Caltrain CAC votes to support integrated fares

by Davis Turner

On Wednesday, December 15th, the Caltrain Citizens’ Advisory Committee voted unanimously to endorse the regional Fare Policy Vision which will be coming for approval to the Caltrain board this coming Spring – including urging swift action on standardizing regional fares.

The CAC voted for a resolution to “endorse the Fare Policy Vision” with the recommendations of the region’s Fare Coordination and Integration Study, and to “support the implementation of its Phase A and B recommendations (all-agency institutional pass pilot in 2022; free/reduced cost transfers and all-agency public pass in 2023).”  

The regional fare study recommendation to standardize the fares of regional services, including Caltrain, BART, express buses and ferries, was included in Fare Policy Vision, but without any timeline. The CAC voted to “strongly support the Phase C recommendation of standardizing regional fares, and propose that it be implemented as soon as feasible (before 2024).”

The reasons that standardizing regional fares were further behind in the fare study’s recommendations, despite strong benefits including adding about 70,000 daily transit riders, include the need for funding, and the need to work out the specific details to standardize the regional fares. 

To accelerate the progress of standardizing the regional fares, CAC’s resolution urged the Caltrain board to direct staff to proactively collaborate with MTC and other transit agencies in implementation and pursuit of funding.

The Caltrain CAC was previously presented with the fare integration study results at the November meeting, and at that time assigned a subcommittee to draft a resolution.

CAC member David Tuzman read the resolution of endorsement to the Committee, and two public comments were given speaking in favor of endorsement. The speakers spoke about ridership benefits, the potential for improved equity outcomes, and the precedent such an endorsement would set. 

Caltrain endorsement of the FCIS recommendations is key considering they are one of largest two big regional systems that use a fare system based distance (Caltrain’s zone-based system is based on distance with larger stepwise increments.) 

The projected ridership increases from standardizing regional fares have the potential to help Caltrain and BART replace ridership hard hit by the pandemic and changing travel patterns. The actions of WETA, the ferry agency, to make its fares similar to other transit options have already resulted in growth and diversification of ferry ridership.

All 27 Bay Area transit agencies will need to vote to approve the Fare Policy Vision in the first half of 2022 order for the region to take the first steps toward integrated fares.