Uncovering San Francisco, California, Muni's Proof-of-Payment Patterns to Help Reduce Fare Evasion


Jason Lee

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

place - north america, mode - rail, policy - fares, economics - fare revenue


fare evasion, compliance, uncaptured revenue


When transit customers pay fares, they contribute their fair share to help fund service. In San Francisco, California, anecdotal observations had reinforced perceptions that a high percentage of Muni (the San Francisco Railway transit system) riders were not paying, possibly costing the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) tens of millions of dollars annually in lost revenue. In 2009, SFMTA, which operates Muni, conducted a proof-of-payment study to answer long-standing questions about fare payment patterns and identify strategies to improve fare enforcement. The resulting survey of 41,239 customers on 1,141 vehicle runs provided enough samples by time period, route, and vehicle occupancy to identify fare payment patterns at a disaggregated level. The study found a 9.5% minimum systemwide fare evasion rate that varied by route, location, time period, level of enforcement, and door of entry and amounted to an estimated $19 million annually in uncaptured revenue on the basis of 2009 fares. Although surveyors observed that there was no typical violator, the data showed that fare evasion was more prevalent on certain routes and during the afternoon and evening hours. Besides providing base data to measure future progress, the study enabled SFMTA to educate its customers about proof-of-payment requirements and deploy its fare enforcement personnel more efficiently and cost-effectively in an effort to improve fare compliance.


Permission to publish the abstract has been given by Transportation Research Board, Washington, copyright remains with them.