Muni Fare Increase Induces Social Strike
Students mobilize to reverse extra cost
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On Sept. 1 Muni increased its fare from $1.25 to $1.50, prompting student organizers from SF State to come together in an effort to persuade others to take part in a social strike.

Instead of trying to shut the transit system down, organizers say riders can take it over by refusing to pay the new fee.

“The goal is to force a political crisis so that they [Muni officials] have to respond to the people,” said geography major Jason Zimmerman.

Muni spokeswoman Maggie Lynch could not be reached for comment, but recently told the San Francisco Bay Guardian the measures are “about keeping the service going.”

Those not paying “might veil their theft as a transit strike, but it’s stealing,” Lynch said.

Strike organizers said a social strike is a form of protest that will not cause any delay to commuters. Those participating will board buses and trains as usual, but without paying a fare. They might also choose to pay a partial fare or show drivers a “transfer flyer” that reads, “Riders Don’t Pay, Drivers Don’t Collect.”

Zimmerman, who has been organizing the strike at both a city-wide and campus level with the Adventure Club, a newly formed group on campus, noted that the fare strike won’t stop until Muni reverses the fee increase as well as the service cuts and driver layoffs.

The Municipal Transportation Agency, Muni’s oversight commission, approved a series of measures, including fare hikes and service cuts, last March as part of an attempt to alleviate its $57 million deficit. These measures were strongly criticized by transit advocates and community organizations.

The main concern about the fare increase is that with less drivers and buses, riders will end up paying more for less-adequate service, according to the Coalition for Transit Justice.

“Downtown businesses should be responsible in subsidizing Muni for bringing to their steps thousands of employees working for them,” geography major Joshua Alperin said.

History major Dave Carr is also part of the organizing group.
“This is an issue that transcends politics,” Carr said. “People are just saying that they can’t afford another fare increase.”

In 2003 the agency raised its prices from $1 to $1.25, which was the first fare increase in almost a decade.

According to its guidelines, those caught traveling on Muni without a valid proof of payment can be fined $75 to $100.

However, organizers point to Lynch's statement to the Bay Guardian where she said Muni won't be able to increase the presence of fare inspectors to deal with a potential fare strike because of its budget deficit.

Several SF State students who commute by Muni regularly said they will not be affected because they hold the monthly Fast Pass, which will remain $45.

History major Adam Nelson is one of them. Although he does not believe the fare strike will change anything, he agrees with the symbolic aspect of it.

“I would join the fare strike if I had to pay the new fare,” Nelson said.

Liberal studies major Ashley Shaw, who commutes three times a week form Concord, said she will take part in the protest.

“I have to concentrate all my classes in fewer days because I can’t afford to pay so often the $12 it cost me to come to campus,” she said. “SF State should find a way to subsidize public transport for students. It’s about keeping education affordable.”

Environmental studies major Anjali Shrestha said she will not participate because she commutes from Oakland where ACT [Alameda-Contra Costa Transit] already costs $1.50. The Muni fare increase will not mean that much to her, and she does not want to be caught without paying and end up late for class.

Kinesiology major Joe Wong has a different opinion. He admitted he probably will not pay for his Muni fare “more to take advantage of the free ride.”

According to Carr, organizers are optimistic about riders' participation in the strike.

“People will realize that they have the right to livable infrastructures and they can dare to speak out," Carr said.

More Information

Social Strike Legal Team (415) 285-1011


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PHOTO
Jason Fritz | staff photographer
The SF State students are part of a larger grass roots coalition opposed to cutting services and a fare increase. In preparation for the September 1st passenger strike date, the students prepare signs and banners to be placed at locations all around San Francisco to educate riders about the strike's goals and encourage riders and drivers to join the strike.

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