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Adjusting Fares for a Faster and More Equitable Muni

Monday, April 25, 2016

Cash is slow. In fact, Muni's buses and trains spend about 10 to 15 percent of the time stopped to board passengers, and some of that is due to the time it takes to process cash fares.

We’re making changes to Muni fares in another step to make paying quicker and easier, so we can get you on board and to your destination faster. Starting January 1, 2017, single-trip Muni fares paid with Clipper or MuniMobile will cost 25 cents less than fares paid with cash on buses or trains or with the Limited Use tickets purchased in the subway.

Currently, only 45 percent of Muni single-trip fares are paid using Clipper Cards. Encouraging customers to use Clipper – a more efficient, convenient and safer payment system – is just one way we’re working to make the transit-riding experience smoother for everyone.

We’ve planned this change with equity in mind. While 12 to 14 percent of riders pay with cash or limited-used tickets, our most vulnerable populations, including moderate to low-income, disabled, and youth riders, qualify for free or discounted fares.  As part of a comprehensive campaign to educate riders about the change, we’ll be encouraging everyone who qualifies to enroll in our existing Free Muni programs for Youth, Seniors and People with Disabilities, which currently serve about 60,000 participants. That’s in addition to the low-income discounted adult Lifeline passes we provide for more than 20,000 customers and the discount fare prices for all Youth, Seniors and People with Disabilities (a savings of more than 50 percent).

A man entering a Muni vehicle holds a Clipper Card in front of a digital card reader.

In partnership with the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, which manages Clipper, we’re planning efforts to ease the transition for Muni riders who don't already use Clipper and may have concerns. We'll start with:

  • Providing Clipper Cards without the $3 purchase fee* to eligible customers for a limited time.
  • Evaluating opportunities to expand the number of neighborhood Clipper Card vendors to make them more convenient to purchase.
  • Conducting significant multilingual outreach to ensure everyone knows how to get a Clipper Card and is comfortable using it — and to ensure they’re aware of our low-income pass programs.

Remember, the purchase fee is already waived for Clipper Cards ordered by mail with autoload payment set up with a credit card, bank account or transit benefits debit card. In addition, the MuniMobile smartphone app works with PayPal and has the ability to autoload.

Several other transit agencies have implemented a similar payment option, because it speeds up service and improves internal operations. The overall cash collection process costs the SFMTA $9 million a year and more Clipper and MuniMobile use can reduce the time and resources needed to collect fare box money, including staff to empty fareboxes, security costs to transport revenue, the production and distribution of paper bus transfers and farebox/software maintenance.

The single-ride fare increase is not expected to disparately burden minority and low-income customers, as determined under the guidelines of Title VI of the Federal Civil Rights Act [PDF]. Nonetheless, we’ve planned these efforts as part of our commitment to ensuring Muni is accessible for everyone.

Ensuring that Clipper Cards are accessible to disadvantaged communities is as crucial to an equitable city as it is to making Muni a faster, more reliable system for the diverse riders who depend on it.

Using a Clipper Card means you may never again have to worry about having exact change to use transit in the Bay Area.  And they may be easier to get than you think – Clipper Card vendors are located in nearly every neighborhood where San Franciscans live, work or otherwise travel. Use the interactive map available on the Clipper website to find a Clipper Card vendor is San Francisco (you can also order a card online).