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.


About Rakesh Agrawal

Rakesh Agrawal is Senior Director of product at Amazon (Audible). Previously, he launched local and mobile products for Microsoft and AOL. He 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.

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