S.F. cable cars may go cashless after embezzlement arrests

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation may stop accepting cash payment for fares for the city’s iconic cable cars after another operator has been caught pocketing cash from riders.

In the past two weeks cable car operators David Reyes and Albert Williams have been arrested under suspicion of stealing cash fares. Both operators had consistently turned in low amounts of cash compared to other employees.

Those violations have sped up plans by the SFMTA to look at cashless fares on the cable cars.

“You can pretty much do anything without cash in this day and age, and it is something we are looking at,” Muni’s director of transit, John Haley told the San Francisco Chronicle.“We will go through the analysis very soon about how best to do that and still provide convenience to tourists.”

The problem is balancing concerns about embezzlement with ease of use for the tourists who ride the cars as part of the quintessential San Francisco experience. The SFMTA makes around $30 million from operating the cars, especially since fares have risen to $7 currently for a one-way trip.

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Haley told the Chronicle that the first step in eliminating cash fares would be to expand the hours at booths where riders can prepay, as well as starting to put fare machines along the lines and allowing vendors at certain locations to also sell tickets.

According to law enforcement officials both Williams and Reyes came up with schemes to avoid being caught pocketing fares, including not handing out fare receipts, which were the way the transportation agency kept track of cash fares.

A search of Williams’ home after his arrest found $32,000 in cash in a safe along with packed luggage.

“It is our understanding that these were the only two operators under investigation,” SFMTA spokesperson Paul Rose told the San Francisco Examiner.

“The vast majority of the men and women of the Cable Car Division are hard-working, honest and exceptional at what they do.”