It’s Baaaack! Five Bucks for an F-line Ride?!?

In Muni’s last budget go-round, staff proposed raising F-line fares to $5 per ride, to match the cable cars. That proposal disappeared quickly after SFMTA Board members told Executive Director/CEO Nat Ford it was a non-starter as far as they were concerned.
But now it’s back as part of a new round of budget balancing (downloadable here — SFMTA-FY-2010-Budget-Projections-and-Solutions-1-19-2010.pdf) that would also make it more expensive for Fast Pass holders to ride cable cars and express buses, and cut service levels on every Muni bus line (but not Muni Metro or the F-line).
Though the document was made public late this Friday afternoon, the proposal has already been subjected to scathing criticism by readers of transit blogs, such as, where reader DT wrote, “Tinkering with the F Market is ludicrous. Due to the service cuts in
December, the ONLY way I can get to my dentist’s office is via the F.”


Jim Wilson/The New York Times photo.

There’s no doubt in my mind that Muni staff believes they can uncouple F-line fares from other streetcar and bus lines by trying to paint the F as a tourist line “like the cable cars.” But as the reader DT points out, previous service cuts make the F-line the only transit in the Golden Gateway neighborhood, as well as the only local service on Upper Market, where it can be a long walk to Metro stations (presuming Metro is working, of course). In short, it is a real transit line, but Muni staff want to portray it as something different.
The timing of this is ironic, given that earlier this week, Obama’s Transportation Secretary Ray La Hood (a Republican), announced a complete turnabout from Bush Administration policy on streetcars. The New York Times account of the news chose as its illustration a Milan tram on Upper Market Street (above, taken by Times photographer Jim Wilson) — exactly the kind of neighborhood trolley service La Hood is touting, and for which Muni staff now want to raise the fare 150%.

And how did La Hood himself describe this initiative? “We’ll finally be able to make the case for investing in popular streetcar projects and other transit systems that people want.” Gee, what a concept. Muni is the poster child for a popular streetcar line that people want. Uh oh. We better more-than-double the fare right away before that subversive idea — transit lines that people want — starts to catch on.
At the end of a meeting last week on another subject, Nat Ford offhandedly asked me what Market Street Railway’s reaction would be to a $5 F-line fare. I told him that if I were him, I’d be more concerned about the reaction of other F-line constituents, because the F-line’s support cuts across many communities in this town. Looks like we’re going to find out whether I was right.
We’ll be writing more on this in coming days and weeks (the final proposal is supposed to go to the SFMTA Board March 2), but let’s hear your views now. Five bucks for an F-line ride? Weigh in — not just with a yes or no, but why! Reminder: we don’t post personal attacks or profanity. This is the place to put forward your strongest logical arguments as to whether or not this makes sense.


Comments: 11

  1. The proposed $5 fare for the F line sounds like a transit bureaucrat’s dream. To transit bureaucrats, the principal problem with the F line at this time is overcrowding. Now how can you reduce overcrowding without spending more money? Bingo, the solution is to raise the fare so high that people will leave in droves! In that way, the overcrowding of vehicles would be solved at no additional expense. A transit bureaucrat’s solution which of course would not take into account the plight of the riders who depend on the line. Many transit bureaucrats only concern themselves with the bottom line of a financial statement instead of providing service to their riders. This Muni initiative needs to be nipped in the bud!

  2. I think the proposal is ridiculous. $5 is too much and will make it a tourist only line. I’d honestly rather see them raise the regular pass / fare and keep the all the lines the same cost. I use the f as a part of my regular commute. Would there be a monthly pass that allows use of the f-line? What is the point of a monthly pass that doesn’t cover all of the lines? Also the f line is the only alternative for commute between the Castro and downtown when the underground stops working. Does muni have a back up plan for that?
    Sigh. Let us know the best way to protest this and I will send it around to people I know. thanks.

  3. Don’t raise the F-line fares. If MTA thinks getting more revenue from this popular line is a good idea, why not sell a $20 package to tourists at hotels, tour guide places, etc., for a 1 day unlimited ride pass good for both cable cars and the F-line.
    Locals would be able to continue using the F-line for commuting and reaching the neighborhoods served by this service as a normal part of Muni’s system.

  4. Were are we to get the money to run Muni. Not one wants raise fairs or taxes.
    Were is the money to come from.

  5. What about raising the fares on the F line but tying that money to finally getting the E line started (and leave the E line fare at $2)? Particularly with the inbound N train stopping at Embarcadero on weekends the E line would really help.

  6. I decided to ask some “F” line operators about the proposal for a different fare for the “F” line. One pointed to the farebox which was covered over. She said that if they wanted to raise revenue, they could start by emptying the fareboxes on the weekend and making sure that farebox mechanics are available if they break down. Hers was not broken down but just full. The “F” line leads to a lot of cash fares but they do need to collect them.

  7. Let me speak from a tourist point of view. For $5 I’ll put fuel in my car and drive from San Francisco to Modesto.

  8. Please MUNI don’t raise the F line fare to $5.00 to match the Cable Car fare. If you, MUNI, wants to raise fares, raise them across the board, on everything, except Cable Cars. Make the MUNI fare $2.50 on all lines and raise the day pass fares as well. Here in San Diego, the trolley one way fare is $2.50 and a day pass, also good on buses, is $5.00, the same as a trolley round trip. If MUNI makes the F line fare $5.00, all the local riders will ride something else. The F line will be for tourests only as the Cable Cars currently are.

  9. Last Summer I spent one week in San Francisco as a tourist and ss a streetcar enthusiast… one of the best souvenir was riding on the F line!. We used to take an early streetcar and all the passengers were local people… we talked to many of them and they enjoyed the F line! F line it’s not only for visitors, it is some thing that the city has kept and it belongs to SF citizens! 5 dollars is too much because it is a different way of transportation, it is not a fair attraction! Best wishes from Barcelona!

  10. This is an example of why Economics is sometimes called “The Dismal Science”. As another pundit once said, “Politics is the art of getting everyone to help pay for what you think is important. The Muni and SFMTA staffers (do they get free passes as employees?) apparently think that raising the “F” line fare to $5.00 is a good idea, but if they’re going to do that, they should bring back the #8 trolley bus for people who don’t want to pay “tourist” fares to ride along Market St. I noted that last time I visited MuniLand the senior monthly pass had gone from $10.00 (previous visit in 2008) to $15.00 (Oct 2009). For a visit of three days, $10.00 is a good deal (after two cable car rides, everything else is free), $15.00 takes a little more mental math to figure whether it’s better to pay cash fare, take transfers and avoid cable cars, or consider the extra $5.00 to be an “entertainment tax” or “cover charge”. I suppose that even if it goes to $20 (which is quite likely) it’s still cheaper than Disneyland. That said, unless Muni want’s to restore the #8 bus, Five for F is a bad idea. There was an article about Muni proposals on the SFGate website that brought dozens of comments, mostly from SF citizens to whom Muni is not a tourist attraction but part of life in the city. Most of the comments were VERY unfavorable to Muni in general, Muni management, and transit worker unions.

  11. How about speeding up the F line in order to reduce overcrowding? Does the F need to stop at both Pier 1 and Ferry Plaza? Does it really need to stop in front of the railway museum? Can’t people walk the 500 ft from the Ferry Plaza stop the museum?
    If we turned on SFgo and eliminated these two redundant stops, we might be able to get better speed, therefore greater frequency and have less overcrowding. This applies to all buses in SF but especially to the excruciatingly slow turn from Embarcadero to Market on the F.

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