Fare evasion still afflicts cable cars 

San Francisco cable cars continue to be free rides for 40 percent of the people that hop aboard despite efforts in recent years to fix the iconic system’s fare-collection process, according to a city audit released Tuesday.

After an investigation in 2007 uncovered that four out of every 10 passengers who boarded the cable cars were not being asked to pay the $5 fare, a follow-up probe during the last two weeks of December revealed that fare collections have not improved, the city controller’s audit said.

In 2007, undercover city auditors who randomly boarded cable cars said they were not asked to pay on 17 of 42 trips. That result prompted the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which operates the system, to implement several initiatives to improve collections on the 21,000 daily cable car rides. Those practices have not worked, auditors said.

In a follow-up operation conducted between Dec. 11 and Dec. 30, the undercover auditors hopped onto 15 cable cars and reported not having to pay on six of those trips.

They boarded at random locations, hours and on cars with varied crowd levels. For trips on cable cars that had between 20 and 40 passengers, only five of nine auditors were asked to pay up, the audit said.

The cash-strapped SFMTA said staffing problems has partly hindered its crackdown on operators who fail to collect fares.

The steps the agency launched in recent years to improve fare collections included posting weekly reminders for cable car operators and increasing ticket booth hours of operation to encourage more prepaid sales.

The SFMTA said managers would ride the system frequently to monitor fare collections. Managers, however, “did not document the rides or report any findings,” the audit said.

maldax@sfexaminer.com

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