When I get busy, I often forget to go to Safeway and buy a MUNI pass within the 3 day grace period. Inevitably, this means that virtually any retailer near me is sold out, and I end up having to go to the MTA’s office on a weekday to pick one up.
After talking to a variety of retailers, I’ve discovered that many of them, in particular small businesses such as corner stores, find the process by which MUNI administers FastPass sales a real hassle. None of them make any profit off of it, and it seems like every month more are scaling back, offering only disabled or senior passes.
Now, let’s toss in that old chestnut that MUNI and the City plead whenever talking all things transit, the “no money need money” plea, and think for a moment – could it be possible to kill two birds with one stone?
MUNI’s boss, Nathaniel Ford, has talked in the past about increasing the number of ticket machines around the City to better collect fares and speed up bus and train boarding. However, I wonder if perhaps we couldn’t take this a step further, and offer MUNI passes with the swipe of a credit card, anywhere in the City?
When I attended Comic-Con in San Diego, I remember how convenient it was to get a multi-day pass – even though we’d arrived sometime after 8pm.
We simply went to the machine, told it what we wanted, put in our money, and that was it – 4 day pass, printed out and ready to go. No line, no humans, no hassle – we just picked them up and went on our way.
I am sure there’d be all sorts of hackles about building such machines, some old saw about “costs bla bla bla no money no money” but I’ve gotta believe that if MUNI could sell more monthly passes, more efficiently, which would be a good thing in the end.
Plus, MUNI would no longer have to print different colored passes each month and risk ending up with unsold inventory – the machines would clearly print and encode a pass on the spot for whatever someone wanted.
This is all theoretical and I’m sure the folks in charge have a million reasons not to do so because of some Big Reason. It seems to me if you find a better way to collect the money you’re owed, and make it easier for all involved, you go a long way towards avoiding total dependence on a flaky state and federal government whose people reliably cut mass transit funds every year.
Photo Credit. Flickr User “Tostie14”. Note: It is an older photo but it was clearer than the one I took with my cell phone.