Tutorial: How to speed up boarding on Muni

Fare Box on Car 496
Photo by Flickr user Nick.Fisher

Doug over at Ice Tubes blog got tired of trying to stuff crumpled dollar bills into Muni boxes and posted some tips for the days when you don’t have your Fast Pass/Translink/dollar coins/pocket full of change. Now you have something to do while you wait for the bus. — Eugenia

With the recent fare hike back in July, the cost of riding a bus/light rail in San Francisco has gone up to $2. Now you either a) use a pre-paid bus pass, b) have eight quarters ready, c) contain a fist full of dimes, nickels and quarters adding up to $2, or d) have two $1 bills.

In most cases (at least the situations I’ve seen) people get on the bus with two of the crumpliest, torn, overwashed $1 bills in their pockets. These people then proceed to carefully “iron” out their bills of all wrinkles so that the fare box will eat up their dollars with ease. However, it seems that no matter how long you rub the dollar across your leg or bus hand rail to flatten it out, you will be met with resistence trying to ge that flimsy $1 bill into the fare box.

I’m writing this because I was once one of those people – I thought the Muni fare box was a vending machine. It was scanning my dollar for authenticity and would spit out any bills that weren’t crisp enough. In actuality the fare box is not a vending machine and there are two ways to make inserting worn out bills much easier.

1. Fold your bill in half the long way. (Aside from making you look cool, this will make it easier for the fare box to catch the bill).

2. Stack two bills on top of each other. (Two worn out bills combined to formone sort-of-kinda-decent bill)

You’re welcome, San Francisco.


  • JC

    Good ideas. But can’t you also use 2 of those golden dollar thingies? (They’re also quite useful for meters in the city.)

  • Talala

    If they’re folded up or put in at the same time, will the driver recognize that we’ve payed the complete fare? How does the meter acknowledge the full amount?

    • Both of these tips/tricks with the bills were shown to me by MUNI drivers (on the #6 bus). The “fold” was shown to me a while back, and the driver actually took the bills from my hand, folded them, and inserted them into the machine. I was always using the fold until last week when a driver told me I could just stack two bills on top of each other and insert them at the same time.

      Both ways have always worked for me. I have never gotten a dirty look, but quite the opposite in that it seems like I get extended transfers when these methods are used.

      Give them both a shot.

    • The one time an F-Market operator told me to stack two bills, I didn’t stick around to see whether it registered as $2. Good question, methinks.

      • I have seen a driver tell a passenger to put the two bills in at the same time, but then I’ve also seen another driver who told a passenger not to do that. I think the vote is split.

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