The Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District (District) Board of Directors voted unanimously to establish a means-based fare program that would provide a fare discount for low-income riders on Golden Gate Transit regional bus routes and regular (non-special event) Golden Gate Ferry service. The means-based fare program is expected to begin in early 2020. The discounted fares will only be available to eligible passengers through the Clipper Card program.
“Transit affordability is a major challenge for Bay Area residents, especially for those with long regional commutes to and from work,” said Ron Downing, Planning Director for the District. “We’re pleased to be able to offer even more affordable transit options for people most impacted by the rising costs of getting around the Bay Area.”
In May 2018, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) approved implementation of a pilot Regional Means-Based Fare Program as a way to provide greater mobility options for low-income people on participating transit systems in the Bay Area. People with income below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level (approximately $70,000 per year for a family of four in the Bay Area) will be eligible, and the pilot program will have a duration of 12 to 18 months, depending on how quickly the available MTC funds (which partially offset the cost of the pilot program) are expended.
Participating agencies were allowed to choose between a 20% or 50% discount from their currently available adult cash fares. The District opted to provide a 50% fare discount, which aligns with the 50% discount currently offered to seniors, persons with disabilities and youth customers, regardless of income.
District staff conducted extensive public outreach prior to the Board’s adoption of the program. These activities included a public hearing on August 22, public signage and posters across District buses and ferries, print and social media advertising, and emails to transit customers. In all, the District received 18 comments on the proposal, the majority in favor of adopting the means-based fare program.
The extent of annual impact is estimated by MTC to be approximately between $500,000 and $1,000,000 per year for the District’s bus and ferry services. Of this amount, regional funding of between $300,000 and $500,000 would be available to offset a portion of the lost revenue. These amounts are solely estimates and are dependent on actual participation rates by the District’s low-income customers. The offset funds are currently programmed by MTC from SB-1 funds, the statewide gas tax.