State bond money to fund Muni fare box rehab project

Muni is investing $19 million to repair all 1,250 fare boxes in its fleet with the hope that the rehab project will increase payment reliability for the cash-strapped agency.

The transit agency collected $143 million in fares last fiscal year — 21 percent of its budget — but its transit fleet is equipped with outdated fare boxes.

Acquired in 1991 with a 10-year shelf life, the fare boxes frequently break down, according to department documents. If a fare box on an active Muni vehicle is not working, it cannot collect cash fares.

Muni officials could not calculate how much revenue the department loses annually because of the broken fare boxes, but on average, about 700,000 passengers travel on Muni’s 900 operating vehicles each day.

“This project is a good example of the investment we need in our infrastructure to make Muni a world-class system,” San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency spokesman Judson True said. “We want to capture as much revenue as possible, and refurbishing the fare boxes will help us reach that goal.”

The department had a choice between repairing the existing fare boxes or replacing them, True said. Because an overhaul would be costlier and take longer, the department opted for the $19 million rehab project, which would be conducted by Cubic Transportation Systems Inc., the company that installed the devices in 1991.

Repairs for the existing fare boxes should be completed within 15 months, whereas replacing the system have taken 36 months, based on industry standards, according to SFMTA documents.

Funding for the project comes from state bond money, so the department’s operating budget will not be affected, True said.

The SFMTA board of directors will vote on the contract agreement with Cubic on Tuesday. If approved, the contract proposal will go before the Board of Supervisors in the summer.

Repairs could begin immediately after authorization by the Board of Supervisors.

Last month, the SFMTA board of directors approved a series of revenue-raising proposals — including price increases for ticket fines, parking permits and monthly Fast Passes — to make up the department’s projected two-year, $81.5 million budget shortfall.

wreisman@sfexaminer.com

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