Standard assortment of randoms getting on and off. Dude wearing a cowboy hat, carrying a trash bag, gets on, walks to the back door, sits down.
Driver turns and says, in a loud and authoritative voice: "Pay the fare or show a pass."
Cowboy hat ignores.
Driver exclaims "Sorry folks, but this train ain't moving until everyone has paid the fare or showed a valid transfer or pass."
Cowboy hat is a rock, immobile.
Grumbles and murmurs. Driver repeats, several times.
A girl goes to give the driver the fare for cowboy hat. Driver refuses to accept, and passenger behind driver scolds her "Don't encourage unlawful behavior!"
I shout to the driver "Call the cops, I wanna go home."
Driver repeats himself.
Finally, cowboy hat walks slowly to the driver, pulls two dollars out of his pocket, and pays the fare.
And the train moves on.
Before I exited, I thanked the driver.
Driver said there are nine other drivers who have agreed to not move their trains until all passengers have paid.
I was incredulous.
His answer seems to imply that SF Metro Transit Authority policy is to allow people who don't pay to ride for free.
This was certainly the first time I've ever seen a driver enforcing payment. And the fact that the driver said there are only ten of them seems to imply that all the other (hundreds?) of drivers do NOT enforce fairs.
I have occasionally seen fare enforcers on trains and in stations, and I have even seem them, once, remove a belligerent homeless guy from a train after he couldn't pay.
But the standard practice seems to be: quite a few people just get on the train or bus, without paying.
(Different but related, quite a few people ride trains and buses with pets that are clearly NOT assistance animals. Again, the point is: drivers don't enforce.)
What's the connection? Whilst I am the first person to admit that correlation does not equal causation, let's connect the dots.
SF has great weather; it is rarely too hot nor too cold, and whilst there is the beloved Kyle the Fog, it doesn't actually rain that much.
No tornadoes, no hurricanes, sometimes windy and generally quite nice.
The city is also quite "tolerant". The manifestation of this anthropomorphism is: the police do not stop people from pan-handling or street peddling. Tourists provide pan-handlers with plenty of ready cash. Public transportation rarely enforces fares. Private businesses won't (or can't?) stop people from loitering and sleeping on their property. A number of charities and social organizations provide homeless people with food, clothing, medical care, and other critical support.
Clearly, SF is a desirable city. More people want to live here than the city can house.
There is a massive shortage of affordable single and two-bedroom rentals, and an overpriced market in $1 million+ range of single-family homes.
Thanks to a perfect storm of NIMBY, zoning regulations, and various laws (mainly property tax), it is entirely unrealistic to expect any significant increase in the building of new rentals, nor in the conversion of five-bedroom single-family houses into multiple smaller rental units.
And yet, the city wants it both ways.
There isn't enough housing for people earning a decent salary, let alone places to temporarily board the homeless whilst supporting their transition to self-reliant citizen.
I'm not saying that homelessness should be criminalized. But everything has a cost. Train and bus service in SF is far (FAR) from perfect. Carrying riders who do not pay has a real cost. If SF wants to allow people who earn below a minimum yearly income to ride for free, there should be a budget for low-income free passes. And it should be supported by taxes. Or higher fares. Because if the people of SF think homeless people should ride for free, then those who DON'T ride for free need to pay for those who do.
Similarly, it is massively disingenuous to welcome people into SF and allow (encourage?) them to sleep on the street, but not provide at least public bathrooms, let alone support programs to actually help get people off the streets, into affordable housing a living-wage jobs.
Great weather, tolerant society, open arms welcoming street living...and not anywhere near enough public bathrooms.
And that is why SF smells like urine.