From the Vault: Paper Muni Fast Passes Through the Years


Image courtesy samsast

Before Clipper cards came into your life (“Translink” for you transit OGs), we marked our calendars by the monthly unveiling of the colorful paper Fast Pass. The paper Fast Pass was discontinued in 2011, and today we’re bringing back some of our favorite old Muni passes through the years. From the Muni Diaries vault:

  • Ken Schmier is the man who came up with the concept of the Fast Pass. He’s also the mind behind NextBus. Strange, right? But also, not. This happened around 37 years ago, to the best of our knowledge. The first passes went on sale sometime in 1974. The earliest we could find an image of (below) is October 1976.
  • In a blog post from Chronicle Books, designers for the book publisher lamented the lameness of the Clipper Card look, and paid homage to the beauty of the paper pass.
  • In 2009, local artist John Kuzich opened his Fast Pass exhibit at the de Young Museum. Kuzich asked for people’s passes on Craigslist, then assembled them on panels in really interesting and beautiful ways.

1976 muni fast pass by cranky old mission guy
Photo by Cranky Old Mission Guy

You can see lots more photos in this post. Here are some of our favs:

fast pass collage by steve rhods
Photo by Steve Rhodes

fast passes by christina b castro
Photo by cbcastro

Muni: You aren’t responsible to pay when a Clipper card reader is broken

This week, SFGate reported on a phenomenon that many Muni riders know all too well: when the Clipper card reader is broken and you don’t have a Fast Pass on your card, you might get a citation from fare inspectors. But yesterday, we were informed by the SFMTA again that you shouldn’t be cited in this situation.

In 2010, we asked SFMTA about the policy for fares when the Clipper card reader is broken. They told us that when the machines are broken, drivers are not supposed to make cardholders pay, regardless of whether the rider has a monthly Fast Pass loaded on the card. We even got the document SFMTA says they sent to operators notifying them of this change in procedure in 2010 (see above).

Has Muni’s fare policy changed since our 2010 story?

SFMTA spokesperson Paul Rose told us yesterday, “The policy has not changed. We are not going to hold passengers accountable if there is no way to tag your card.”

According to the SFGate story, about 55,000 people have been cited since July. And:

Since July, 8,700 Muni riders have complained they were wrongly cited for not paying the fare, many times because of broken scanners, according to appeal records. Roughly 175 of the riders succeeded in getting their ticket dismissed.

So there you go, folks. Whether the inspectors and drivers were misinformed, now you have the word (and the memo) to protest your tickets.

One Woman’s Success Story in Appealing a Clipper Card Citation


Photo by Agent Akit

Muni rider Jane G. successfully appealed her fare citation when she got a ticket for not tagging her Clipper Card even though she has a monthly pass. We’re reported in 2012 that you should not be cited if you have a valid monthly pass on your Clipper card and you didn’t tag your card (or the card reader was not working). Even though the SFMTA confirmed that you shouldn’t be cited, it looks like riders are still getting dinged. Here’s her story:

Today I was found not guilty of fare evasion in San Francisco Superior Court after the San Francisco Police cited me for not tagging my Clipper card.
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Ticket for “Out of Service” Clipper Card Reader on Muni

muni defective clipper reader memo

You’ve probably heard Heather’s story before: Fare inspectors issuing a ticket when the Clipper Card reader wasn’t working. Heather attached a memo from the SFMTA (seen above) that says passengers can ride without paying when the Clipper Card reader is not working. After hearing so many of these stories, I think it’s probably worth walking to the front of the bus to try the Clipper Card reader there.

Have you successfully contested a similar ticket before?

Here’s Heather’s story.
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