How do you pay for a ride on SF Muni with a $20 and a $1?

Coming back from Berlin yesterday, I decided to take public transit. I took BART from SFO to Embarcadero station, where I had to switch to Muni to get home. The fare was $1.25 (after a paper BART to Muni transfer discount) and I had a $20 bill and a $1 bill. I also had about $40 on my BART ticket, but that doesn’t work on Muni. Here are the parameters:

  • There’s a staffed booth, but the staff can’t make change and you can’t just hand them money.
  • You can’t buy a pass with a credit card.
  • The turnstiles take only coins.
  • There’s a change machine that will give you $1 coins for $5 and $10 bills.
  • There’s another machine (marked for BART) that will make change for $20 bills and give you $5 bills.
  • There’s a BART ticket machine that has an option to get change for $1 bills.

It worked out to be a 4-step process using 4 different machines (not counting the machine that issues the BART to Muni transfers):

  1. Put the $20 bill in the BART bill change machine and get 4 $5 bills.
  2. Put the $1 bill in the BART ticket machine to get 4 quarters.
  3. Walk across the hall and put one of the $5 bills into the Muni change machine to get 5 $1 coins. Whoops, it won’t take it. Turns out it doesn’t take the new $5 bills. Fortunately, I had gotten one of the old ones.
  4. Put the $1 coin and a quarter into the turnstile and hand the paper slip to the agent to let me through.

No wonder people hate using public transit.

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About Rakesh Agrawal

Rakesh Agrawal is CEO of redesign | mobile. Previously, he launched local and mobile products for Microsoft and AOL. His personal blog is at http://blog.agrawals.org and tweets at @rakeshlobster.
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6 Responses to How do you pay for a ride on SF Muni with a $20 and a $1?

  1. Pingback: Fixing public transit with mobile technology « reDesign mobile

  2. Mary Willinger says:

    Rocky – you made my day with this story.

  3. Manthan Biyani says:

    whoa!!

    🙂 reminded me of ALL those DI, Quantitative analysis etcetera during the CAT.

    this could well be part of a GMAT GRE paper one day 😉 :-p

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