SFMTA considers canning cable car cash fares

San Francisco transit officials are seeking solutions to eventually go cashless on the cable car system following last week’s arrest of a cable car operator suspected of pocketing fares from passengers.

Albert Williams, 61, was arrested last Wednesday and charged with felony misappropriation of public money and embezzlement. Williams made his first court appearance last Thursday in  San Francisco Superior Court where he pleaded not guilty to the charges.

The SFMTA’s Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin said in a statement that the transit agency is looking at long-term solutions to avoid this incident happening again:

“Going forward we will immediately enhance management and oversight of our cash fare transactions and will explore long-term options such as eventually removing cash as an on-board payment option for our cable car system.”

In his statement, Reiskin did not mention a timeframe on when the cable car system would go completely cashless.

Right now, the transit agency does offer cashless payment options to pay for cable car rides such as paying using a Clipper card and using the Muni Mobile app, said SFMTA spokesperson Erica Kato:

“However, because a large amount of cable car riders are tourists, these aren’t always the most convenient options.”

The current fare for a single-ride cable car ticket is $7.

Cable car conductors, who stand in the rear of the cable car, collect the cash fares from passengers. The cash is either secured inside a conductor’s vest or waist fanny pack, said Kato.

Conductors then issue a tear-off receipt with a serial number to the cash-paying passenger with the date and serial number.

Kato said at the end of the conductor’s shift:

“…the money and tickets sold are matched up and turned into the revenue receiver who then verifies that the tickets and cash are all accounted for.”

John Haley, SFMTA director of transit, told ABC7 News that one of the ways Williams pocketed the fares was not handing out receipts to passengers who paid with cash.

Kato said the transit agency is working on a number of ways to have cable car passengers pay ahead of time including adding ticket vending machines at each cable car turnaround and working with vendors to sell cable car tickets ahead of time.

The transit agency also recently increased the hours of ticket kiosk booths at the three cable car turnaround locations. Transit officials are also looking at ways to get passengers to start using Clipper and the Muni Mobile app to pay for fares:

“We are looking forward to finding a solution that works best for our riders of the iconic cable car system.”


Bay City News contributed information to this report.