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March 19, 2013 > AC Transit considers new fares, broader services

AC Transit considers new fares, broader services

Directors explore lower fares/more Transbay and other service

Submitted By Clarence Johnson

The Board of Directors of the Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District (AC Transit) is considering service design and fare strategies that would expand service options, reduce the cost of bus rides while expanding the number and availability of fare payment choices for passengers.

The service strategies were part of a package of proposals, including a Comprehensive Operations Analysis (COA) that was presented to the Board at a well-attended public forum the week beginning March 11, 2013. The COA recommended AC Transit focus its routes in key 'trunk' corridors with the greatest potential for increasing ridership and reducing congestion.

Another service alternative is augmentation of Transbay service to San Francisco with an additional route along Oakland's Fruitvale Avenue. The added Transbay service was in response to the capacity problems being experienced on BART's transbay trains, which have been operating at standing-room-only capacity.

The AC Transit Board of Directors also reviewed new fare strategies recommended by the staff which could increase ridership and revenue through the introduction of new fare products with accompanying roll backs in the base cash fare and the price of the agency's monthly pass. Staff also recommended the elimination of paper transfers issued from the fare-box and only allowing transfers on passes and the Clipper Card.

AC Transit is in the third year of a 10-year fare policy that will automatically increase fares by 15 cents on July 1, 2013, taking basic fares from $2.10 to $2.25. Staff proposed four alternatives: 1) Lower the basic fare to $2, which would retain the loyalty of existing riders and increase ridership; 2) Eliminate paper transfers, which are abused and the source of operator/rider conflicts; 3) Introduce a Day Pass and a 7-Day Pass, reasonably priced and available primarily on Clipper Cards; and 4) Expand the number of Clipper Card sales locations, making the card more accessible particularly in low-income areas.

The new fare strategies have the additional benefit of reducing bus dwell times at bus stops by minimizing the use of cash and paper transfers to board buses. That, in turn, could make service more reliable, potentially luring more riders and subsequently increase fare-box revenue.

"I am glad we are now taking a long-term view of this because sometimes a 15 percent increase in fares does not mean a 15 percent increase in revenue," said Board President Greg Harper.

While intrigued, Harper and other board members said more information about possible funding and fiscal impacts is needed before taking action on any of the staff recommendations.

In April 2013, staff will provide the Board a more definitive plan for the revisions to the fare policy, and a public comment period will be established for riders and others to voice concerns about any potential changes.

For more about AC Transit, visit www.ACTransit.org.

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