As noted earlier, VTA is proposing a base fare increase of 25%, from $2.00 to $2.50 over two years, while providing fare relief in several other ways: providing free transfers among VTA bus and light rail trips, increasing its youth discount, and continuing the Transit Assistance Program which provides lifeline transportation for very low income adults not receiving other forms of transportation support.
At the same time, VTA is increasing the price of its EcoPass bulk discount program, serving large employers and institutions, which has been severely underpriced compared to individual fares. Employers purchase EcoPasses for all of their employees (even ones that don’t take transit). The goal is to increase transit use overall by providing the passes.
VTA’s analysis showed that the EcoPasses were generating $.61 per ride on average, compared to $1.50 for other adult fares. In other words, major employers such as Cisco and Adobe have been paying less than 40% the cost of a typical adult rider.
As part of the fare adjustment, VTA is restructuring the EcoPass, with the highest increases targeted at corporate employers. VTA is dividing the fare program into three categories: colleges and universities, non-profit and government institutions; and corporations.
The corporate pass is expected to nearly double in price, from $.96 per ride to $1.91 per boarding. The steeper increase seems fair – major corporations can afford to pay; and by increasing transit use, they save valuable land that is used for car parking. Assuming the revenue per average adult boarding increases 25%, this would bring the corporate EcoPass to approximately farebox neutral — compared to the average adult fare.
We wonder if the average adult fare is the best comparable metric – would an even closer comparable metric be the per-ride return of a monthly pass? (Since if the EcoPass weren’t available, corporations would buy monthly passes instead.) We also wonder about the merits of having lower prices for larger companies, potentially with greater ability to pay. We’ll do some research on the topics.
Overall, though, afarebox neutral EcoPass seems like a better option than eliminating the bulk-discount program entirely; eliminating EcoPass would likely resulting in less transit ridership overall, since giving out the passes to all encourages more commuters to try transit.