Essential Trip Card

The Essential Trip Card (ETC) Program was launched at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is a discount program to help seniors and people with disabilities make essential trips in taxis. Although it was originally designed to support travel when Muni service was scaled back during the pandemic lockdown, the program continues today even as Muni service has been restored.

The ETC program subsidizes about two to three round trips by taxi per month for older adults (persons 65 and older) and people with disabilities. Eligible participants pay 20% of the cost of a regular cab ride fare for essential trips. The program uses taxis to take people on essential trips like going to the grocery store, pharmacy or another necessary medical trip. Customers who pay $12 will receive $60 value for taxi trips on a debit card.

Riders are strongly encouraged to wear a face mask while being transported.

For more information or free language assistance, call (415) 351-7000 or email In person assistance is available at our office Monday through Friday from 9:00 AM to 4:45 PM. Our office is located at 68 12th Street, First Floor, San Francisco CA 94103.

ETC Program Has Been Extended

The program has been extended and all ETC debit cards remain valid until further notice. All taxi companies have been notified of this update. SF Paratransit will contact customers with a minimum 30-day advance notice if the ETC program ends or changes.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Who qualifies? 

To qualify for the program, customers must meet at least one of these qualifications:  

  • Age 65 or older 

  • Have a disability  

  • Those with health conditions or mobility challenges that prevent them from using Muni or accessing nearby transit stops or stations.

Where can I go? 

The program subsidizes taxi rides for essential trips like going to the grocery store, pharmacy or a necessary medical visit.   

The card is only valid to pay for travel within San Francisco.  

How do I apply? 

An older adult or persons with disabilities may apply for the ETC program by calling 415.351.7053. Staff will be available weekdays between 9:00 a.m. and 4:45 p.m.  While we encourage using the phone to minimize contact, as a last resort, qualifying customers may enroll in person at the SF Paratransit Broker’s Office (68 12th Street) if needed. The office is open 9:00 a.m. to 4:45 p.m.   

Those eligible will be automatically enrolled in the program and will be mailed a debit card. Note that because Essential Trip Cards come via mail, there will be several days between enrollment and when you are able to use your card.  

How does it work? 

Once your Essential Trip Card is activated, you will need to put funds on your card to use the trip discount. For every $6 you load on your card, you will receive a $30 value. You may load up to $12 per month to receive a monthly maximum of $60 of value on your card. 

How do I load my card to pay for my trips? 

Once you receive your Essential Trip Card, you will need to activate it. Your Essential Trip Card has a sticker on it with instructions.  Funds can be added by: 

  • Setting up an account online at SF Paratransit Taxi Online 

  • Providing payment information over the phone at 415.351.7052 (for debit/credit payments only) 

  • Sending a check in the mail to SF Paratransit, 68 12th Street, San Francisco, CA 94103; or 

  • Arrange to pay in cash by calling SF Paratransit at 415.351.7052. 

How often can I load a card? 

Cards may be filled once a month.  

What if I need to take more than $60 worth of taxi trips each month? 

This program is intended to support essential trips only. If you find that $60 does not meet your monthly essential trip needs, contact the SF Paratransit Office at 415.351.7053 or to speak to a representative who can discuss and evaluate your monthly allotted value. Increases can be approved in cases where customers are consistently using their full $60 allotment, or regularly taking trips that exceed $20 per trip.

How do I get a taxi once I have my card? 

To start a trip, ETC cardholders can hail taxis, including ramp taxis, on the street, by phone, or by Flywheel app. Get details on all San Francisco taxi companies or in your ETC orientation packet. 

What information do you need to provide to apply? 

Our goal is to get eligible people enrolled quickly and we will work with people to verify their eligibility. For registration, applicants should have: 

  • Older adults (persons 65 and over) can provide their date of birth and their Senior Clipper Card number, or another proof of age, like a driver’s license, a California ID, passport or other documentation.  
  • Disabled persons under 65 should have a Regional Transit Connection (RTC) Discount Card.  An RTC card also serves as Clipper Card for persons with disabilities. The customer would provide the RTC number on the front of Card, as well as their birthdate for verification.  If you do not have an RTC Card and are under 65, we can help determine if you are eligible for one. 

How can customers apply in a language other than English? 

Staff will provide language assistance for customers who prefer a language other than English. 

I know someone who needs the program - can I call on their behalf to sign them up? 

Reaching out to a family member, friend or neighbor to let them know about the Essential Trips Discount Program can help them during this challenging time. You can also help a qualified person sign up if you have their Senior Clipper Card or Regional Transit Connection (RTC) Discount Card and their date of birth, or for seniors, other proof of age, like a driver’s license, a California ID, passport or other documentation.  

I am an older adult/person with a disability and need other services in addition to the Essential Trips Discount Program; where should I go? 

For other needs, the City’s Disability and Aging Service helpline at 415.355.6700 now operates 7 days per week from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Disability and Aging Service helpline operators are available to connect people to the City’s existing service providers and expanded services as they become available. 

Do I have to wear a face mask or cloth face covering to ride this service? 

When traveling in a taxi, SFMTA recommends riders to wear a face mask.

Can I ride with a family member or caregiver while using my Essential Trips Discount card? 

You may ride in a taxi with the maximum number of people that can be safely secured and transported (usually four adults). We recommend a maximum of one driver and two passengers, who should ride in the back seat, to prevent close contact between non-family members. No extra fares will be required for additional passengers.  

Can I let someone else like a family member or a caregiver use my card? 

Your Essential Trip Card may only be used by you to pay for an Essential Trip Card trip. It is illegal to allow anyone else to use your card. This action could lead to suspension or revocation of your taxi riding privileges under this program. 

Can I take a taxi if I am sick to a hospital or medical provider or to get tested for COVID-19? 

Yes, you may take a taxi if you are sick. To prevent potential infection of others, wear a face mask and minimize touching surfaces in the taxi.  Alert the driver so that surfaces can be cleaned on your exit. 

How long does the program last? 

The Essential Trip Card program will end upon announcement by the SFMTA that the program is ending. Once the SFMTA announces an end to this temporary and special program, participants will be able to exhaust any remaining value on the Essential Trip Card. 


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