San Francisco controller recommends cash-free cable cars

- Muni’s cable car cash-fare system makes it easy for operators to commit fraud: That's the finding of an audit from the controller’s office that was just released. The auditors are recommending  going to a cash-free fare system for people riding the cable cars.

Muni says going to a cash-free system would be a burden on the many tourists who ride the cable cars.
But according to an audit from the San Francisco Controller’s Office released on Tuesday, the current fare collection system on the cable cars costs Muni lots of money.

The controller’s office did an audit last year  and found that cable car operators weren't collecting fares from everyone who rode those cars.

As part of the audit, undercover auditors rode the cable cars 30 times and were only asked to pay their fare about half of the time.

KTVU talked to a cable car operator Tuesday morning. He wanted to remain anonymous but he said when the cable cars are packed with people. It can be tough to get to everyone who hops on board and collect a fare.

“You're not gonna get everybody,” he said. “There are some people who know how to get on and get off before you get to them. You have to be safe first...You're gonna miss some.”

The audit also found the cash fare system on the cable cars makes it vulnerable to fraud and theft.  Earlier this year,  two cable car operators were charged with embezzlement. They’re accused of pocketing some of the money from passengers who paid for their fares in cash and are due in court later this month. The audit recommends Muni's cable cars switch to a cash-free system. Or, if that's not possible, install fare boxes and require passengers to pass through them.

Muni officials, however, have said a fare box wouldn't work because of the way cable cars are designed.

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