POP Cops on the 22

POP Litter
Photo by Flickr user Transit Nerds

Ed. note: We received the following diary from Mike of Epic Road Trips, a recent regular contributor. Thanks, Mike. We want to point out that while we generally support the work of Muni fare inspectors, we realize there are bad apples in every bunch, as this story suggests. Mike’s story happened last October, and soon after that, we’ve had some lively discussion about this issue. Has your experience with fare inspectors changed in the last few months? Let us know in the comments section.

After a trek from downtown, over the hill through Chinatown, North Beach and up to Coit Tower I then made my way back down the Filbert Steps for the 2 mile walk past Washington Square then Filbert Street up and over the hill to Fillmore and Lombard, a now familiar bus stop to me. I boarded the next 22 and nearly dozed off a coupla times.

When the bus stopped at Market and Church Streets two uniformed officers boarded. One in green – a MUNI ” Proof of Payment” (POP) COP, and one in black – SFPD. The MUNI cop positioned herself in front of the back door, the SFPDer at the front. The POP cop whipped out her citation book and said she was here to check to make sure everyone had a pass or a transfer and to please have then out and ready for inspection.

The very first person she checked was an older lady. She presented the POP cop with a Senior pass. The POP cop asked the lady how old she was and she mumbled something I could not hear, but the POP cop obviously did.

The POP cop then went on to check every passenger and finding no violators went back to the old lady. She said that since she was not old enough to be using Senior pass three things were going to happen: She was going to confiscate the pass, which she did, she was going to issue the lady two citations, one for improper use of a Senior pass and one for non payment of fair. She spoke loudly so everyone on the bus could hear her.

The old lady looked up at the POP cop and said something I could not make out. The POP cop then said loudly and sarcastically: “Oh, now you don’t speak any English”.

She then asked the woman for some sort of ID as proof of her age. The old lady seemed to not understand and the POP cop said she did not speak Spanish. She then told the women if she produced ID, she would write the citation and then everyone could go on their way. If she didn’t, then the SFPD would search her purse for her ID.

About then the old lady got up to get off the bus. She did and the POP cop followed here. The POP cop stuck by her side and SFPD cop went out the front of the bus. As the bus pulled out of the stop I could see the little old lady standing there in middle of the sidewalk flanked on either side by the two cops. Then, they were gone.

How this all ended we will never know, but I thought it a rather pathetic use of public resources.


  • As the Editor’s note above infers the MUNI fare inspectors are just doing their job and without a doubt the vast majority of them are fair, honest and hardworking folks.

    However, I question the justification for the need for fare inspectors at all.

    What is the ultimate goal of this enforcement arm of MUNI and how is success measured?
    If the POP cops are supposed to be a deterrent for fair dodgers, is the hit and miss strategy they use really working?
    From what I have seen the drivers generally do a pretty good job of handling fair dodgers.

    It the goal of the fare inspector program to save MUNI money?
    What is the annual salary of a MUNI fare inspector? Is the cost of that salary justified by savings to MUNI?

    What say you all?

  • Sus

    Maybe if tons of people day after day didn’t sneak onto the back of the bus while I pay my $60 (and others $70) every month, then I’d agree with you. However, if Muni is going to raise fares and cut service, there damn well better be fare inspectors, and plenty of them.

  • Public transportation should be FREE!
    And if you drive a car you should be arrested by the CAR cops!

  • Martin

    While the cop could have handled the issue more sensitively, I don’t really see what the point of this story is. If the lady was in fact using the wrong pass, this is in violation of the rules of riding the Muni, thus grounds for citation.

    @Mike My guess is that Muni inspectors are measured by the number of citations they issue. They probably have quotas that they have to meet.

  • I saw the same thing the other day on the 49, the older woman did not speak english and by the time I got off the bus had been reduced to tears by the three (!!) pop cops. Disgusting.

  • Daishin

    I agree that all San Francisco citizens should be able to ride a clean, efficient, and reliable transit system for free, especially with our draconian parking policies. I don’t especially enjoy being punished by MUNI in a variety of ways, including the infamous fare inspectors.

  • DanB

    So, basically, we’re all for fare inspectors until we realize that the rules apply to us, too. How delightful.

    • loren

      um…for those of us who pay our fare every time, that’s not the case. i don’t like them because often they aren’t doing their jobs, or doing them horribly…wether it’s them being negligent, abusive, or completely redundant and useless. i’m all for the ones that take their job seriously and are professionals about it. they do exist, but they seem to be becoming the minority.

  • I don’t personally like fare inspectors, but they do have a job to prevent fare cheating.

    If you want to be a good person, always give the stink eye, and if you are exiting, tell people waiting to board illegally to stop wasting my tax money and board the front door.

  • Floyd Law

    This could have been handled better, but big whoop. Considering how much fares have gone up and how in-debt muni is, I’m fine with it.

    Inspectors could make up the entire deficit if they just monitored the 30 & 45.

  • Tony

    I’ve been reading Muni Diaries for a bit now and find it interesting how one-sided the discussion about the inspectors are. Maybe this is a generational thing but I wonder why people are so pissed at fare evaders as if they’re criminals. Supporters of Muni Diaries act in a vindictive way about the people who evade. Why all the hate? I thought SF is a mellow and accepting place to live. What’s up with all you haters? Why so much bile?

    • Actually, Tony, I’d say something slightly higher than half of the comments about fare inspectors are anti-. It’s dumb bourgeosie people like me applauding them and the work they do. So again, I’m not exactly sure what you’re talking about. “Hating” fare evaders is a lot different than simply wanting everyone who rides Muni to be legitimate, to pay like the rest of us. SF is still an extremely permissive place to live. Asking those who ride public transit to pay is hardly a sign of “police state.” Choose your battles, and all that. And just curious here: Do you pay to ride Muni?

      • Tony

        I think it’s pretty fucking legitimate to fuck up the system if it’s unfair & in my mind I think it is. I don’t think that not paying Muni says much about how permissive SF is. I think it says that a lot of dumb people will do anything that people in uniforms tell them including paying for crappy city services. I’ve read many of the fare inspector threads on Muni Diaries and I’m hearing mostly a lot of support for them. So that’s what I’m referring to. Me loves me little fare inspectors, or Muni-ites as I call ’em.

      • Tony

        hey Jeff, no i don’t pay to ride Muni but i don’t ride it much becuz I don’t like how it feels to be cooped up with a bunch of worker bees. i usually drive my car.

      • Tony

        i don’t worry about your bites. i worry more about your consciousness, as in being extremely low. that’s why you’re called worker bees. you don’t have any minds of your own and just do what the high-ups tell you to do. you go to college, get your degree, meet a nice girl/boy, settled down and make more worker bees. you lower the standard of awareness all over the country.

  • Kim

    Why is it when one inspector has issue with one person, 6 inspector stands around to “watch”? I saw today, a young women explaining her situation to 1 inspector, and 6 was surrounding her. They stood there for well over 30 min! its so stupid, that instead of doing real work, they would stand around to “watch” over the situation, and need 6 of them to do it. Like they need to pat eachother on the back or something.

    i used to be all for inspector, til I read and seen some of them, now i really know that they are useless pricks. specifically inspector 23. This inspector is rude, doesn’t follow the rule, and constantly contridicts himself. Even his own inspector agree with the patron and they are still an ass. Inspector. L. Ntagbu, inspector badge 23 is an asshole who don’t even know the rules.

    • muni_lover

      I wonder. Sounds like you got a citation and this inspector gave it to you since you’re soooo angry at this one inspector in particular. What happened? Paid but forgot to take a transfer? Leave your Fast Pass at home? He just didnt understand you?

    • hobokins

      Inspectors need to stop being so abusive with their authority. An incident that struck me the most was when I saw this lady apprehended and fined… for paying her fare. The lady was visiting her daughter in the city but wasn’t aware she had to get a transfer. San Franciscans know better but c’mon, tourists are clueless. Bus lines in other cities don’t give you a proof of purchase (SamTrans for instance) so she may not have been expecting one.

      Anyway, this ghetto inspector verbally abused and accused her of lying even though a bystander backed up the lady’s claim. With a wave of her hand the inspector said, “I don’t care what HE saw, I care what the driver saw – and he didn’t see nuthin!” Uhh yeah, except Muni drivers aren’t exactly known for being observant! The other inspectors were amused watching Ms Thang berate the poor lady. Basically everything she said, the inspector came up with something like, “Oh, so you don’t know the address where you staying since you just visiting. Mmm hmm… now for real lady – WHAT’S THE @#$%I ADDRESS?”

      I guess they had to make an example out of her so the rest of us lowlifes wouldn’t try to undermine them? Thanks, POP inspectors. Keeping Muni clean of evil-doing grandmas who try to ride Muni on the way to babysit their grand kids. And no, Ms Thang don’t give a @#$% ’bout yo grandkids!!

  • dabadoo

    I used to pay for muni all the time. I used to buy a pass every month. But if you forget your pass at home and they catch you just once, you end up paying a fine that’s more than the cost of the pass! And now you have to pay $70 for a pass that used to cost $45 just last year? I’m in school, and I can’t afford that, but the way these POP cops behave, I wouldn’t pay even if I could afford it. So these days I only pay when I can’t avoid it.

    • muni_lover

      Dabadoo, I fail to see how POP cops’ behavior justify not paying. I also fail to see why you didn’t buy a transfer when you forgot your pass at home. You are responsible for paying for each ride and for PROVING you paid for the ride. If you forgot your pass, suck it up and pay for the transfer. Please dont give me the lame excuse that you didnt realize it until you were stopped by the POP cop; how could anyone board without first making sure they had the right or the legal ability to do so. Even the little kids know and accept their responsibility. Why are young adults lazier, whinier, and so self entitled?

      At the wikipedia website I noticed that muni fares double every 10 years or so. I was seriously hurting when it went from 35 to 45 a month, and these days if you just wanna use muni, it’s only 60…..still pretty tough though I agree.

      I think you don’t pay these days because of cost and not anything the POP cops do. You basically admit so in your entry, dabadoo. People, please stop putting responsibility on others and so easy a target as POP cops….do what you’re supposed to do and pay for what you do, use, or take!

      • dabadoo

        I’ll admit that a major reason I don’t pay is because of cost. I believe that there should be a student rate, but there isn’t, so you’re right, I should just take responsibility for my choices. But I do have to respond to your charge that I couldn’t possibly have boarded without knowing that I didn’t have my pass. I normally keep my pass in my wallet, and I had my wallet on me. No one who has their pass and is boarding the N on Judah boards the front of the first car to show proof of purchase. It’s a waste of time. The only people who board at the front of the first car are those who have to pay cash because they didn’t buy a pass. So I am one of those people who you don’t believe exist. I didn’t realize I didn’t have my pass on me until I was stopped by a POP cop at Civic Center. I explained my situation to her, and she said all I had to do was photocopy my pass and mail it in with an explanation. So I did that, and they still charged me $50. I went in to SFMTA to protest, and I brought in all my muni passes that I had purchased and saved from the past year, but they still did not want to listen. The POP cops’ only purpose is to bring in even more money than our taxes and inflated fares provide. Since I paid that $50 ticket, I have more than made up for it in savings from not paying muni fares.

        The psychology of fare-dodging is interesting, to say the least. Obviously, I feel entitled because of what I perceive as a wrong committed against me. Others might feel justified by the fare hikes. Personally, I think the fare hike was a ridiculous move, because it will only prompt more people to find ways around paying.

        PS: you don’t have to keep saying my name. It’s ridiculous enough the first time 😛

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