Caltrain’s board approved increasing the discount available to riders who qualify for the regional means-based fare pilot program from 20% to 50% off single-ride adult Clipper fares. The program, now known as Clipper START, and administered by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), will allow eligible low-income transit riders to access the discount using a Clipper card.

In February 2019, the Caltrain Board adopted a resolution of support for Caltrain’s participation in the regional means-based fare pilot program by offering a discount of 20% on single-ride adult Clipper fares for qualified riders. In September 2019, the Caltrain Board adopted a Fare Structure that included this discount for eligible participants in the Clipper START program.

However, the economic impacts resulting from the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic have made it more challenging for lower income, transit dependent riders. Offering a deeper discount of 50% will help preserve Caltrain as a relevant, accessible, and affordable option for more riders as the region struggles to recover. The decision follows the agency’s postponement of a fare increase that was planned to go into effect in April.

“With so many people facing serious economic hardships in light of the coronavirus pandemic, now is the perfect time to provide a 50 percent discount to low income residents that rely on transit,” said Caltrain Board Chair and San Mateo County Supervisor Dave Pine. “Not only can we help existing riders, many of whom are providing essential services, but we also hope to attract new riders at a time when Caltrain is experiencing sharp ridership losses with most office workers continuing to work from home.”

One of the goals of the Caltrain Fare Policy, adopted by the Caltrain Board in 2018, is to “advocate for and participate in state and regional programs that make it more affordable for low-income customers to use transit.”

The regional pilot program will run for 12 to 18 months and is expected to launch over the summer. Adults that earn less than 200% of the Federal Poverty Level will be eligible for pilot program. Other regional transit operators participating in the Clipper START pilot program include the Bay Area Rapid Transit District; Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District for both its bus and ferry services; and San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency.