The Enforcer

Sitting on the good old bus 49 over the weekend, I came across something that is rarely seen in San Francisco – a bus driver who fought for his fare. All too often the driver doesn’t even glance at my MUNI pass and I go for days without actually needing it, wondering why I even waste the $45 dollars each month. That is a lot of ice cream at Bi-rite, well, not really all that much.

But this driver was tenacious. He kicked a middle aged man off the bus for using a senior pass. When someone got in through the back door, the driver refused to budge the bus until this man showed him his transfer. Because this man pretended he didn’t know the bus driver was talking to him for a full minute (sitting down), flashed his transfer (and sat back down), went to the front of the bus to show his expired transfer (and sat back down), and then finally came up with the necessary $1.50 (and sat back down!), we sat on the street for a good 3 minutes not moving. My ride from 26th street to 16th street took 15 minutes.

On one hand, I had places to go and things to see.

On the other hand, I was secretly happy.

But then I think about how incredibly long it would take to get the bus moving if everyone went in through the front door: stops at 24th and 16th street would probably take at least an extra minute or two. And then I get angry at the people who go out the front door who have clear access to the back doors and who are in no way physically challenged. I am even occasionally upset with the old people who insist on pulling carts everywhere – if you have enough gumption to pull a wheeled basket up onto the bus, you are strong enough to exit through the back door.

Bus rides are often long and angry for me.

And then I read how poor MUNI is, and how they are thinking of raising the monthly fare. Couldn’t I just send 10 people to the front of the bus to pay their fare and add my extra $15 dollars that way? Maybe by making people follow the few simple rules about entering, exiting, and paying fares, not only would we have a better funded system, but is possible it would no longer be one of the slowest public transport systems in the nation.

I need a bike.

10 Responses to “The Enforcer”

  1. Vecgon says:

    Awesome – go bus driver. Maybe SF can learn from Brazil and use bus pods. People pay fare, enter pod, then bus pulls up to pod. You can only enter bus from pod. Everyone gets in, having already paid. Goodness. More realistic – go to proof of payment system, and send out a few inspectors once in a while. Best solution – merge all these transit agencies into 1 across the Bay Area and get one neck to choke.

  2. meave says:

    Sometimes the afternoon outbound 9 bus has extra MUNI employees board around Montgomery, and they’ll do just that, but they always get off at Civic Center so it doesn’t last long. Still, watching people get busted is extremely satisfying.

    One of my angry MUNI fantasies is to stand at the back doors and force the people who try to sneak on that way to go to the front and pay. In real life though I am not at all intimidating so the only thing I’ve got is impotent rage. It is a lot of rage. How do the transit authorities in Chicago and New York deal with this kind of thing? Besides having a magnetic card reader, I mean.

  3. Allan Hough says:

    I used to ride the 30 with some frequency, and there was this one driver that every day at the busy 4th and Market stop would get up and shout in the most nasal shout I’ve ever heard, “NO BACK DOOR BOARDING” — regardless of whether anyone was trying. So he was kind of an enforcer I guess, but his little routine was sooo irritating. It never made me secretly happy. I’m glad, Lael, that your enforcer was different.

    Vecgon, yeah! Since the Sunday Streets thing was modeled after some event in Bogota, and it seems to be going so well, why not model us some bus pods based on Brazil’s? Plus, “bus pods” sounds so cool!

  4. moon unit says:

    bike, you’ll feel better.

  5. Skud says:

    This driver… long hair, Harley Davidson vest over his brown uniform shirt? He’s an institution on the 49.

  6. munirider says:

    The solution is to fire Nat Ford and save millions, and hire a few “surprise ticket checkers”.

    That way the bus driver does not have to wait 3 minutes at each stop checking peoples fares.

    I ride the Muni regularly and my transfers NEVER get checked. I ride caltrain as well and alsmost everyday my caltrain fares get checked,

  7. Lael says:

    Right? Doesn’t it seem like there are so many easy solutions, from as far away as Brazil – bus pods sound amazing – to 3 feet away on Caltrain. For the entire past year, riding the bus on average 2-3 times a day, I have never ONCE been checked (aside from showing my pass as I board). And skud – that description fits pretty well if I remember correctly – I hope to run into him a lot more often.

    I think a lot of other cities don’t have as major of a problem bc they have underground systems, I know when I lived in DC, buses weren’t nearly as crowded so it was much harder for people to get away with back door boarding.

  8. Shawn says:

    Definitely get a bike. I’ve been riding as my primary mode of transportation for 3 years and–I only just realized this–haven’t ridden a MUNI bus since.

  9. mj says:

    I know that bus driver and although I hate the people coming in through the back, I really don’t like the guy. He is just such an ass and runs his but like he is the king and all the passengers are under his rule. He has a big chip on his shoulder. I have overheard some of regular riders of his bus speculate that his attitude might relate to his short stature.

    Anyway, I have been delayed so many times because he was yelling at some old guy that didn’t speak English. I mean if 90% of the bus drivers don’t care if you get on from the back and probably about 1/2 the people do have passes or transfers that get on the through the back door (and do it at crowded stops) then why should most folks think it is a big deal. There is no consistency.

    The fare dodgers do piss me off and honestly I never open the back door for trying to get in when I am standing there. I think moving to POP system wide could work, just put more fair checkers on. Really anything would be an improvement.

  10. anna says:

    hahaha… i love this post. Poor muni. I wish they could just make it free and get it over with. Way too much of an optimist, I know.

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