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Muni fare inspectors are out in force after pandemic pause

Muni transit fare inspectors K. Mouton (left) and K. Justin (right) ask for proof of payment from passengers on a 14-Mission bus in San Francisco, Calif. on Tuesday, May 20, 2014. | Paul Chinn/The SF Chronicle via Getty Images

Don’t forget to tag that Clipper pass when you get on Muni, because fare inspectors are back in action after a pandemic-related hiatus.

Transit riders say they’re seeing fare inspectors more frequently, asking for proof of payment and issuing $100-plus citations for riders who haven’t paid. The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency had pulled back on fare enforcement during the pandemic. 

“Now that we’re in a new phase of the pandemic, we’re upping our efforts to ensure riders are paying their fares,” Stephen Chun, an SFMTA spokesperson, confirmed in an email to The Standard. 

In late 2020, the SFMTA said it would stop issuing tickets temporarily to focus on education, customer service and mask distribution. The agency then began phasing fare inspections back in and is now back to issuing citations.

Transit fares make up sizable chunk of SFMTA’s revenue. But with overall ridership about half of what it was before Covid, the agency is facing a serious budget crisis.

“When customers don’t pay their fares, we don’t have the funding that’s needed to keep our buses and trains running,” Chun wrote.

The agency maintains that most riders do pay their fares, even though many don’t tag as they get on because it isn’t necessary for anyone using the MuniMobile app or transferring.

Plus, anyone 18 or under can ride all Muni transit for free, except for cable cars. The agency also offers free fares to some middle- and low-income seniors and people with disabilities.