Muni ready to retire classic transfers


Nostalgic Muni riders still mourning the loss of the paper Fast Pass after Muni switched to the Clipper Card will be sad to know the paper transfer will join its counterpart in Muni history.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency is looking to replace its fareboxes on Muni vehicles with ones that will print out transfers in real-time. The agency’s Board of Directors on Tuesday approved a plan to begin accepting proposals for the project, which includes a minimum of 1,250 new transit vehicle fareboxes.

The paper transfer is given to riders who pay for a single-ride fare with cash on Muni vehicles, usually good for 90 minutes. Some Muni drivers are a little more generous.

Drivers have to tear the transfer off from a booklet and must remember to keep adjusting the transfer to make sure riders get at least 90 minutes of usage.

All that will change with real-time printing of transfers. A SFMTA staff report said there would be no need to provide drivers with pre-printed transfer booklets. The report also said new printed transfers would help with security issues like stolen transfer booklets.

People stealing transfer booklets either from Muni drivers, buses or bus yards, was a problem not long ago. In 2010, the San Francisco Police Department arrested two for illegally selling Muni transfers. One suspect arrested was a Muni mechanic who supplied the transfers to his accomplice to sell on the streets.

Then there was the 2011 incident of two suspects counterfeiting Muni transfers and selling on them also on the streets.

SFMTA spokesman Paul Rose did not mention any recent incidents involving stolen Muni transfers to SFBay, but said the transit agency has taken steps to prevent transfers from being stolen:

“Revenue operations has reduced the number of transfers issued to Muni Divisions and installed secured boxes in each yard where Operators are required to deposit unused books at the end of their shift.”

Rose said there is also an increased police presence and cameras on all vehicles for those thinking twice about walking out with a booklet of transfers.

The staff report also said the new transfers would help with efficiency and waste from unused transfers.

The new farebox would consistently issue a 90-minute transfer. Riders have often complained about not getting the full 90 minutes, the report said.

There was no mention though of the elimination of the late-night transfer, which is given riders who pay cash after 8:30 p.m and valid until 5:00 a.m.

Other benefits of the new fareboxes include better technology to track fare revenue and improved equipment reliability.

The transit agency said the current fareboxes date back to 1991 made by Cubic. In 2008, the company refurbished the fareboxes to expand their lifespan, but the company no longer supplies parts or support.

A negotiated contract will make its way to the SFMTA board of late 2015 or early 2016.

Jerold Chinn
Jerold Chinn is the San Francisco Bureau Chief of SFBay and covers transportation and City Hall. He has spent a decade covering transportation in San Francisco. Jerold is a San Francisco native and frequently takes public transit everywhere he goes. Follow Jerold on Twitter @jerold_chinn. Email tips to

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