Think Before You Speak

Something my mom told me repeatedly while I was growing up, something I’ve never really internalized, and something I wish the Mayor would start doing. I like the guy, but he keeps saying things that paint him in a less than flattering light.

Like take his latest accusations, for instance: Cable Car riders are being routinely ripped off.

On what grounds does he base this assertion? He’s been on 3 rides and received no required receipt. And he’s seen conductors collect 5 or 6 fares on crowded cars and never give receipts for them either:

“I am convinced, based on my own personal experience, (the money) is not going to Muni, but it’s going in the pockets of some of our well-meaning operators,” Newsom said.

Okay, seriously, you can’t call a bunch of operators theives and then call them “well-meaning” in the same sentence. If they are stealing, how could that ever be well-meaning unless he later uncovers that the conductors were pocketing the fares to pay for Conductor John Doe’s kid’s new lung or something. I know leaders have to couch terms frequently, but this is a little ridiculous.

Conductors are understandably miffed.

And let’s think this through: yes, it is true that of any Muni conveyance, cable cars are the one thing where an operator could pocket the fare. Then again, how many Muni riders pocket their own fares by just stiffing the city on rail lines? (two wrongs don’t make a right, but still.) And then there are the practical realities of cable car ridership. If you have a fast pass, you don’t need to pay and you have your fare proof. For everyone else, there’s no transfers, there’s little chance they’ll escape the watchful eye of the conductor operating such a small car, and the sheer mass of people makes it harder to get to everyone with the stupid scraps of paper.

It is true that the fares slips are the only way to guarantee an operator is NOT pocketing the fare, but unelss there are more indications than a few lax conductors failing to give out paper receipts, it seems like Newsom is picking a fight with people he should probably be nicer too. Or at least he should’ve presented more evidence than a few personal observations.

And speaking of personal observations: don’t you think if a conductor were in the habit of stealing fares, he wouldn’t likely steal THE MAYOR’S FARE right in front of him?

I don’t get it, Gavin, you’re smarter than this.

1 Comment so far

  1. Chester (unregistered) on January 20th, 2006 @ 9:55 am

    I agree that it’s a dumb thing to say when one’s only “proof” is anecdotal and, furthermore, conjectural.

    That said, he’s probably right. If there’s systematic failure to provide oversight of such things, the system will be cheated. Even when there is systematic oversight, people find ways to cheat the system when there is a financial incentive to do so, and unless Muni only hires the most honest people on earth to conduct the cable cars, there’s going to be skimming going on.

    Failure to hand out receipts isn’t proof of theft in and of itself, but it’s proof of the ease by which theft could be conducted, and in this unfortunate real world, that pretty much proves that theft is going on within the system.

    But, yeah, it was dumb for Newsom to cast such a wide net of suspicion without conclusive, targeted proof.



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