I haven’t posted about MUNI since I have been out here this time… This doesn’t mean I haven’t been thinking about MUNI. This post will round up my various recent MUNI thoughts, complaints, and anecdotes.

First, the general rant. MUNI is a very useful service but I have no idea of how they can stay in business… I guess because it’s part of the government and not really accountable to anyone like a business would be.

I have a new TransLink card. This little gem allows me to pay for service on Golden Gate Transit, the company that runs the ferry and buses that take me to Marin County, where my employer is located. When I get on the bus, I tag my card to a reader located near the driver. When I get off, I tag the card again; the fare is calculated and subtracted from my TransLink account. For the ferry, I tag the card in San Francisco, either as I get on or off the ferry, depending on direction.

The TransLink card works on some other area transit providers as well. Before coming out here, I found out that MUNI is trialing integration with TransLink. One could sign up to be part of the test group.

That sounded interesting though I was not sure if it would make financial sense as compared to a FastPass; a monthly pass good for MUNI only for $40. I would certainly use the card on Golden Gate Transit so I went ahead and signed up for a card on the MUNI site.

With uncharacteristic efficiency, MUNI called me within two hours of my submitting my application online. They were wondering about my Vermont address. I explained my situation and they agreed to send me a card.

Here it is.


I’ve only used my TransLink card once on MUNI. MUNI claims that the card is very convenient to use; when I swipe the card on MUNI, they automatically calculate my 90-minute transfer duration. I won’t get charged again for that 90 minutes.

MUNI has this policy that when you pay for a trip, you get a transfer, good for 90 minutes. Back when I first started using MUNI, the transfer was good for two trips in 90 minutes; the first time you used the transfer (i.e., your second ride for $1.00 at the time), the driver would rip off a stub, the second time (your third ride) the driver would keep the transfer.


MUNI has gotten away from this; I suppose it is too much work for the drivers. So now the transfer is good for as many rides as one can fit into the 90-minute window.

The thing is, half the time you get a transfer it is good for four or five hours. The transfer expiration date is based on how the transfer is ripped from the pad and so depends on the operator.

The other thing is, if you crumple the transfer a little bit and hold it in your hand so that the expiration time is obscured, it will work all day. I have never in the last two years seen anyone called out for an expired transfer.

Only a rube would pay for a bus ride on MUNI with a TransLink card. It doesn’t make sense.

Another selling point for MUNI’s TransLink program is that I can get off the ferry and onto MUNI with one form of payment. This is true, though MUNI does not tell you that, again, only a rube would actually do this.

Ferry passengers have access to Ferry/MUNI transfers when they arrive in San Francisco. These transfers are in two parts, one good for travel away from the ferry building on MUNI, one valid for travel towards the ferry building on MUNI. As issued, they are good for 24 hours. So if I take the ferry to work and back, MUNI is free in both directions.

I can actually take MUNI to a Golden Gate Transit bus, ride to work in Sausalito, take the ferry home, and get MUNI to drop me off at my front door for $7.75. Not bad.

Plus, the 24-hour transfer period is bogus. The MUNI operator has to actually look at the transfer to read the date and time; too much effort. My Friday transfer has always worked perfectly well on Monday morning.

Of course, there is no reason to pay to ride MUNI ever, if you work at it even a tiny bit. Yesterday’s transfer will work just as well as today’s; just show the back of the transfer to the driver. They won’t care. Get on at the back door; the operator probably won’t say anything. If they do, wave your wallet or some bit of cardboard at them.

Two weeks ago I was riding a streetcar. There were two MUNI employees on the car; one, an older woman, appeared to be a supervisor. The car stopped and people began to board the car at the middle doors although one is only supposed to board at the front.

The supervisor walked back to the doors and announced that she was going to check passes; only people with passes could get on at the back.

She made a cursory inspection. At one point she pointed out that the pass that someone had shown was from last July, this being in February. She made no effort to stop the person from boarding the car or to make them pay for the trip.