BART and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, or MTC, launched Clipper BayPass on Monday, a two-year pilot program providing free public transit to about 50,000 Bay Area residents, including 12,000 UC Berkeley students.
According to a press release from MTC, Clipper BayPass will act as an upgrade to existing Clipper cards, fully integrating the 24 participating transit agencies in the Bay Area. Some of these agencies include AC Transit, BART, Caltrain and the San Francisco Bay Ferry, the press release added.
The pilot’s goal is to study the impacts of a fully integrated fare system on ridership, as well as the impacts of free public transit, according to MTC’s public information officer, John Goodwin.
“Over time, does the availability of unlimited transit prompt a Cal BayPass participant to ride Muni in San Francisco more often than one whose Clipper card only has the (AC Transit) EasyPass?” Goodwin said. “The hope is that the participants will use transit more frequently and will opt to ride transit for more trips.”
Students on campus will be randomly selected to participate in the program and will be notified by Friday morning, according to David Sorrell, the transportation demand management administrator for campus’s department of parking and transportation. Participants should have full access to Clipper BayPass by Aug. 26 and will be able to provide feedback on the program through email surveys, Sorrell noted.
In addition to UC Berkeley, a quarter of students at San Francisco State University and San José State University will be randomly selected to participate, according to Goodwin. The program will also be available to all students at Santa Rosa Junior College.
Goodwin explained that these schools were selected because they each have existing Clipper programs — such as the AC Transit EasyPass provided to UC Berkeley students upon registration — that make the integration of Clipper BayPass easier.
Clipper BayPass is the first step toward a regional pass for students and employees on campus, Sorrell added.
“The goal and the hope is that the data that comes out of this two-year pilot will be able to give us the ammunition to make the case for regional connectivity,” Sorrell said.
Kevin Burke, a board member at East Bay For Everyone, said he hopes the pilot will encourage “multi-agency” trips, such as exiting BART and then boarding AC Transit.
Burke noted that frequency of service often increases ridership more than free fares, but he hopes participants will take advantage of free transit through Clipper BayPass regardless.
“Historically it has been difficult to get all of the Bay Area’s different transit agencies to consider discount programs with other agencies,” Burke said in an email. “I hope they are looking at the data about transfers from the pilot and planning for an integrated fare in the future.”