Longtime Muni riders have been especially irritated at watching scofflaws sneak aboard rear exits with virtual impunity and evade fare payments that could help improve the erratic transit service. But Muni is now breaking all records for fare enforcement.
With the number of enforcement officers tripled to 51 in the past two years, Muni issued $35,000 worth of $50 tickets during the last quarter. The number of citations issued was 44.3 percent more than in the same period last year, and another 20 fare enforcers are being hired this fiscal year.
As satisfying as Muni’s sudden turnaround in the war against fare cheaters is, that is just one element of the bus and light-rail system’s surprise package of good news for the public. The 13.5 million more passengers in 2007-08 represent a 6.5 percent increase that delivered $8.1 million in additional fares into Muni coffers. Half of the increased fare revenue came from a 7.2 percent jump in monthly Fast Pass sales.
Tourism ridership also spiked as a slumping U.S. dollar brought bargain-seeking overseas visitors to The City. Sales of one-day and three-day passes were up by almost 25 percent, while cable-car fare revenues rose 8.5 percent.
If recognized macroeconomic pressures such as record-high gas prices and ballooning local bridge tolls are driving Muni’s passenger-fare boom, it also seems fair to credit the measurable performance improvement of San Francisco’s public-transit agency.
One reason Muni is carrying more riders is that it now provides more vehicles and more drivers. The fleet has climbed from 765 to 771 and Muni hires 20 to 30 operators every six weeks. This has cut the monthly missed-trip average from 7 percent to 2 percent on the rail lines and from 4 percent to 3 percent on bus and trolley routes since last year.
The Muni improvements are being guided by the Transit Effectiveness Project, the blueprint for last November’s Proposition A, through which city voters funneled$26 million for Muni reform coupled with additional resources. By working with the drivers’ union, Muni absenteeism has been reduced by one-third. Hundreds of Muni operators receiving workers’ compensation were either returned to work or removed from the payroll.
So it appears as if some of the promises made by Prop. A are starting to come true. And another important benefit is almost here, as Muni starts phasing in this month the long-awaited TransLink program, enabling Bay Area transit riders to use one computerized pass for all public transportation throughout the region’s nine counties.