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MTA fare evasion report scorned
on sight

By Pat Murphy

February 27, 2006

A Metropolitan Transit Agency (MTA) report indicating MUNI fare evasion ranges as high as 73% today drew disbelief and outright scorn from members of the Government Audit and Oversight Committee.

Committee Member Aaron Peskin called "these numbers outrageously wrong" and suggested the MTA may use the report to justify proposed hiring of 50 new fare collectors.

The report, described as a "snapshot" by MTA security director Robert Hertan, drew results over four days of observation, conducted for one hour to 90 minutes, at unstaffed Muni Metro entry points, Hertan said.

Muni staff logged riders who jumped or went under turnsiles at 50% to 73% of ridership at those locations, detailed MTA chief of staff Diana Hammons.

Peskin, president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, responded the report ranges from voo doo to irresponsibility.

"The fact that you are using four one-and-a-half hour moments in time to base your budget assumptions for the 06-07 Fiscal Year is at best voo doo economics and at worst it is irresponsible," said Peskin.

"Let me say I do not believe these numbers in whole or in part.

"I don't think they are supported by decent data collection."

The District 3 supervisor revealed a conversation with MTA leadership with pegged fare evasion much lower.

"Let me refer to a conversation I had with Mr. Ford and Mr. Sunshine ... a week or ten days ago in my office as they presented the MTA's budget. Nathaniel Ford is the newly appointed MTA executive director and Stewart Sunshine preceded Ford's leadership as interim MTA executive director.

"They said to me to 'confidential, confidential' that they thought fare evasion was somewhere in the of 12% to 15% area 'but that's not something that we should tell the public.'

"Now you're sitting up here saying '50% to 73%'?

"A - It ain't true. I don't believe it. And B - It is going to create an absolute misperception in the public which is not borne in fact and I think that we should continue this hearing to the call of the chair.

"And have you guys go out and do some data so that you can change the misperception - that you can change these numbers which you have presented which are just wholly irresponsible can be corrected."

"I think these numbers are outrageously wrong ... I think fare inspectors are doing their best but I just do not believe these numbers at all.

"If this a way that you guys are justifying hiring 50 fare inspectors which will cost $7 million so that you can cover a $20 million hole, you will lucky if the fare inspectors pay for themselves in the first year," said Peskin

Committee Chair Tom Ammiano echoed Peskin.

"I do believe that methodology and other scientific elements would need to be shared because people will take this and run with it," stated Ammiano.

"I think this may be a way for getting something more reliable and maybe in about a month you can come back here and give us some more of the picture," said Supervisor Jake McGoldrick who called for the hearing.

"I think a better citywide picture would also be important because targeting those areas in a sense is misleading because those areas were understaffed."

Hammons agreed the report did not capture citywide fare evasion statistics.

"I don't want to give the impression that those specific case studies that were presented today were in any way ... reflective of the city as a whole," said MTA chief of staff Diana Hammons.

The committee continued the matter to the call of the chair.




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