Saturday, March 10, 2007

SF Mayor considers making transit free

As I wrap up my time in California I saw this story in the San Francisco Chronicle

Mayor tells Muni to investigate eliminating fares
San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom has asked transit officials to study eliminating fares on city buses, streetcars and cable cars -- a plan that if enacted would be the largest such experiment in the nation.

"If it could happen anywhere, it could happen in San Francisco," said Newsom, who said free transit could lure people out of their cars and cut traffic.

No major transit agency in America has a systemwide free-fare policy. But more than a dozen cities -- including Seattle, Portland and Salt Lake City -- offer free rides in their downtown business corridors. The small East Bay city of Emeryville provides free bus shuttle service around town and to and from an Oakland BART station.


I hope to have more on transit in the Bay Area later but it is obvious that fare evasion is a HUGE problem in San Francisco.

Meanwhile BART has a fare evasion problem as well
BART losing revenue through ticket scams - Recent fraud find: Manipulation of magnetic strip
He and others on the BART management team are banking on new technology, so-called smart cards. The cards, which resemble credit cards, are embedded with microprocessor chips that can be used for various transactions, such as adding and deducting value on a transit ticket. Officials believe they are more secure than magnetic strips.

BART hopes to have the new system in place within two years. People would be able to use the smart cards to pay for parking at station lots and for BART rides. The chips could be expanded beyond cards and made even more user-friendly by embedding them in cell phones and watches.

and BART riders grumble that their trains are dirty
The dirty little secret about BART is out: Trains aren't as clean as passengers want them to be.

A new customer satisfaction survey commissioned by BART found increasing dissatisfaction over the trains' grimy interiors.

"It's not at all a surprise to us,'' said BART spokesman Linton Johnson.

Past budget cuts, he said, meant less money for cleaning crews. The decision was made to sacrifice cleanliness to focus resources on making the trains run on time, Johnson said. He said the agency is moving to replenish the work force of 77 car-cleaning positions, which had been down 10 workers at one point.

3 comments:

Mike said...

Pittsburgh offers free rides throughout the downtown zone.

Malbone said...

If any city can make transit free, SF can, because it is nearly as compact and self-contained as Venice, and transit is popular and abundant -- a bus is never more than 5 or 6 blocks away. (LA has dealt with fare avoidance by putting subway riders on the honor system and just doing spot checks.)

BART is much more widespread and has a much different population and funding base -- the end to end fare could be as much as $10, and it would be hard to make self-sustaining. The problem with BART cars is real -- the system was designed in the late 60s and still has the aura of a World's Fair "futuristic" monorail hanging over it.

greg said...

Trust me when I say, the whole proposal by the Mayor is a fake. It is just an election year way for him to throw off the opposition.

This week we've had a total MUNI meltdown, one that happened under his watch, with his MTA board, and it's really shaken people's faith in MUNI. Worse, while everyone loves the idea of a free MUNI, no one has found a way to pay for it at all.

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