Broken Clipper Machine on a Crowded Bus: Should you be cited? (update)

New Clipper Card and Carrying Case
Photo by Agent Akit

Update (12:39 p.m.): SFMTA got back to us on this. Turns out Kazuko was wrongly cited.

The actions described in this account are not consistent with our policy. If the reader is out of service, the patron is not cited if they have a valid Clipper card. The supervisors will remind all TFI’s of this policy.

Sadly, Kazuko will have to protest the citation. Not an easy chore.

Original post: A few days ago we checked in with SFMTA to see whether the fare policy concerning broken Clipper readers had changed. The SFMTA assured us that the policy has not changed: when a Clipper reader on a Muni vehicle is broken, the vehicle’s operator is instructed to allow passengers with Clipper cards to board.

But rider Kazuko said that the policy is still not being enforced systemwide, particularly on crowded buses:

I got on 38L at Geary and Divisadero around 5:10 pm on August 17, 2011. As you can imagine at the height of a rush hour, the bus was completely packed. I entered the bus from the middle entrance. I swiped my Clipper card which had more than $20 left on it, but the machine was not responding. I tired a few times to swipe it to no avail.

When the bus stopped at Van Ness, a few officers got on the bus to check everyone’s ticket. As I presented my clipper card, the officer told me to get off the bus, even though he had scanned my card and knewI had more than enough fare left on my card. Confused, I asked him why. He said I needed to get off the bus. I had no choice but to obey. Outside, the officer told me he had to issue me a ticket.

I told him repeatedly that I have swiped the card but the machine was broken. He said, “There are three machines on the bus. You should have walked up to ALL of them to see if they are working. As it stands now, you got on the bus without paying so it is my job to issue you a ticket.” As I had stated earlier, the bus was extremely packed. After he finished writing me the ticket, he then proceeded to tell me that, “With this ticket, you have one COMPLEMENTARY bus ride. You don’t have to pay for your next ride.”

If this some kind of joke?

We’ll get in touch with SFMTA about readers in the back of vehicles, and the policy for when buses are jam-packed. It doesn’t seem fair to me if  fare inspectors are instructed to ticket under any circumstance and let riders fend for themselves protesting their citations.

Will this Muni get me to Mos Eisley?

Eagle-eyed Star Wars fan (the original trilogy, what?) @dalbizo spotted this Jedi lookalike on the 38L-Geary this afternoon. He tweets:

Call me silly, but I think Ben Kenobi’s brother is riding on the 38L. Ken Kenobi?

When stopped by fare inspectors, did he wave his hand and say, “These aren’t the scofflaws you’re looking for.”? Yep, thought so. Clever old bastard …

No more 2.5-hour wait for the 38

Photo by Thomas Hawk

Veteran Muni scribe Akit, of Akit’s Complaint Department, has scored what he calls a “huge victory,” and we agree.

Through his own vigilant postings, Akit brought attention to the fact that riders were experiencing a 2.5-hour gap in service between the 38L-Geary and regular old 38-Geary out in the Outer Richmond. The last 38L to run on Saturdays left 48th Avenue headed inbound at 5:37 p.m. The next 38-Geary to leave the same location after that was scheduled to leave at 8:02 p.m. Yes, you read those times right.

If you were a passenger there, you were out of luck if you wanted to catch an inbound bus between 5:37-8:02 p.m., unless you were willing and able to walk three long blocks away to either the 31-Balboa or 5-Fulton stops at Cabrillo and La Playa.

But like we said, Akit scored a victory here. Read about Muni’s reaction over at Akit’s Complaint Deparment.

Congrats, Akit and Outer Richmond Muni riders!

Brave 38 Bus Driver

Photo by Flickr user Jesse Johnson

It was approximately 2 p.m. yesterday. It was beautiful hot afternoon; one of the first days during this fantastic Bay Area heatwave. I boarded the 38L Geary at Arguello. After a pleasant 10-minute ride, I was about to get off the bus at Fillmore/Geary when I noticed another group of people entering the back of the bus — a typical occurrence on Muni. I didn’t pay much attention until I heard over the intercom, “Please come to the front of the bus and pay the fare, young man.” The bus driver stood up forcefully and yelled, “This bus will not be moving until you pay the fare like the rest of the folks on this bus!”

As I entered a fairly empty 38L, I noticed something very interesting about the bus driver: He was a man on a mission…someone not to cross the wrong way or come across sideways.

Now, we’re not talking about a typical-size bus driver. We’re talking about a fairly large man in his early 40s with a very bald head. The young man smoothly walked to the front of the bus while on his cell phone, and paid a portion of the fare. The bus driver aggressively said, “Now look, I’m not playing with you, either you pay the fare like the rest of the working folks on this bus or get off my bus!”

The young man paused, switched his cell phone to his left hand, and calmly made a swing-like gesture to the driver! The driver moved away from the attempted fist swing then stood up, grabbed the operator phone, and yelled, “Now get the fuck off my bus or swing. I want you to swing so the cops could take you to jail. You’re on camera with a bus full of witnesses. You make a move!” The young man, clueless for his next act, turned and aggressively attempted to swing again, but missed. He looked around yelling, screaming, and unsure of what to do. He then got off the bus without making another gesture.

Now this is a bus driver with balls. Drivers like him take a stand and lay down the law. This made me proud to ride Muni every day. Yes, it was scary at times, but I was confident that the escalated situation was handled very appropriately. The bus driver showed commanding respect and set limits with this punk kid.

As a Muni commuter, I see punk kids trying to be smooth and slick to get away from paying fares on a daily basis. They cheat fares, punk commuters, smoke weed on the bus, start trouble on the bus, and intimidate other kids on the bus. I asked myself, Where do these entitled, disrespectful group of people get this behavior? They’re so confident in committing these acts; they’ll never experience consequences.

I felt empowered to speak out after my experience, so here I am. I felt this was a good deed and deserved a few cents from a daily Muni rider. Thanks for hiring folks that are tired to speak out and put my tax dollars to good use.

Do you have a story about a driver or fellow passenger whose actions made you proud? Have you told a Muni story to your friends at dinner? Share your Muni stories here at Muni Diaries.

Purse burglary on 38L. Merry Xmas Eve!

Damned kids.

I wonder what they stole if it wasn’t her wallet or phone? Sounds like an EPIC FAIL burglary attempt to me.

Um, so yeah, don’t leave your purse open while you’re spacing out on the bus, especially if there are snotty teenagers on the bus with you. From extensive sociological study (i.e. staring passive-aggressively at them when they bother me), I find that when they’re not screaming at one another, at the bus driver, into their phones or all of the above, they’re eying your blank stare and swanky purse of grown-up goodies.

I had a theory that teenagers are pretty much the worst category of people in the world, and I haven’t been proven wrong just yet.

And if today’s San Francisco Examiner story about truancy is any indication, they best watch out for the narcs.

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