Bay Area Ends Free Transit Experiment

A popular and successful experiment to boost ridership on 26 Bay Area transit systems on designated "Spare the Air" days ends due to lack of funding, while some believe the plan may have been good for the local economy.

"Air quality officials expect the heat and lack of wind to cook up unhealthy levels of ground-level ozone, or smog, and have declared today the sixth Spare the Air Day of the season. It likely will be the final day of free transit for the summer smog season."

"Ferries and BART have been swamped by hundreds of extra riders on Spare the Air days, many of them leisure travelers rather than commuters. In several cases, crowds forced some commuters to sit on the docks and wait for the next boat. That's prompted complaints about crowding and sparked a debate over the purpose of the free transit days."

While BART estimates an overall increase of 28,000 riders, or 8.5%, on this final "Spare the Fare" day, it notes that midday "leisure" travel shoots up 75 percent on free-ride days.

"The Metropolitan Transportation Commission funded the first three Spare the Air Days with $7.5 million. When all three were used in June, it came up with $5.3 million to pay for three more. Funding for additional free-transit days has not been discussed."

Thanks to ABAG-MTC Library

Full Story: Smog, dangerous heat bring on region's 6th Spare the Air Day



Irvin Dawid's picture

Please see earlier comment,

Please see earlier comment, "The Bay Area had TWO sets of Free Transit Days" to understand the two Planetizen articles reporting on this issue.

This article reports on the "second set of 3 free-transit" days that accompanied Spare The Air Days. The other Planetizen article, "Free-Transit On 'Bad Air Days" Popular, But Funds Exhausted", reported on the initial three days of free transit that ended June 26.

There are NO reports that additional funds ($2.5 million/day) will be sought to continue the program. I believe the Air District and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission will need to evaluate the results. I'm guessing here but I think that future free transit will only apply to a more limited "peak hour" commute - probably the morning only, which was the policy the prior two years.

It was readily apparent that the "all day" policy attracted transit riders who were taking advantage of the free go shopping, and make other trips that were prompted by the free transit.
Irvin Dawid, Palo Alto, CA

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