extinct.

Introduced in the 1940s, the dime-size tokens have been unavailable to the general public since 2005, according to San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency spokesman Judson True.

Good for 90 minutes of travel, the tokens are being phased out because of their incompatibility with Muni’s increasingly modern system.

“We believe that it’s important to provide clients with prepaid fare media, and that means transitioning to smart-card technology,” True said.

Greedy transit riders are also partially to blame for the tokens’ demise.

Taking advantage of the fact that Muni’s fareboxes are unable to tell when a token was purchased, some people bought them up before fare increases went into effect. After the fare increases, the token-holders could travel at a discounted rate.

The tokens are now dispensed only to nonprofit organizations that have clients with special needs, according to True. Only about 50 of these organizations still request tokens, which were replaced in 2005 with paper-coupon booklets that cost $15 for a set of 10.

Metal tokens still in circulation are the small amount handed out by nonprofits that cannot afford to give each client a $15 coupon booklet. The paper coupons are not accepted by Muni drivers unless they are ripped from the booklet at the point of sale.

No new metal tokens have been purchased since 2005, True said.

wreisman@examiner.com

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