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Lower Bus Fares? Why One Public System is Considering It

By: Isabel Angell


This post also appears on Transportation Nation

Typically transit agencies raise prices as time goes by, not lower them. But AC Transit, the bus system that services Alameda and Contra Costa County in the East Bay Area, has canceled its fare increase scheduled for July. And it might even get cheaper to ride the bus.

The increase would have raised the fare for one ride from $2.10 to $2.25. AC Transit’s board of directors passed the scheduled increase two years ago, when the agency was facing serious budget shortfalls. But the bus system has bounced back. A better economy and increased ridership have given AC Transit some cushion, and even without the increase the agency predicts a 3 percent rise in revenue for the next fiscal year.

The agency projected raising fares would reduce ridership by about 3.5 percent. With the new, rosy fiscal outlook, the added revenue would not be worth the long term impact of a ridership drop.

Carrying that logic a step further, the transit company is considering going even further and lowering fares. In a meeting last week, the Board of Directors decided to look into a 10 cent decrease, making the base fare $2.00. That would match the average cost of a trip on the West Coast’s larger transit systems.

The agency will also look into other cost-saving alternatives, like getting rid of paper transfers in favor of day passes. AC Transit says abuses of paper transfers, like re-using or selling them, are a source of lost revenue. Other proposals include increasing the automated transit pass Clipper Card network and reducing the cost of a monthly pass.

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