Free-Transit On 'Bad Air Days" Popular, But Funds Exhausted

"Spare the Air" is a program operated by the Bay Area's air district to encourage use of public transit on 'bad air' days. They funded 3 "free transit" days to accompany the warnings. Ridership increased greatly but funding is exhausted too soon.

To prevent violations of the Federal 8-hour standard of 80 parts per billion of ozone that can result in denial of Federal transportation funding,the Bay Area Quality Management District worked with the area MPO, Metropolitan Transportation Commission, to fund free transit on the first three "Spare the Air" days...While public transit usage increased greatly, exceedences of the ozone standard occurred nonetheless. BAAQMD and MTC are now scrambling to find more funding for future bad air days.

Thanks to Darrell Waller

Full Story: Ridership takes leap on Spare the Air day a try



Irvin Dawid's picture

The Bay Area had TWO sets of Free Transit Days

This can be a bit confusing -

The Bay Area initially had budgeted 3 "free transit days" to accompany "Spare The Air" Days which were exhausted all too soon - that is reported in this San Francisco Chronicle article, June 27, 2006. This "set of 3 free transit days" ended way too early: June 26.

BAAQMD and MTC then scrambled to find additional funding for another set of 3 days - that also ended way too early - that is reported in
"Bay Area Ends Free Transit Experiment",
based on San Francisco Chronicle article, July 21, 2006.
That "second set" of free transit to accompany Spare The Air Days ended on July 21 after beginning July 17..

The program has been in existence since 2004 in a more limited version - only the peak AM commute had free transit, and the number of transit agencies was quite limited. This is the first year with the "expanded" version to include 26 transit agencies (that is most, but not all the transit agencies in the 9-county region), and "all-day" free transit.

Only one "Spare the Air" Days occurred last year, and four in 2004. This year the number is nine and the summer ozone season doesn't end until Oct. 13! The free transit policy applies to weekday Spare the Air Days, not weekends.

More importantly the Bay Area had no ozone violations of the Federal 8-hr ozone standard in 2004 and only one last year. As of today, there have been 7 this year.

For more information, see

Irvin Dawid, Palo Alto, CA

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