SAN FRANCISCO (CBS 5) — Street sellers run a brisk business at commuter hubs all over San Francisco, a black market that sells Muni tickets for half the regular $2 fare.

The busiest hotspot: 16th and Mission streets, where from morning to night, 7 days a week, you can buy as many as you want.

This is how it’s supposed to work: Passengers get on a bus, pay $2 and the bus driver will tear off a dated transfer ticket. The transfers are only good for an hour and a half. But the illegal ones sold on the street are whole, so passengers can ride the bus all day long for a dollar.

The sellers are more than happy to show how to trick the bus driver into not noticing, showing our hidden cameras how to fold the tickets as if they were torn off a book.

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And just in case a Muni inspector or cop comes on the bus one illegal street seller told CBS 5, “You have to go a little bit in the back, and when you see the people coming in just cut it.”

Where do the tickets come from? CBS 5 wanted to ask some of the street sellers, but they wouldn’t talk to us.

In the past, it’s been an inside job: A police sting last summer led to the arrest of a Muni mechanic Edmund King. He claims he got the tickets from the garbage, but Muni said he obtained them by virtue of his employment, and made tens of thousands of dollars selling them.

“One of the officers spotted him with these late night transfers that he had, folded into a newspaper,” said Lt. Troy Dangerfield, a spokesperson for the San Francisco Police Department.

Despite last year’s arrest, Dangerfield said the problem is still rampant. “This has been going on unfortunately for years,” he said.

CBS 5 showed Dangerfield the tickets we got. He said some are real, while others may be counterfeit, such as two we got with the same serial number. He said it was possible that some are being stolen, then copied.

What is Muni doing about it? “We are trying to crack down on it as much as possible,” said Paul Rose, spokesperson for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. But he admits the weekly losses run into the thousands of dollars.

Rose said Muni pays the police department $12 million a year to patrol hotspots and do sting operations, and it paid off with the arrests last year. But CBS 5 found the sales this year are still going strong.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

Comments (26)
  1. LoveSF415 says:

    I remember this going on, when I lived in the area of 18th & Mission. Sellers would chant, “Late nite, late nite! “, and were quite blatant about it, near 16th and 24th & Mission. And this was in 1985!

  2. scarlet says:

    the tickets do pose a huge loss.. but what about the people who sneak on or don’t bother to pay the bus driver, and the bus drivers are too timid to ask for a fare or regulate the passengers on the bus. You should do a follow up lots of people would be interested.

  3. Harrison says:

    Sounds like a job for Columbo!

  4. jack says:

    DA office and SFPD is resposible along with muni,and somebody should lose his job for not doing it right on the tax payers money.

  5. Imus says:

    Interesting to note that Edmund King who was arrested last year selling these tickets wasn’t even fired by Muni but asked to resign because the union stepped in so he could collect his pension according to Muni spokesperson Lemisha Jackson. Talk about tax-payer theft.

  6. jUn says:

    Those fake tickets are probably news, but the rest of this is not. The selling of transfers has been going on for years and it’s partly MUNI’s fault for not creating a better transfer ticket. Part of the solution is go eliminate transfers and have everyone use the Clipper card. The only people that’s really paying cash are tourist anyway.

  7. Sofa Kingdom says:

    Just make it illegal to BUY too, and have officers pretend to sell.

  8. bassackwards says:

    the real shocker is that Muni pays $12 MiLLION Dollars a Year!! No way it costs them close to that by these petty criminals

  9. jgirl says:

    Coincidently today I witnessed a latino dude grab a book of transfers from an open and unmanned muni car and run off down the street. Not such a good idea to leave transfers in an open car???

  10. axeandsmash says:

    I cannot beveve MUNI is accually turning a profit. Its all lies. With all of the illegal transfers being sold and people still entering muni buses exits for free. It cannot be true. Muni owes it to its passangers to maximum enforce paid ridership.
    two things need changeing, first eliminate “paper” transfers, too easly copied or can be stolen in bulk. AC had to eliminate the old school paper transfers to get its fairs. Now the magnetic type paper ticket is very hard to defeat. Second put the public to work. with employment down Muni can be in a good light. Muni can hire 1 person for every exit door they have. to maximum enforce paid entry.
    pay this person a decent wage ( not as much as operators ) and give them health + retirement benifits. they will stand at the doors blocking entry till faire is paid or authenticated. just my $2.00.

  11. Robert says:

    Usually when MUNI is cracking down on this kind of petty theft, it is because someone at the top feels guilty for ripping off huge amounts of money.

  12. Not1tojudge says:

    Wow and this has been going on for years??? Why blame anyone, just fix the problem

  13. jayjay says:

    OMG!!!!!!!! is is a job for the A-TEAM

  14. Jethro Mayham says:

    People have been entering the bus illegally for decades and not years. Kids and truants probably started first but with hard times, the adults followed.

    Why not lower the fares so more people will ride the bus. They s/b allowed to even ride on the roof.

  15. admirer says:

    troy dangerfield is the most awesome name for a lieutenant ever. he doesn’t even have to be a police lieutenant. army lieutenant, cartoon mountie lieutenant…the only other career really open to this man is that of ’40’s pulp/noir fiction author, or perhaps some sort of WWF announcer. thank you, troy dangerfield, for NOT travelling back to the mid-20th century and causing some sort of temporal rift, but instead taking on the job of serving and protecting san francisco. this comment is INCREDIBLY germane to the article above.

  16. sfcare says:

    cbs asked street sellers where the ticks came from? would not talk to them? really? who wrote this?

  17. Barbie Chang says:

    I’ve seen Transfer Tickets taken from Muni cars and the drivers can’t stop a running passenger. Also, some have been sold from drivers directly, they get paid cash and then leave the Muni car unlocked or unattended. This has been going on for over 20 YEARS! The audit and accounting depts within Muni and the City of SF are old and very outdated. Those depts have the power to report the “Root Cause”, but don’t want to shake up the “Union brotherhood”!!!

    $12 million a year in SF Police costs and what is the ROI? I’ll bet not even ONE MILLION, that’s bad Management! This is another reason that Muni Management should be fired or at least put on probation. NO employee working in a public company would get away with this lack of job performance and accountability for so many years…right???

    1. SFOMARCO says:

      Yes, it was ~20 years ago when my bus pulled up to a stop where a MUNI dispatcher was with a bunch of guys who were complaining about being kicked off the previous bus. The dispatcher told the driver of my bus to let them on. They sat in the back of the bus and passed around a pad of transfers!

  18. SF Guy says:

    Move to all electronic – stop printing paper that litters our streets! That will fix it

  19. Steve says:

    Why not just dump these transfer things all together? It is essentially giving away “free ride” anyways

  20. soupdeldia says:

    I’ve been offered transfers on multiple occasions at 16th and Mission. Where are the fare inspectors? They ought to be out there writing tickets. Instead they ride the “safe” lines: the J Church, N Judah, and hassle working people on their way to the office in the morning.

    This could be fixed in a number of ways, increased enforcement, or electronic tickets like the ones that AC Transit started using a few years ago. If MUNI and the CIty choose not to actually address the problem, I can’t have much sympathy for either, at all.

  21. gen hop says:

    As of today (4-9-2012) this criminal activity is still going strong at 16th & Mission Streets. Either the police are inept, indifferent, or in on it. One cannot walk past the corner of 16th & Mission without someone yelling “tickets.”