Proof of fare? Who cares.

An argument Wired is making in a piece using Muni data as evidence says that ignoring fare evaders on public transit is a virtue. Frankly, it's a virtue that Muni upholds most of the time, but the perhaps provocative conclusion the magazine's piece draws is that allowing scofflaws to just board and get on with it has fewer drawbacks than you, or even Muni, might expect.

Muni was one "of the most the recent to fling open the fare gates and make the switch to all-door boarding," they write, which allows for much faster transit overall, even though it means it's harder to ensure everyone has paid their fare. That change to all-door boarding was made in '90s for Muni lightrail and not until this decade for Muni buses with the advent of back door Clipper card readers.

The results:

In tourist-heavy areas, the system’s bus and streetcar dwell times per stop dropped 13 percent. Before, each person getting on or off needed 6.8 seconds. Now, they take 3. 5 seconds. Multiply those moments of savings by every rider boarding and alighting at every stop on every bus line, and you’ve got hundreds of hours of extra time per year. All from opening up the back doors.

That's in keeping with the city of Oslo's experience, Wired claims, their other chief example. That system cut its fare evasion rates in half by making it easier for rider to pay fares on their phones.

But for all of this to work, it seems, not everyone can simply abandon paying their share. “Essentially what we were trying to do is keep the honest folks honest,” Muni's Julie Kirschbaum said. That sure isn't everyone, but fare evasion did reportedly drop from about 10 percent in 2008 to 7.9 percent in 2014, an overall loss in fare revenue that declined from $19.2 million to $17.1 million. As that tracks with the opening of Muni's back door, it bolsters the argument. It's all well and good, but try making these points to a fare checker..

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