Silicon Valley BART extension offers stealth fare increase for college students, one way transfer discounts

At the November Community Working Group for the BART extension to San Jose, the San Jose State CFO Charlie Faas expressed concern about the effect of an upcoming fare increase that will impact thousands of students when the BART extension to Berryessa finally opens.

Until now, San Jose State students who live in the East Bay and commute by transit have had their transit fares fully covered by the SmartPass (formerly EcoPass). Students who lived in Fremont would need to pay an extra $2.50 for the 181 express bus from the Warm Springs/South Fremont station to near the University.

Once the BART extension to San Jose opens, a student commuting from Fremont will have their bus connection from Berryessa covered on their SmartPass, because the bus from Berryessa will change from a higher-priced express bus to a regularly priced bus. So the student will no longer have to pay the $2.50 VTA surcharge, but will have to pay $3.70 to take BART Berryessa to their home in Fremont, and $6.30 if they are travelling as far as Lake Merritt, Oakland.

Faas noted that half of San Jose State’s 35,000 students take transit on a regular basis, and 13% of the population lives in the East Bay. He expressed concern that facing $7.40 round trip, students would revert to driving, reversing the university’s progress at reducing driving from nearly 60% in 2001 year to nearly 40% today.

Because BART’s budget works differently than VTA’s budget, and BART depends more on fare revenue than VTA, the consequence is a fare increase impacting students, many of whom face housing insecurity and hunger in the Bay Area’s high cost environment.

Hopefully, imbalances such as this will be considered as part of the regional fare integration study that is moving ahead.