It’s about fares. Not flat fares, but fairer fares for commuters who use public transit on a regular basis. Janmarie, like the Capricious Commuter, is sort of biased here. We both commute from the Central Valley, and as such, lack standing to tell Bay Area residents how they should be structuring their transit fares.
I feel BART should give “true” commuters a BREAK. You can’t afford to live in the BAY AREA, as homes cost too much, not to mention the “CRIME” that is out of control in Oakland. So what are people supposed to do? BART has all these parking lots and there are never any spaces to park. Your car gets broken into (yet there are supposed to be BART POLICE). What do they do?
And by break, Janmarie means cheaper fares. You know, like Muni gives its regular riders on both its own buses and trains and on BART trips strictly within San Francisco. It’s $45 a month for adults. That’s $1.02 per trip if you take two trips (transferring from BART to Muni buses or streetcars in the same trip, even) each weekday for 22 days in November (Ok, so Thanksgiving throws this off, but I’m not counting weekends).
The best that a stair-sprinting young-to-middle aged adult BART rider from elsewhere can hope for, if they’re not hooked into some special deal through work or whatever, is a 6.25-percent discount. The BART website acually exclaims, “$48 ticket costs only $45 and $64 ticket costs only $60!” Yee-hah!
Lets do the math: On that same 22-day month, riders traveling San Francisco-style distances and paying the minimum $1.40 regular fare would save a whopping $3.85 cents for the month, or would knock down their single-trip fare to $1.31. That’s nearly a dime!
Now consider the long-distance BART commuter, paying $4.95 for a regular fare from Dublin/Pleasanton to Civic Center. Buying the big-ticket ticket saves them 40 cents per trip, or $13.61 for a discounted monthly BART bill of $217.80, weekends not included.
BART board member Bob Franklin would like to exploit the flexibility of the system’s new replaceable EZ Rider smart cards, which are ideally hooked to your checking account so you never have to add to them. An innovative (for BART, anyway) way to reward riders might be to make the remainder of the month free after you’ve paid for a certain number of rides, like, say, 42.
But such changes won’t be easy, Franklin says, because “I don’t think BART’s staff wants to change. You can predict what your revenue’s going to be, so why risk it?”
AC Transit’s bus service is similarly ill-suited to monthly passes, considering that a monthly pass is $70, which amounts to something like an 11-cent discount if you’re just riding to work.
At least AC Transit board member Chris Peeples could offer up a defense for that: “Many of the people who use our montly pass are like me, they do not drive a car. Then the monthly pass is very worthwhile.”
He also wonders why any transit system ought to subsidize the kind of long-distance commuting done by Janmarie and yours truly: “Why should we subsidize people for living in the exurbs? That’s a question I have about ACE and Capitol Corridor.”
Setting aside my own personal interest, I’d have to say he raises an excellent point. Do we really need to encourage people to live in Tracy and work in the Bay Area’s urban core? How can I sleep at night, knowing that the tax dollars of millions of Californians are paying three-quarters of the cost of my trip to work?
Here’s how: Because that subsidy is keeping the likes of Janmarie and myself off of some of the busiest traffic snarls in the Bay Area each morning. The only difference is that Janmarie takes BART for the last part of her journey, and so is paying a much higher proportion than I am. If she were able to take ACE, she’d get a major break, at least in part because it gets a heftier subsidy as a commuter, rather than intercity rail line.
People don’t live in Tracy because they can get a cheap train ride. Most of those people drive. They live there, as Janmarie noted, because the housing is cheaper, the schools are decent and it’s safer to walk the streets at night.