Creative punishment for fare-jumping?

MUSTI don’t know about you, but I can appreciate a certain level of honesty with some things, including breaking the law. Especially if you get caught. (“Ah. Yes, officer, I know how fast I was going. Very fast, indeed”.)  By the same token, I also appreciate subtle, off-script ways of punishing people for doing so.

Fare jumpers often seem more nonchalant than anything else. They keep their heads down as they wrench those back doors open by their fingernails, and generally don’t say much or cause a ruckus while they’re trying not to get squished in the doorway.

This gal on a 10-Townsend one afternoon put them all to shame.

She’s pretty nondescript; I didn’t peg her for a troublemaker at all, which is maybe why I’m so intrigued by what unfolded. She gets on the bus from the front, head held high, and walks right past the fare box. The driver, a salty ol’ babe with a gravelly voice rivaling Tom Waits’, doesn’t miss a beat:

“Where’s your fare, honey?”

The answer?

“Don’t got it.”

This is where the honesty comes in, and I actually appreciated the no-nonsense answer. There was no hemming or hawing, no faux-fiddling through her purse, no contrite apologies.

We kept moving through all this, by the way. As we were moving, the driver notes that she did this last time (repeat offender, awesome), and that she was going to get kicked off the bus if she kept jumping fare. I pegged the scary-sounding lady as just a big ol’ softy at that point; she maybe knows this lady’s going through some tough times, and just lets her stay on the bus. Then she brings her cookies or something.

Well, I thought that until I listened to the verbal lashing this woman got. It was one of those under-the-breath mutterings that could (thankfully) be heard by everyone in the front of the bus.

Driver: *makes a wide turn*

“Showing all that cleavage with that ponytail sticking out, LORD HAVE MERCY. Comin’ on MY bus lookin’ like that. Only in San Francisco, Jesus Lord.”

The obvious embarrassment causes Ponytailed Cleavage-Sporting Fare-Jumper to start making nice with everyone around her, including the baby sitting next to me. She tries rolling her eyes, and just trying to wave away the scratchy comments floating toward us from the driver’s seat. Most of us weren’t fooled, and didn’t say a word. And it was awesome.

A new dimension to fare-jumping, maybe? If you have the audacity to jump fare and be bold about it, you have to entertain us somehow, preferably in the form of your own embarrassment.


  • Terry

    I’ve been on buses where the driver is like that and the fare jumper is exactly!! like you describe this one. Hilarious! Great write – thanks!

  • rayray

    I have seen alot of people and mostly kids “ask for a ride” this works often. Im sure if your polite they let people slide

  • Roger A

    Ive been on buses in Portland, and Seattle (Outside the free zones) where the driver wont say anything and just let the bus sit there and keeps the doors open for a few minutes. Finally will say, “If you didnt have a transfer, or pay your fare or have a pass, off the bus now, we wont move till you leave the bus, or pay fare!”

    Sometimes Id see another passenger hand their transfer to the evader, and the bus driver sees it and kicks them both off, or will simply close the doors, turn off the heaters or A/C and call the police, who then come and remove and arrest both people. Seen it a dozen times in both cities.

    There is FREE ZONES and people use them, and there is PAY BEFORE BOARDING and PAY AS YOU LEAVE – its a great system and it works, and it works because the drivers arent scared and they have power, and one of them has power because they are a private agency that at any time can raise fares, stop service, or completely remove service and leave a city to decide its transit meltdown.

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