The why/where/how of fare inspectors
Photo by Flickr user WeMeantDemocracy
It’s easy for us law-abiding, government-loving socialists to cheer when Muni fare inspectors show up on the bus. And cheer I did this week, when an alpha fare-inspector and her two ticket-wielding comrades showed up on my 47-Van Ness a couple days ago and handed out at least two tickets.
Though some drivers do have the time and desire to come up with creative punishments for fare-jumping, it’s understandable that most of them do not. Enter fare inspectors. Though one guy in front of me complained about Big Brother watching us, I personally don’t think it counts as some kind of police state if the law-enforcers are actually nabbing people who did wrong. Still, once I stopped silently cheering them on from my seat, I did start thinking about the why/where/how of back-door policing.
From an Oct. 19 SFGate story
Fare evasion on Muni occurs most frequently in the afternoon and at night, the study found. Among the lines where the problem is most prevalent are the 9-San Bruno, 14-Mission, 38-Geary and 47-Van Ness, but few are immune.
It doesn’t seem like an accident that the 47, one of four lines called out in this story, ended up with not one, but three fare inspectors the day after this story ran. Great, whatever works, right? But it did lead me to wonder whether the fare-checking would continue in earnest once the story died down and once the SFMTA office was jammed with people contesting their fines.
In other words, I wondered whether this was simply a good show or temporary move to prove that something was being done. Or will fare-jumping significantly decrease in a year’s time? I certainly hope it’s the latter, especially since I’d argue that fare-jumping is easier to eradicate than other types of petty crime.
Let me explain. We learned from an SF Gate story on crime cameras that certain crimes (homicide, drug deals, etc.) are conveniently moved out of the cameras’ range if cameras are around, thereby decreasing the crime in one area and increasing it one block down. Before you know it, it’s a life-size game of whack-a-mole for the police.
Fare-jumping seems more precise than that. If you’re on Van Ness and want to head into the Mission on Muni, the 49-Van Ness or 14-Mission is your only real way to accomplish this. If you know there are fare inspectors on either line, you are either going to pay your fare, take your chances, or find another line to jump if all you’re into is wasting time on the bus. But if there’s regular fare-inspecting, I think jumpers are more easily backed into a corner, as there are only so many lines that can remain uncovered. Especially if there are more fare inspectors on the hottest jumping lines, during the hottest jumping times.
Or maybe this is completely false logic. Nonetheless, fare inspectors really can’t hurt anyone, in my opinion.
Disclaimer: Before I officially lived in SF and carried a trusty FastPass wherever I went (and uh, before I contributed regularly to a transit-oriented website), I’d somewhat regularly sneak onto the back of an F-Market/Wharves line on my way to work. I could have easily paid the then-$1.50 a ride, but I couldn’t be bothered. I didn’t have cash. Muni “owed” me for some transgression. Everyone else was doing it. All of these are poor excuses.