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.
July 24, 2006, 11am PDT | Irvin Dawid
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"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

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Published on Friday, July 21, 2006 in The San Francisco Chronicle
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