MTC approves means-based fare pilot with direction to explore seamless fares

This morning, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission unanimously approved a pilot program for means-based transit fares. Commissioners also set direction for staff to come back with report on potential for integrated fares under Clipper 2.0 (led by Commissioners Josefowitz and Connolly) and to pursue funding sources to be able to maintain and expand the program without negatively impacting transit agecy budgets (requested by Commissioners Liccardo and Bruins, both leaders on the VTA board facing financial challenges).

This pilot – with four operators (Caltrain, BART, Muni, Golden Gate) and a 20% discount – is a modest but important first step toward a transit system which could be more equitable for low-income travellers and much more conveniently integrated for all.

The decision was supported in public comment by Caltrain operations exec Carter Mao, who mentioned the board’s concern that Caltrain fares exclude low-income riders; as well as speakers from SPUR, San Francisco Transit Riders, East Bay For Everyone, and Friends of Caltrain/Seamless Bay Area (your blogger).

The set of organizations supporting the pilot program – as a first step toward a more regional, more equitable, and more coordinated system – had expanded with a joint letter signed by numerous groups, including, notably, innovative transportation management associations including Hacienda (a large office park and mixed-use community in Pleasanton), and Palo Alto Transportation Management Association, whose mission is to reduce solo driving, which is particularly challenging for low-income commuters who historically don’t receive the transportation benefits available to higher-income workers and larger employers; and for commuters and institutional customers that use multiple transit services.

The City of San Jose also supported the calls to kick-start the pilot and move toward seamless fares, citying the city’s ambitious goal of a fivefold increase in transit ridership for commuters, and equitable access to economic opportunities

To accomplish the massive increase in transit ridership and support General Plan equity goals of the regional fare systems needs to improve. This includes supporting the economically disadvantaged and creating an easy to use, single regional fare system. The City of San Jose supports the Proposed “Launch and Grow” Means-based Fare Discount Program as a first step in creating a functional, equitable, regional fare system.

The decision to pursue a pilot is just a first step. Staff will be coming back to present on the implementation of the pilot, and the potential for integrated fares – so there will be more opportunities soon to continue to support equitable access to transportation and seamless fares.

Thanks to everyone who has written and spoken in support over time. We’ll keep you posted on next steps.