More on Back-Door Clipper Readers

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Photo by messtiza

On Monday, Beth posted a reasonable question: Why are Muni buses equipped with Clipper readers at the back door when Muni’s policy for bus boarding says, explicitly, that they only allow front-door boarding at this time? We had read that Clipper readers were installed back there because the agency wanted to have them in place in case they eventually did enact a back-door boarding policy. That was substantiated by a comment on Beth’s post from Jake, who says he’s a Clipper employee (yay for Clipper employees reading Muni Diaries!).

But SFMTA spokesman Paul Rose got back to us on the question of why they’re there, and his answer might surprise you.

“There are readers in the back for busy bus lines, at busy times of day. When we can have a representative back there, we try to use the back door for boarding to speed things up.”

Sounds logical enough, but I wanted to make sure I understood correctly. “So, this is basically a) driver’s discretion, and b) only when SFMTA can get another employee back there to check for Fast Passes (until they’re phased out) and to make sure their Clipper cards are being tagged?” Yep.

Asked about SFMTA rolling out an official back-door boarding policy, Rose couldn’t commit to any specific date, or whether it’s even under serious consideration now.

So there you have it. If you’re lucky enough to legitimately back-door board a Muni bus, let us know.


  • citi-zen

    Interesting… I rode a 38L outbound yesterday about 3:15…. and back door boarding is a very, very, very common activity on that bus & there was not a second Muni employee checking, so I’m guessing most that boarded there did so for free. Muni management just refuses to get the reality of life & figure out a way to make sure everyone pays.

  • Kelsey Avers

    Second MUNI employee/rep in the back? Never have I seen this in action….must be some sort of invisible assumption of law

  • I’ve seen those guys at Van Ness and Market before during rush hour, however I haven’t seen them at all this so far this year.

  • muni_lover

    Yeah. There’s a sign on either side of the back door saying that it’s illegal to enter and subject to Penal Code 640 and Transportation Code 127 (c). Since we are decriminalized as a city, they probably would cite under the TC rather than the PC though I’ve seen recently SFPD do otherwise. Guess they still can, but Fare Inspectors must do TC, I’m sure.

    Anyway, if you look at the full text of the code, you’ll see that it explicitly says it’s illegal EXCEPT when somebody is there to check for proof of payment or to take revenue and give proof of payment.

    I guess from reading that that only those with Clipper can board through the back door if there’s nobody there from SFMTA.

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