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San Francisco to hire more inspectors to combat rising fare evasion on Muni

Riders enter a bus.
Passengers board the 7-Haight/Noriega Muni bus. | Source: Jeremy Chen/The Standard

San Francisco says it plans to hire dozens of new inspectors to crack down on a dramatic uptick in fare evasion on Muni.

According to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, fare evasion has grown to over 20% of riders—up from around 12% before the Covid pandemic. The agency says that the loss in ticket revenue is preventing it from making a full revenue recovery from ridership, which reached 76% of pre-pandemic levels by March.

To combat the problem, the SFMTA says it carved out some of its upcoming two-year budget to hire a few dozen more fare inspectors. The additional staff will work across Muni bus routes and rail lines to encourage compliance through an “education first” approach rather than immediate punitive citations.

Inspectors—who are civilians, not sworn law enforcement—will provide information about payment methods, discount options and support services for riders who might not afford the price of a ticket. 

Muni acknowledged its various payment methods can be confusing but said upgrades by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission will allow more options on Clipper cards and enable credit card tap transactions.

Emphasizing that fares are critical to funding improved service, the agency urged all riders to “do their part by paying the appropriate fare,” which helps “hundreds of thousands of people get around every day.”

In November 2023, the commission said it was allocating around $747 million in state and regional funds over the next two fiscal years to help BART and Muni, which are struggling with drastic declines in ridership and revenue—but only if the transit agencies have specific measures geared toward improving public safety and combating fare evasion.