Muni plastic transfers: taking the bus is now for the rich

Jessica Nemire

San Francisco’s public transit system is best known for three things: rarely being on time, frequently breaking down and giving out those long, colorful, paper transfers that crafty commuters can fold up to make it look as if they have more time left to ride. One of those things is about to change.

San Francisco’s Municipal Transit System announced Aug. 24 that it plans to stop using the driver-distributed paper transfers in favor of implementing a fare machine that will eject plastic cards with 90 minutes on them. By more diligently requiring its patrons to pay the standard fare of $2.25 every 90 minutes with these cards, SFMTA is contributing to the increasingly high cost of living in an already expensive city.

Currently, even when a passenger obeys the rules and doesn’t fold up the transfer, paper transfers are good for a varying amount of time, depending on when a passenger begins their commute. This morning, for example, I got on the bus at 8:45 a.m. and the transfer the driver ripped off for me was good until 11:30 a.m. Sometimes when I board the bus at 6 p.m., the transfer will remain valid for the rest of the night.

The new plastic cards will ensure that riders can only use a transfer for an hour and a half. If riders take a bus or train any later than that, they will have to pay an additional $2.25. This may not seem like a lot, but for riders who rely on Muni for their every day transportation needs, cost mount quickly.

Many people take the bus because they cannot afford gas or an Uber. Biking is theoretically always an option, but for people who live across the city from their place of work or who live in San Franciscobut work in the East Bay, this option is either very labor-intensive or unrealistic.

As a student without a car, I rely entirely on the bus to take me to and from school and work. Previously, I could travel to and from both places in one day on five dollars. With the new transfers, it will cost me $9 to get to school and work and back every day.

SFMTA provides an affordable alternate mode of transit. Once the 90-minute plastic transfers are in place, however, that won’t be the case anymore.

Less wealthy citizens may want to consider investing in a bike or walking to work because, apparently, even riding the bus has become an elitist activity in this city.