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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Rosco P. Fare Inspector and the Hazzard County Line

Should Muni fare inspectors be allowed to check your proof of payment status outside of proof of payment areas? I asked this question before in 2009. You can read about it on the Muni Diaries website. 5 years later and my question still remains unanswered.

This morning a fare inspector asked for my proof of payment outside of a proof of payment area. I showed it to the inspector but then I asked him why he was checking fares outside of the proof of payment area. I had just hopped off the F-line, but it was not a proof of payment area.

He answered my question Miss-America-Contestant Style by not answering my question, but responding with something only kind-of similar. He said "We're checking proof of payment." I said I realized what he was doing, but had a question about whether or not it was right to check fares on the street where one isn't required to have proof of payment in his possession.

I tried to argue that if I'm standing in a designated proof of payment area the fare inspector can ask to scan my clipper card. I will then show it to him without incident, but if I'm standing on a regular public street, he can't.

Now I know the argument you're going to come back with. It's not like when the General Lee crosses the County Line and Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane screeches to halt and bites his hat because his jurisdiction ends at the Hazzard County Line. If I didn't pay my fare on the train, once I exit the train or exit the proof of payment area the fact still remains that I didn't pay my fare.

But get this, according to Muni's own website, I do cross the proverbial Hazzard County Line once I step out of a proof of payment area. Rosco P. Fare Inspector can't ask me for my proof of payment. I can't be fined for not having paid my fare if I'm checked in a non- proof of payment area; it says so in two separate places on Muni's website.
1. You must have valid Proof of Payment when riding on a Muni rail line or bus route or while within the paid area of Muni stations. 
2. Muni Transit Fare Inspectors may ask you for Proof of Payment on board any Muni rail line or bus route, or in the paid area of Muni Metro subway stations between the Embarcadero and West Portal stations.

Now let me just say I did tag my card. My fare was paid and I was able to prove it. The fare inspector scanned my card and the little screen lit up with a YES in large friendly letters. That's not the issue here, though. The fare inspector was checking fares in a place where he had no jurisdiction. Had he hopped on the train, he would have been in fair (fare) territory. Had he been on one of the platforms between West Portal and Embarcadero Stations, he would have been well within the law to ask to see my proof of payment, and I would have shown it to him. I have a pass. I always tag my card when I get on.

While I was trying to have a conversation with the fare inspector, he got super defensive and started raising his voice. He even "have a nice day, ma'am"-ed me and tried to walk away, like I had no right to ask him a question, or I was just a lunatic (PS, I am not a crackpot). His only response to my question was to say they checked fares on the street to keep the trains running on time. Another Muni fare inspector joined in on the conversation. He at least conceded that my logic was sound, but then added that logic had nothing to do with Muni. He also raised his voice and dismissed me.

I'm sure that the fare inspector is used to people yelling at him and giving him grief. I'm sure that makes him quick to anger no matter what the circumstance. Once he saw that I paid my fare and I wasn't a bad guy, he should have let his guard down a bit, or at least shown a bit of patience and listened to my question.

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