Despite citywide dissatisfaction with the state of Muni, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) will increase fares to its buses and light rail vehicles on July 1 — but only if you’re paying cash. A single ride will bump up from $2.75 to $3, although if you pay by Clipper card or the MuniMobile app, the fare will remain $2.50.
While it can be aggravating to wait 20 minutes for a bus or squish on to an overcrowded N-Judah during rush hour, the 25-cent increase is not necessarily a money-maker for the SFMTA. The agency estimates that only 12 to 14 percent of customers still pay with cash. While the agency admits that rising labor costs are part of the reason, speed of operation is another. By rewarding people who use Clipper or MuniMobile, the SFMTA hopes “Muni customers to spend less time boarding at stops — and more time getting to their destinations.”
As with any city-endorsed rise in fees for the general public, the 25-cent increase has drawn some ire. Aside from tourists, cash-paying Muni riders are often those who have neither a credit card to purchase a Clipper card easily, or a smartphone to download the MuniMobile app. Most likely, this will negatively affect low-income people for whom either option is out of reach.
In that regard, the fare hike sits in contrast to a piece of legislation that Supervisor Vallie Brown introduced earlier this year that banned businesses from operating credit-card-only payment systems. While Muni will always accept cash — we hope — charging more for those who use that option seems out-of-step with other decisions made in City Hall.
In the meantime, for those without credit cards or smartphones, the best option appears to be enrollment in one of the city’s low-income transit programs — which can cost as little as $1.25 a ride, or $40 a month.