Another Fare Increase, Huzzah!

Yes, that’s another Muni fare increase you see for July 1. Yes, we did just have one in January. And yes, once again, Muni did a poor job communicating how two back-to-back fare increases would roll out to its constituents. They didn’t consider rider experience or the impact of these changes on the 350,000 people who depend on Muni every day.

The January fare increase was a result of a policy change, making cash fares 25 cents more than Clipper fares. Clipper users might think their fare wasn’t increasing, but then it did just six months later.

The second fare increase is result of regular fare review, a two-year process based on various inputs and complex calculations around inflation, operating costs, and labor agreements.

We have two main issues. The first is that fares will now be $2.75 for cash users. This is steep. No wonder Uber, Lyft, and Chariot can compete. Even BART is still only $1.95 in the city limits.

As with flat taxes, a fare increase affects our most vulnerable residents, who already have too many barriers to mobility (see e.g. T-line schedules). We support incentives to move away from cash (it noticeably speeds up service), but those incentives need to be supported by efforts to make Clipper easier to get and to reload — to be more accessible.

Our second issue is that this is another example of Muni getting bogged down in bureaucratic detail, unable to see the customer-facing impact. They could have planned ahead a bit and combined the fare and policy changes; they could have done a better job communicating about the increases and reasons to their riders.

Muni is competing for customers with ride share services, which get you where you’re going much faster. Ride share prices are so artificially low (from investors subsidizing every ride, and poorly paid drivers) that for two riders they are almost as cheap as the increased bus fare. Muni needs to start thinking less like a slow lumbering bus getting from one block to the next, and more like a robust transportation system that truly serves its customers.

We will continue to push for funding sources other than fares to make transit efficient, affordable, and equitable (stay tuned for a funding measure in 2018!). We are actively working towards rational and streamlined regional fares. We will continue to advocate for all riders, pushing Muni to do a better job of communicating with and considering the rider.