By chanced meeting and reporter-style sweaty palms, we approached an off-duty MUNI officer to ask some questions that we’ve (the editors) all been wondering.
Of course, we’ve all avoided fare out of sheer forgetfulness, lack of funds, or because paying essentially three dollars doesn’t appeal highly on the latter of things to do. But it’s the worst to hear “EVERYONE, pull out your proof of payment please.” You know in that moment, you’re fucked. You get off and have to stand awkwardly with an officer who asks why didn’t you tag or pay at the front?
No matter the reason, you’re most likely walking out with a $124 dollar ticket that, likely, you won’t be able to ‘successfully’ contest. Face it. But the officers are also very real people. Behind their cold exteriors fronts a normal, everyday person.
As we stood waiting for our coffee in the Dogpatch, perfect timing struck and an off-duty MUNI officer waltz’ right in. To protect his identity and to also keep his anonymity, we will refer to the officer as “A.” We approached A as a MUNI rider who had a few questions about the job, ticket system, and rider encounters—but we also offered to pay for their coffee & lunch if they answered a few questions. Please note that this transaction was written sloppy down in our notebooks. So enjoy:
BC: If you don’t mind me asking, do you like your job and why?
A: I love my job, it’s training me to later go into the police force. I get to meet a lot of community and people. It’s quite rewarding.
BC: Do you ever feel that this job is a waste of time?
A: No—again, the people make it worth it.
BC: What is the most interesting encounter you’ve had with a rider.
A: Maybe not most interesting but one time a group of asian girls barreled through me to get out of a ticket.
BC: That actually leads me into my next question: does paying ‘your fare share’ do anything?
A: I can’t comment on that.
BC: What are your hopes and dream?
A: I want to serve my community, I’m SF born-and-raised in the Sunset and my dad was a MUNI operator. He’s since retired and he would have so many stories when he came home from work every night. I aspire to be him.
BC: What got you into this line of work?
A: You know, it seemed like the right fit. I had been working in private security but you’re pretty chained down to one location and building for most of the day so getting to be a Municipal officer allows me to kind of go around the city.
BC: I assume it comes with the territory?
A: What do you mean?
BC: I mean, people must hate you for what you do?
A: Look, man… I’m just doing my job and if someone really want to evade a two-dollar-and-75-cent fare to then get a ticket that could be upwards of $129 dollars, that’s their choice.
BC: So why are tickets so expensive?
A: Essentially, It helps to deter people from wanting to evade again and gets them starting to pay their fare share.
BC: What if someone gives you a fake name and address? Do they still have to pay.
A: I can’t comment on that either.
BC: Last question before you have to head off—how can I tell when a MUNI officer is going to be at a stop?
A: You can’t ever tell. Hahaha.
BC: Jeez, thanks… haha.
// Photography courtesy of the National Association of Transit City Officials