SF Muni Workers Don’t Know Their Own Rules, Fine Man $100 For Being $.05 Short

While many public transit systems have a zero tolerance policy when it comes to having the required fare, San Francisco commuters who use the Clipper Card system to pay for their Muni bus and rail rides can actually complete their trip; the uncollected fare will just be subtracted the next time the user adds money to their card. Unfortunately for one man, no one at Muni seems to know this, and he’s now out $125.

The man tells CBS San Francisco that he had boarded a crowded Muni car and swiped his card against the reader. He heard a beep and believed all was well.

That’s when a Muni fare inspector approached him and told him he only had $.70 cents on his Clipper card, $.05 short of the $.75 senior fare.

This resulted in a $100 fine for the man, which he then appealed — unsuccessfully and at a cost of $25.

A Muni spokesperson first told CBS on camera that rules are rules.

“Customers do need to remember that they need to keep track of what’s on their Clipper card,” she explained.


The first question on the Clipper FAQ is:
What happens if the Clipper® card reader says I don’t have enough money on my card for my ride?
If your fare exceeds your available cash balance, you can complete your trip as long as you have at least $0.01 on your card. You will need to add value before you can use your card again. Your new card balance will automatically be reduced by the amount you owe. If your card has no cash on it, or if your Fast Pass® has expired, your Clipper card will be rejected and you will have to pay your fare in cash.


The Muni rep then awkwardly admits that she had never heard of this little clause and that she’ll have to look into it.


Edit Your Comment

  1. rookie says:

    Fetch the Comfy Chair!

  2. Galium says:

    Duh, it is just my job to know these facts, is my pay increase ready. FUMU.

  3. Coffee says:

    Okay…you get a free pass for not knowing your own rules because I’m feeling benevolent…but then homeboy appealed and you still told him he was wrong. I would hope that for $25, he at least got you to scan the rules. Evidently not.

  4. Kaleey says:

    Never heard of it? It’s the FIRST QUESTION on the FAQ. It’s the first question ANYONE would (and should) ask when inquiring about an auto-debit system. Seriously, people. Unless the FAQ is out of date, this takes boneheaded to a new level.

    SF Muni is fined $100, plus the $25 appeal fee, to be added to the man’s account, less the nickel he didn’t have.

    I wonder if he actually got to plead his case at the appeal, or if it was entirely robo-system. If a person was involved in the appeal (like a judge-like figure), you’d think they’d break out the rule book and check this out.

  5. gb944 says:

    The customer is always … wrong?

  6. aja175 says:

    Wait wait wait. Since when are there fare inspectors on MUNI? As long as I’ve lived in SF I’ve NEVER seen them.

    • kim.P. says:

      Your kidding! I’ve seen a huge increase in the fare inspectors (especially for the Muni underground) ~ and they are usually all jerks about it. They have a quota to meet and I think actually set up situation to ticket people!

    • b1u says:

      i think its only on certain lines; probably on the ones where there’s a lot of people

    • galaxirose says:

      I’ve seen them before, on the Muni trains only though. They have snazzy little machines that BOOP your Clipper card and I assume tell them if you paid or not. Which, knowing that, makes this story all the more puzzling because BOOPing your Clipper when you board would have already taken this guy’s money from the account? Color me confused…

    • rcarlton says:

      then you must not ride muni

  7. LoadStar says:

    The TV news story seemed unfinished. She awkwardly admitted she hadn’t heard of that… and then what? Did they refund the guy his $125? Or did they still stand by their decision, even if it flew in the face of what is their public policy?

  8. There's room to move as a fry cook says:

    Holland wasn’t aware that ruling was listed on the website. “I’ll need to check with them because I don’t know why it would say that,” she said. “I haven’t heard that explanation before.”

    Apparently it’s an error on the website. Remove text from website. Problem solved.

  9. Bog says:

    So, we have similar systems here… Expect that a few things happen differently.
    If you have your payment card connected (transit card or bridge toll pass) to a credit/debit card, it will automatically deduct what ever amount you prearranged ($15 to $150.) Or you can manually refill the account within 15 days.

    • SaberTail says:

      You can set up the clipper card to autoload money whenever you get low. Some people just don’t, though.

  10. Sean says:

    It is still currently showing on the Clipper Card website


  11. s25843 says:

    The DC Metro system has a similar rule with their SmarTrip smart cards. If there isn’t enough money on the card when you exit the system, the card will go into a negative balance, and you just pay it back when you top the card back up.

  12. kondjott says:

    Forget the FAQ’s, their Cardholder Agreement states the same thing in definitive terms:

    4.4 If a ride costs more than the cash value on the Cardholder’s Clipper® card, Clipper® will let the Cardholder complete the trip even if the fare exceeds the Card’s remaining value so long as the fare does not exceed the Card’s remaining value by more than $11.25. Value must be dded before the Card can be used again and the negative value is deducted from the Cardholder’s Card balance at the time new value is added.


  13. shufflemoomin says:

    Did the news report REALLY have to do a reconstruction of this? Are their viewers so moronic that an explanation wouldn’t have sufficed? What’s next? Hand puppets reading the news?

    • doctor_cos wants you to remain calm says:

      ‘Hand puppets reading the news’
      I thought we already had that.

  14. Geekybiker says:

    So they didn’t even bother to read their own policies on appeal? Sad. I can understand a conductor not getting it right, but the appeals division should know these things.

  15. Sham says:

    If the Fare Inspectors don’t know, then I wonder how many other people have received tickets for the exact same situation.

    • bbb111 says:

      Another factor not mentioned is that the Clipper Card is a multi-agency card valid on most of the transit systems in the area. The site with the Clipper Card rules is not run by Muni.

      That is not an excuse for not training the inspectors for the new cards (they have been in use for over a year.)

  16. bben says:

    It seems to me that the fare thing to do would be to dock the inspector the $125 she cost the man. And give that back to him.

  17. 401k says:

    If ever there is an “appeal process” that you have to pay for…don’t.

    I received a photo radar ticket that said I was going 255mph in a Nissan Frontier. I tried to ignore it because the only way to dispute that would have been to take the day off to show up in court. Then I got served. Of course the ticket was dismissed by the reviewing officer before it even went in front of the judge (likely because they don’t want the judge to see that the system isn’t always accurate).

    Time goes by and I receive a letter telling me I still over for the fee that is tacked on when they have to serve the citation in person. I paid to file a motion to dismiss because proper review of the citation should have prevented it from being issued in the first place. Of course they took my money to file the motion and told me I still had to pay $35 because it required personal service.

  18. Murph1908 says:

    DC Smart Cards are like this too. I have a card that has a negative balance on it. I don’t know how far in the negative they let you go, since fares on the DC metro can get pretty high, depending on your starting and ending stations. But buying a new card costs $2 (?), so you are usually if not always better off paying what you owe on the card than getting a new one.

  19. camman68 says:

    The article says “He heard a beep and believed all was well.” The FAQ also says “When you use your Clipper card with either a transit pass or cash value, a single or double beep will indicate the correct fare has been deducted or that a valid pass or transfer has been found.” Doesn’t anyone there know how their system is supposed to work?

  20. Rifter says:

    Man, I want to start some business that makes it legal to have fees applied that are worth 2500% of the original cost! Jeeze, all these amazing rackets out there… and they all seem to be government controlled. :-(