Cheating Muni — in 1916!


Muni Scholar's Tickets c.1915.JPG

Muni scholar’s tickets, about 1916. Market Street Railway Archives. Click to enlarge.

This weekend, Market Street Railway is joining the exhibitors at the Second Annual San Francisco History Expo. (Old Mint, Fifth and Mission Streets, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, March 3-4, Admission FREE). Our exhibit this year celebrates Muni’s history as part of this, the centennial year of America’s first big city publicly owned transit system.
Our volunteers, led by Alison Cant, have dug into our archives for some cool history, including items that really resonate today.
Like “scholar’s tickets.” Right now, politicians are debating making Muni free for all youth (gee, seems like it already is, judging from all those kids going through the back doors, but that’s another topic).
Well, nothing’s new about students trying to save money on Muni. The scholar’s tickets came in booklets, offering a discount from the regular five cent fare. (When I was a kid, they used a card, good for ten rides for 50 cents — a 67% discount over the then 15-cent regular fare. The conductor or operator would punch out a space each time you rode.)


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Muni conductor’s report, December 12, 1916. Market Street Railway Archives. Click to enlarge.

Back in 1916, though, the rules were clear, printed right on the cover of the scholar’s ticket booklet: you had to be under 18 AND in “actual and regular attendance in school” to qualify. As we see from the handwritten report from conductor A. J. Cadwallader on the H-Potrero streetcar at San Francisco General Hospital on December 12, 1916, two student nurses, at least 20 years old and from Stanford no less, were abusing the system!
Two days later, D. Collins, the assistant superintendent at 17th Street streetcar division (now Potrero trolley coach division), thought this petty larceny serious enough to write a letter to Tom Cashin, Muni’s first superintendent, asking for guidance, since some conductors were letting ’em ride anyway, while others were enforcing the rules. (Sound familiar?)


Muni letter re student tix 12121916.jpg

Letter to Muni Superintendent Thomas Cashin, December 14, 1916. Market Street Railway Archives. Click to enlarge.

Superintendent Cashin’s response, if any, is not in our archives, so we’ll never know how many pennies Muni lost to scurrilous students in its first decades of existence. But it won’t cost you even a nickel to see these pieces of history and more Muni artifacts at the Old Mint this weekend. C’mon down!

Comments: 1

  1. In the ’50s and ’60s we used “cartickets” all the time.
    We tried to see how many punches we could get for our 50 cents (I think my record was 19 rides!)
    We played games with transfers too. Especially “loader” transfers, issued by operators working near schools or at special events to load passsengers through the back door. Sometimes they wouldn’t punch the month on the transfer, and even if they did, most drivers just looked at the date, not the month that was punched. You could use the same transfers over and over, if you had the right date. A lot of times you could pick up a transfer on the street and get a free ride with it.
    We wouldn’t dare try to get on the back like kids (and most everybody else) today.

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