BART to offer discounts to loyal commuters 

Transit system will provide savings to passengers who purchase high-value passes

Bay Area Rapid Transit wants to reward regular riders for their loyalty by offering prepaid tickets at a discounted rate.

According to a memo circulated among BART board of directors, the agency wants to try a pilot program in which riders would prepay with credit cards for high-value tickets at a discounted rate.

The rates would be similar to BART’s discounts of 6.25 percent for riders who buy high-value tickets, starting at $48. Of the 332,000 daily riders, only 8 percent are consistent daily commuters who travel Monday through Friday, according to BART spokesman Linton Johnson. The remainder are part-time riders who use the system with no particular pattern.

At a Sept. 28 meeting, the board of directors discussed having 250 customers try the system for about a six-month trial period, according to the memo. If successful and popular, BART would expand the program.

The system would be used until TransLink, a regional fare-collection system that provides a single smart card to be used on every transit system in the Bay Area, eventually begins. BART’s system would then be integrated with TransLink, according to the memo.

Because the transit agency relies heavily on the money it generates at the fare box to operate the system, a monthly pass is not financially feasible for BART, according to chief BART spokesman Linton Johnson. It costs more than $570 million a year to operate BART.

"One of the big things about a monthly pass is that it needs to be revenue-neutral or it increases our revenue," he said. "We haven’t found a monthly pass that does that."

Johnson said the board is also discussing other ideas that could potentially be more popular with riders but said he could not discuss the specifics.

"The monthly pass sounds like a great idea, but we may have better ideas that may be more equitable," he said.

BART recently tried a similar system with Stanford University in which school employees would designate a departure station near their home and travel to either the Union City or Millbrae stations on the University’s dime.

"They were trying to wean people from driving to Stanford and parking on campus," Johnson said. "It is almost exactly like our FasTrak system, where your card is reloaded after it drops below a certain amount."

The system allowed the university to monitor whether riders were traveling between the two designated points. If the employees took side trips or used the pass for personal use, they would pay for it out of their own pocket.

sfarooq@examiner.com

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