Travels with Shady on the 8BX

Photo by Rubin 110

The F-Market/Wharves operators are very quick to remind us all, tourist and local, that packed trains may mean picked pockets. Lest we forget, some tourists take the 8BX-Bayshore “B” Express also, and folks definitely take advantage of them.

There’s this guy stationed at the North Point and Stockton stop. He has maps and acts as a slightly pushy, official tour guide. He’s exceedingly polite — and accurate — when pointing people wherever they want to go. Then, almost like it didn’t happen, you see dollars exchanged for transfers. He’ll quietly explain that they’re good until the time listed — also accurate — and they stare interestedly at this slip of paper. Some are skeptical and some just pay, no questions asked, like they knew he was there with the “discount” tickets. One guy asked tons of questions, which tipped me off to his dealings in the first place.

But one woman who bought a $1 transfer was obviously a local. She knew exactly what she was doing, and I’m surprised I don’t see it more: paying $1 for a still-active transfer instead of $2 honest fare.

And he did it again at the same time the next day.

I don’t know where he gets the transfers. I figured maybe he stole them from a parked bus in the Kirkland Yard, mere steps away from this stop. Maybe he has a buddy who just hands them to him like it ain’t no thang.

It is, though. It’s illegal to sell transfers, so Muni at least kind of agrees: buying and selling transfers only cheats the paying customers. It’s also kind of a shitty thing to do.


  • The Mediatrix

    Sometimes people give their transfers to homeless people when they are done with them.

    They do this knowing the homeless person will sell them to a student or another hardship case, or to someone who buys the transfer as a way of helping out the homeless person who’s trying to sell them. It’s a micro-market that helps folks who are down on their luck on either side of the equation.

    It’s interesting that the writer assumes the person stole the transfers. A more likely assumption is that he asked for them from people who were getting off a bus. Just selling two or three transfers can get someone a meal at McDonald’s.

    I’m not endorsing this kind of transaction, but your reporter is condemning folks who are most likely trying to get by in a super-expensive city. You’re also jumping to conclusions. Why not just ask the guy where he got the transfers?

    • Larry

      Wait, aren’t you also jumping to conclusions?

    • I also assumed maybe a driver at the nearby Kirkland Yard provided them for him. Perhaps someone stole it for him and gave them to him. Any of these options is likely, in my opinion.

      Some background: the guy had clean shoes, clothing, and jewelry, so I somehow doubt he was homeless. Perhaps he was nonetheless having hardships, which obviously aren’t visually evident *all* the time.

      Also, he had a small stack of transfers. I didn’t look that closely, but I doubted that a stack of new-seeming transfers was handed to him by a previous passenger.

      Perhaps this is bad citizenry, but I never ask people why they commit crimes while they’re committing the crimes. If serious enough, I call the police.

      Sure, it is tough to get around in this city. But I can’t get behind making things work with petty crime.

    • loren

      i think it’s fair to note that some folks selling transfers are of the type you mentioned (people who ask for them or are given them from other riders). I’ve definitely encountered them.

      however, 7 or 8 times out of 10 when i see folks selling transfers, they have a whole “book” of them they tear them out of OR all the transfers they’re selling are good all day (and drivers don’t tend to give ones out without a time limit before evening rush hour, especially half a dozen of them)- which would lead one to believe that they are most likely stolen from idling buses and the like.

      i don’t think the author is jumping to conclusions at all… perhaps this individual isn’t a thief, but several folks doing this most likely are

  • The Mediatrix

    I should have clarified that I wasn’t just making up this explanation. I used to work in the Orpheum building on market and there were about five homeless guys who hung out around there, and three of them regularly resold transfers. Often, working folks in the area bought them, even if they weren’t taking the bus, because at least they were doing something other than begging. I used a fast-pass, but when I occasionally had transfers to offer, I gave them to the homeless guys so they could sell them.

    As far as asking the guy, if you’re afraid to ask someone selling transfers where they got them, I hope you have a career other than journalism to fall back on. It’s about as petty a crime as petty crime gets.

    • Huh? Tara isn’t a journalist. She’s an editor of Muni Diaries.

    • eugenia

      Tara noted that she saw money being exchanged for the transfer. This doesn’t look like a case where this guy gave someone a transfer out of kindness. He sold a transfer to someone for $1. Whether you think it is a micro-market/ underground economy to right the wrongs of the system doesn’t change what Tara observed. No matter how he obtained the transfer, it is still illegal to sell Muni transfers.

      Here is a reminder: Tara wrote, “I assume he stole them.” She did not write, “He stole them.” She can express her opinions just as you are free to do so. If Tara, or any one who submits a story to our site, said, “He stole them,” then I would call the SFPD and SFMTA to check for a police report. But as I am sure you are aware, opinions are not a part of fact checking.

      Muni Diaries is a storytelling website where bus riders share stories and observations from our lives on public transportation. The editors, me included, fact check when necessary and communicate to SFMTA a few times a week when I feel that it is warranted. The SF Examiner and SFGate are news sites that employ journalists and pay them to do investigative stories. These two publications have done two investigative stories on the selling of Muni transfers if you would like to Google that yourself.

      • The Mediatrix

        Euginia, it doesn’t seem that I *am* in fact free to share my opinion about a story. You are the THIRD “editor” to try to tell me what is “right” about Tara’s story, and “wrong” about my criticism of it.

        I think that says something.

        No one is asking for an investigative story from you guys. My only point is that there is more than one way folks get these transfers, and more than reason they sell them. So for her to “assume he stole them” when she could have just asked — was lame. And her phrase, “ain’t no thang” was also lame.

        In other words, I found her narrative about when she saw this guy to be “assumptive,” and she admitted that it was, by using the word “assumed.” She also explained in a comment that she didn’t think about other possibilities except to think that if he didn’t steal them, a friend did.

        If I understand what you’re saying correctly, you’re telling me that because this is a storytelling site, I shouldn’t point out that there are other ways people get these transfers and other reasons people sell them. And I shouldn’t say that by “assuming,” she was “jumping to conclusions.” (Even though they mean the exact same thing!) Standards of any kind don’t apply here, because these are “personal stories.”

        My opinion that she could have been a little more thoughtful or insightful about what she saw is not important. Because this is a story telling site.

        Uh, okay. I think I get it now. Any other editors planning to weigh in on this? Or have we about covered it?

  • The Mediatrix

    Oh – hmmm. Editors *are* journalists.

    • But you’re implying she’s a professional journalist. Man, how we wish Muni Diaries were a paid gig. Maybe then she wouldn’t have TOTALLY botched the story the way you’re implying she did.

    • We editors all have journalism backgrounds, but the thrust of this site is personal storytelling about things that happen in and around the bus. As such, this is a personal story about something happened around me, a commuter, at a Muni stop. This post is designed to be a personal story with a personal, public-service plea, not a hard-news story about illegal activity.

      If one of our pals in traditional media wants to do a transfer-selling/buying story, we’re all for it. But we’re not doing it here.

  • The Mediatrix

    No, Jeff. I’m implying that she could have asked one simple question. One that would have added less than five minutes to her commute and perhaps informed her story in a way that could have given us some real insight into the situation.

    I have actually spoken to the sellers of transfers, and observed a community/micro-economy based around them over a period of two years (the length of time I worked at the Orpheum), and just wanted to share that perspective.

    I was genuinely surprised that the “story” was really so speculative and a tiny bit judgemental, when the chance to have more info was right there.

    As a supporter of volunteer journalism and news innovation in all it’s forms, I think this fell just slightly short of the mark when it didn’t have to. That’s all.

    • Your insight is appreciated. Seriously. But I take issue with your characterization of Tara and the post. As she said, it was a personal narrative. Not a piece of journalism, per se. Not volunteer journalism or news innovation. Just storytelling with a PSA-style message.

      Also, “news innovation in all ITS forms.” Sorry, copy editor in me won’t die 🙂

  • The Mediatrix

    Tara, but when you jump to conclusions about the guy doing the selling, saying you “figured he stole them,” I don’t know, just strikes me as wrong. Sorry if my adding another perspective here bothers you.

    • As Jeff noted, your insight is appreciated. That’s at least why I am responding to your points.

      It is an assumption that he stole the transfers, sure. But I also noted in the post, “Maybe he has a buddy who just hands them to him like it ain’t no thang,” so I think I acknowledged that stealing certainly wasn’t the only option here.

  • That guy is just advocating for free transit in his own small way. -d

  • Bkki

    I have made conversation with this guy before, because I was just as curious as you all are. His brother works for Muni and gave him the booklet of tickets, which is no cost to either of them– and creates a profit in return. Unlawful, yes.

  • When one steals from muni, they are stealing from you, from me, from the citizens of SF as owner/riders of the system.
    Fare evasion is why the fastpass went up in price. Fare evasion is why there’s no funds for repairing buses, buying more vehicles, cleaning up graffiti, repairing broken stops, improving service. Muni is already bleeding money.
    I could give a shit about the microeconomy that is made selling transfers. It is illegal. How many stories have been published revealing that the transfer books are sold by unscrupulous operators or that the books were stolen outright on a vehicle? It’s $2. Just pay the damn fare!
    BKKI- it didn’t cost either of *them*, but it means muni is out the $200 that would have been paid for the transfers. How often do you steal $200 worth of stuff from work and tell your boss it’s not a biggie? Can I get in on that?
    I always quietly call the cops when I see it. I do not appreciate being stolen from. It is a $19million a year problem.

  • david vartanoff

    “late night transfers!” the hawkers @ 16th/Mission well over a decade ago. Whether the guys “stole” thjem from a bus, or the driver embezzled them for him, it does fuel the fare evasion losses. Do I favor a fareless transit system. YES. However, since at the moment there is a fare, ALL should pay, and the Muni personnel who facilitate this (if true) should be fired.

  • soupdeldia

    Why hasn’t MUNI picked up on this? Why aren’t there fare inspectors there to intercept this?

    I’ll bet the fare inspectors aren’t there, because they either don’t want to or or have been instructed not to inspect the fare of tourists.

    Once again, a fare inspector fail.

  • The Mediatrix

    I also found the “ain’t no thang” line objectionable.

    As I said: I don’t endorse the selling of transfers – just because I dislike the way the story was written. I do, however, think it’s interesting that there is a lot more information available about the phenomenon here in the comments now than in the story itself.

    Obviously there is more than one reason/way that second hand transfers are acquired and sold, so without asking, we can’t know exactly what is going on in a given instance. Whether we want it to stop or not.

  • The Mediatrix

    @soupdeldia I’ve noticed the fare inspectors spend a lot of time underground at Powell and at Embarcadero for some reason.

  • Muni Diaries — like Muni — is a shared experience. We seek information in comments as much as we send it out in the posts. So, thanks to everyone who commented on this issue.

  • Amanda

    A must read. “Two Accused Of Counterfeiting SF Muni Transfer Tickets”

    Some people print them onto papers similar to the actual transfer tickets.

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