Would You Take a Free Muni Ride?

By now you’ve probably heard the news around the Muni-riding world about how to evade fare with the new fare gates. KRON4’s Stanley Roberts told tens of thousands of Muni riders that you can ride the bus for free by just waving your hand in front of the sensors.

Tell us in the comments section — under the anonymity of the internet — would you try waving your hand in front of the new turnstile to get a free ride? And do you think Stanley Roberts should have revealed this trick?


  • Rob Nagle

    Oh, absolutely I would. I don’t get good enough service for what I pay for as it is. As a matter of fact, since they switched to clipper, I decided to try an experiment and only use cash on the clipper card instead of the fast pass to see if that would save me money being that I feel I know when they’re going to check for fares. Turns out, even doing this and getting free rides is about the same cost for the fast pass for me, but it was worth a shot. As for using the technique to open the gates by waving your hand, last night, I’m trying to use my card to go through the gate, there’s an M there that I know I’m going to miss because the thing is not reading my card right or opening the gates, so I waved my hand in front of the sensor, the gates opened, I waved at the lady in the booth who was no helped at all, and down I ran to catch my train. Which sat still for another 5 minutes before leaving anyway. I’m sorry but Muni can suck it.

  • William D

    If MUNI cared about fare evasions, then they would have removed the sensors and put the card readers on both sides like they have at BART, and London Underground. Use your card to get in, use your card to get out. Only in emergency would gates open at the station and let people out.

    Muni wants to threaten people with fare evasion, thats their problem. All it takes is a valid transfer or a tap of the Clipper card at the station and it can be recorded and proved in court you paid your fare, but lost your transfer in your bag, or card in your bag, and they have to remove the charge. Now, getting a court date is another story.

  • William D

    PS. Stanley Roberts wouldnt know people behaving badly if it smacked him in the face…

    He always does these petty exposes that expose no one. Like when he claimed in Concord that homeless people were bringing mattresses and ripping down fences at some abandoned parking lot. I doubt homeless people are dragging mattresses through Concord, and that someone with a truck dumped things at that site and the homeless just used it to their advantage. He also tried to say that homeless people shouldnt use buckets to urinate and defecate into – should they just piss and shit in the gutters instead? On someones lawn?

    Stanley Roberts is a fake journalist that needs to get a life and really think of something to do when REAL people REALLY behave badly.

  • Not any surprise to me, anyone can or will evade Muni metro gates regardless if they are old or new. So there’s some other way to do it, I could care less.

    I believe KRON TV should have not aired it, now Muni will lose more money to fare cheats.

    Getting busted ain’t fun: $75 for first violation, $250 for second within a year, and $500 for third within a year.

    –Fare evasion is a violation of Traffic Code 127.
    –Tampering with Muni equipment, even if the passenger has a valid pass or transfer in hand is a violation of Traffic Code 128, misconduct, and the fines are just the same as mentioned above.

    • eugenia

      I agree – personally a little tired of the story already but it’s getting propagated like fire. A little cheap, no? How can we complain about the system so much and yet be delighted in cheating more funds out of it?

  • Devin

    Should whathisname have revealed the trick? Yep. It’s always harder to conceal flaws from those who exploit them than those responsible for fixing them. Look up full disclosure for some of the history of the principle. To loosely summarize the situation: you really only have two ways to cause flaws in systems to be fixed. One is if the maker has a stronger incentive to identify and correct flaws than to ignore them — for example, by making them contractually liable for any fraud that occurs via exploitation of flaws in their products (this in turn requires that you know how much fraud has actually occurred, which would be possile but difficult). The other is by making flaws a liability by publicly disclosing those flaws so that all a vendor’s current and potential customers will see it; the liability can be mitigated and even turned into a liability by vendors able to respond quickly, correctly and publicly to such a flaw. There are variations of prior notice, temproary confidentiality, etc., but the basic principle is the same.

    • Devin

      … should have said “… mitiated and even turned into an asset”. Vendors who are seen to promptly react and correct flaws tend to be better regarded than those who have no reported flaws, at least by people making informed purchasing decisions of security systems.

    • eugenia

      Devin, so if I am reading you correctly you are saying that the report forces Muni to fix the problem. And the assumption is that people would have found this loophole anyway. But I’m not so sure about that assumption. Now that everyone knows about the flaw, SFMTA has to spend the extra money to fix it (unless the vendor is contractually obligated to fix this flaw for free), whereas if nobody knew about this, SFMTA wouldn’t have to spend the money to fix all the gates. Or am I being too optimistic in thinking that people wouldn’t have realized this loophole on their own?

      • That’s called “security through obscurity” and it always fails. People find out how to break bad security and tell everyone else about it; just look at the phone phreaking craze in the late 70’s and early 80’s when it turned out the phone system would grant free phone calls just by playing the right tones into your phone.

        These days with the internet, it’s damn near impossible to keep these kinds of things secret. It just takes one well connected person to know about the loophole, and then everyone will know.

      • Devin

        MrEricSir’s correct — you can’t hide flaws when people have the means and an incentive to take find & exploit them. All you do in the attempt is conceal them form other parties (e.g. other transit agencies) who could benefit from knowing. In the short run, you might avoid some bad PR, but in the longer run you not only get held up for shame for the flaw, but also publicly humiliated for trying to conceal it. SFMTA (or the vendor) would have had to pay anyway — this way they only pay for the defect, not the defect plus a bunch of extra fare evasion.

        There are various flavors of disclosure procedure which allow vendors to keep the flaws secret for a fixed time while they develop fixes, so that news of the flaw and the fix become public simultaneously. To roughly summarize, it goes “Your product can be exploited through procedure X. You have Y days to acknowledge this report and Z days to deploy a fix. If you fail to do so, or if you threaten/harass the discoverer of the flaw, details of procedure X will be published immediately.”

        I doubt that KRON knows anything about that protocol, and probably just whipped out the cameras & hairspray for a quick expose without researching the topic, but the general outcome is the same. If SFMTA’s buyers & lawyers are good, they built defect liability into the contract, so both the fix and the evasion come out of the manufacturer’s dime. Chances are, the manufacturer had better lawyers than SFMTA, so it’s probably MUNI having to fix it, but better now than later.

  • Hobbyrider

    Is this not so people without a Clipper card can exit???
    If someone pays with a token at station A which is NOT Gated how then can he exit at Station B that is Gated, they don’t want to inconvenience ppl. I seen this in Atlanta. It will be changed once the whole system is gated. Jeeez

  • I think it’s better the exploit was revealed because it will force SFMTA to deal with it, either making the gates less hackable or through a policy decision and enforcement, before it becomes an commonly accepted habit – like boarding through the rear doors to avoid paying a fair has become.

    This really isn’t any different than someone jumping the old fairgates. Even if there wasn’t this exploit, the paid fair area railing is still pretty low. The bigger issue I’m seeing is because gates work either direction, I’ll walk up at the same time someone walks up the other way and we both try to open the gate at the same time. I see this leading to a lot more accidental fair evasion than intentional exploiting.

  • angela

    i’m a little conflicted about the KRON expose… a part of me thinks that they had every right as a news organization to report the malfunction, considering MUNI was not aware of it. another part of me thinks, do we really need to show folks a how-to-evade-fare video and encourage more people to not pay. honestly, without the equipment malfunction expose this becomes a non-story because fare-evaders happens all the time on both MUNI and BART.

    also, if KRON didn’t report it, another news agency would have done it.

    fyi, i heard that MUNI fixed the problem because of the KRON report.

  • JC

    On the two questions:

    (1) I wouldn’t have taken advantage of it. Huge pet peeve of mine is the fare evasion which goes on already on buses via back door boarding, etc..

    (2) I’m of two minds on KRON airing this. This whole idea that the MUNI union rep just “happened to be there” to appear on camera defies belief. It seems more like someone wanted to make MUNI management look bad in an election season when, to date, it’s MUNI rank-and-file who have been the voters’ pinata. Hey, I could be wrong about this but it’s odd and I’m always wary when an unattributed agenda could be in play.

    On the other hand, I do believe that this issue would have ultimately been aired via youtube and blogs like this one. Heck, back when the 15 was still running, people sure seemed to figure out that you could rear board that puppy without consequences. These new gates were in for what, a week and this already hit? It’s hard to see how this would have been secret for long. Plus, does anyone even watch KRON any more? It’s arguable that internet coverage of this is what REALLY made the story pop.

    Which brings me to the more interesting question. Namely, would MD, Greg Dewar’s site, etc… have reported this if it had fallen into your laps first? After all, SFMTA just tweeted a few minutes ago that they’re working on the problem and are “confident” that they will come up with a solution. Isn’t that a good result?

  • Rob Nagle

    I realize that no one likes the idea of someone getting a free ride while they’re paying, but fare evasions are the least of Muni’s problems. Muni could collect 100% of its fares and still have the same serious problems. Just the idea of these new machines being installed without realizing that this might be an issue is outrageous. That on top of the fact that the turnstyles have been replaced already in the last year or so before these new machines were installed. All the fares in the world wouldn’t be enough to cover all the waste that Muni management spends money on, that and other city departments that dip into Muni’s budget as well. People need to get over the whole fare evasion thing, it’s small potatoes compared with Muni’s mismanagement and the operators apathy. It’s certainly not like if 100% of fares were collected, those things would change. In my opinion, anyway.

  • Rob Nagle

    And, I do think KRON should have reported it, as they did. Maybe Muni can be embarrassed to change, I doubt it, but maybe.

  • Anyonymous

    muni is a POP system. evading fare gates should not matter. at some stations (and everywhere aboveground) you can just walk around them anyway.
    so no, they shouldn’t have aired it, because it’ll make people think they’re clever at cheating the system, but they’re not really.

  • Rambozoette

    Muni’s stance on fare evading is laughable on a daily basis, with or without the silly new turnstiles and the subsequent news report. Absolutely any and all of Muni’s shortcomings should be reported on by our local news outlets — for one, I highly doubt there will be a major uptick on fare losses because of this report (anyone who wants to evade a fare will do so with or without a reporter telling them how); and also, Muni deserves every bit of bad press it can get! This is a dysfunctional system with a “shrug-the-shoulders” attitude towards customers and service performance. Is their bottom line greed? Laziness? Both? I still can’t decide. Perhaps Nathaniel Ford and his cohorts are so burned out on public transit that they’ve got short-timer’s syndrome?

    Also, this is irrelevant to the fair evading debate but, those damn new turnstiles take for-EVER to open when you’re exiting the “paid area”. I clothes-line myself on them every morning. The time-delay from sensing a presence to opening the gates makes me crazy! I mean, digital is great and fancy and all, but why couldn’t we just stick to perfectly-functional analog method? Why didn’t they just finish adding card readers to the old turnstiles like they had started a couple months ago? These people and their “logic” make me insane.

    I vote Ellison [or, substitute your local money-bags individual here] buys Muni, takes it private, fires management, renegotiates the union contracts and requires operators to re-apply, implements normal PTO and performance-determined raises and bonuses… Whoops, lost in my daydream again.

  • Rob Nagle

    thank you!

  • Schtu

    You could slip through the old turnstiles if you were thin simply by pulling the turnstile towards you to the half stop position and sliding around it.

    Transparency and reporting are good. That is why we have a free press. The sensors should be placed on the approach pylon, beyond the reach of hands, not on the pivot point. Shining light on this issue will pressure the vendor to come up with a better design and on the transit agency to be more careful in the selection of their gate designs.

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