March 19, 2013

AC Transit considers reducing fares, expanding service

Oakland, Calif.-based AC Transit is considering a plan to expand service options, reduce the cost of bus rides and increase the number and availability of fare payment choices for passengers.

The service strategies are part of a package — known as the Inner East Bay Comprehensive Operations Analysis (COA) — presented to the AC Transit board at its meeting on March 13. 

The COA recommended that AC Transit focus its service in key "trunk" corridors with the greatest potential for increasing ridership and reducing congestion. Also discussed was augmenting transbay service to San Francisco, possibly including an additional route along Oakland’s Fruitvale Avenue. The added transbay service would help respond to overcrowding 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 that 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 further recommended the elimination of transfers and the introduction of an unlimited-use day pass.

AC Transit is in the third year of a 10-year fare change schedule that would automatically increase fares by 15 cents on July 1, taking basic fares from $2.10 to $2.25. Staff is proposing that AC Transit:

  • Suspend the fare increase scheduled for July 1.
  • Lower the basic fare to $2, which would retain the loyalty of existing riders and increase ridership.
  • Eliminate transfers, both mag-strip and on Clipper, and move to pay-per-boarding. 
  • Introduce a Day Pass, reasonably priced and available on-board and on Clipper.
  • Expand the number of Clipper sales locations, making the card and loading value more accessible throughout the service area.

The new fare strategies have the additional objectives of reducing bus dwell time at bus stops by minimizing the use of cash and transfers. That, in turn, could make service more reliable, potentially luring more riders and subsequently increase farebox revenue.

In April, staff will provide the board a more definitive proposal for the revisions to the fare policy changes, and a schedule for a public hearing so riders and others can voice their concerns.  

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