Muni passengers will have their pick of which bus door to board starting Sunday — provided they have the right proof of payment.
The new policy will allow Clipper card users and passengers with cash transfers to enter through the back. Muni will be the first U.S. transit operator to do that for its entire fleet, said Transportation Director Ed Reiskin.
“For the environment of San Francisco, particularly the density of The City, we feel this policy makes the most sense,” he said. “This will help make our boarding process more efficient and speed up service.”
But the change will not mean a free ride: Muni has beefed up its transit fare inspectors’ unit, from 42 to 52 employees. “Anybody riding anywhere should have a reasonable expectation that they’ll be asked to show that they paid,” Reiskin said.
Ben Kaufman of the San Francisco Transit Riders Union, which pushed hard for all-door boarding, said the plan might experience a few hiccups but will prove worthwhile. All-door boarding is already allowed on light-rail lines, and they have a lower fare-evasion rate than buses, he said.
Passenger boarding consumes 30 percent of Muni’s total service hours, according to the agency. Expanding all-door boarding to buses could thus lead to big savings. Speeding up average service by just 1 mph would net Muni an extra $76 million a year.
However, not everyone is convinced the policy will work.
Ron Austin, spokesman for the Transport Workers Union Local 250-A, said all-door boarding could have the opposite effect.
“We’re going to see buses filled with people who didn’t pay their fares,” Austin said. “Operators are going to spend so much time trying to look out their right-side mirrors past the crowds that we’ll probably see service slow down.”
The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which operates Muni, projects that the policy will cost the agency $700,000 for the fiscal year that starts Sunday.