|Coolidge Corner on the "C" line (source)|
|Monthly pass-holders boarding the rear doors (source)|
The problem is that when people's emotions run high on an issue of "fairness" they neglect to consider such bloodless items as cost/benefits analysis. Seeking 100% enforcement of fares is insane and a negative value proposition in any realistic scenario. The proper way to do this is to choose fares, evasion penalties, and collection mechanisms to maximize expected value based upon practical experience, and to accept that no system is perfect. The marginal cost of a single fare evader is extremely low because the operational costs are fixed -- the trains are going to run regardless of whether that one person is riding it. If allowing the fare evader takes a car off the roads, that would be a net benefit. But almost none of this is ever considered when people get upset about fare evasion, and it turns into a political circus instead.
|Waiting for the SF Muni N (Judah) in mixed-traffic (source)|
- Operator is not stressed by responsibility of collecting fares.
- All doors boarding -- much faster.
- Single operator per train is a major cost saving measure.
- Transfer system is simple and easy to understand.
- Easy to tweak: if fare evasion is too high, then increase patrols and/or increase fines. If fare evasion is low, then cut back and save money.
- Might be confusing to newbies (good signs are crucial).
- Requires occasional patrolling fare enforcement officer (already exists, though).
- Penalties must be stiff, which may be politically difficult.
- Relies on expected-value to recoup costs. The probability of getting caught may be low, but the fines should be set to recover that value. However, this tends to trigger a psychological backlash in the people who do get caught (the "why me?" effect).
One thing everyone agrees about: the "B" and "C" lines are too sluggish and must be improved operationally, somehow. Following the advice of "Organization before electronics before concrete" it seems that the simplest thing to do is to open all the doors at every station stop. Whether this would result in too much fare evasion is a matter of contention that unfortunately becomes more emotional than economic. But I believe that Proof-of-Payment is a mature and reasonable fare collection strategy that has significantly lower implementation costs than fare-gates, and is easily suitable for medium-traffic transit such as the Green Line.