Saturday, March 14, 2009

BART Monthly Pass

I'm torn on this idea for BART. This would allow people who have monthly passes to just hop on BART instead of having to pay each time which could increase ridership and make transit more attractive. At the same time BART is mostly a commuter line, I feel like a monthly pass would subsidize living past Pleasanton (in the central valley) if you work in San Francisco which I believe is the wrong signal to send. What do you all think?

13 comments:

Nathan said...

Let people buy monthly passes that are worth a specific face value. We do that here in the Seattle area with the Puget Pass--the pass is worth the face value toward a transit trip, and costs 36 times face value. This lets people buy a pass that covers their commute trip, and avoids the subsidy issue you were worried about

arcady said...

BART is one of the very few rail transit system in the world, and I think the only one in the US, that does not have an unlimited pass of some kind. In fact, the very word "commuter" has its origin in the "commutation ticket", which is not actually a ticket for commutation, but rather, a ticket whose price has been commuted (reduced). And one of the big benefits of commuter passes is that they encourage off-peak ridership, something that is definitely a problem for BART. I do think that any time-limited pass scheme will have to take into account BART's distance-based fares, maybe with some kind of zone system, where a given pass is valid only in certain zones. And by the way, intra-SF riders already do get unlimited BART rides, via the Muni Fast Pass, so that's already one zone (and fare level) right there.

Erik said...

Given the range of distances/fares that BART has available I think it would either only be a deal for people who travel from the end of a line to SF or Oakland every day or else would have to use some complicated system of zones or distance classes.

Erik said...

Also, I don't think it would be any more convenient; it's not like they would let you could bypass the fare gate. You would just have a different card to swipe/feed.

Jonlin said...

I live in Seattle but I go to San Francisco fairly often and I've always felt it's ridiculous that they don't have a monthly pass. Having a one way fair of up to $7 can be really hard for some people to pay, especially because many of the people who pay the higher fares are forced to live further away from the city because of the high housing prices in the bay area.

ricky lopez said...

I lived in Tokyo for a year and JR (train) had "tailored" types of passes. If I remember correctly you could buy 1,3 & 6 months pass with a considerable discount and partly subsidized by employers. The fare is distance based like Bart. It allowed unlimited trips between your home and work station including all the stops in between. The fare outside those stops was calculated from the nearest station in your commute. So if I buy a pass from 24th st Mission to 12St Oakland and I go to Berkeley the normal 12St Oakland to Berkeley fare applies. I thought it was a fantastic system and very convenient.

arcady said...

Some random data points: Southern California's commuter rail system (Metrolink) has purely distance based (not zone-based) fares, and does have monthly passes. Washington Metro also has distance based fares, but at least for the off-peak fares there are only three fare levels (short, medium, long), and there are monthly passes as well. By the way, peak pricing (or, if you prefer, off-peak discounts) are a wonderful idea for BART to adopt, given their difficulty attracting off-peak riders.

Tim said...

I live in Austin and we have monthly passes. It does subsidies commuters, but it also:

a) makes it very easy to get people out of their cars. It's very easy to compare my $x/month pass vs. my $x/month gas (obviously that's simplistic, but simple math is what gets people out of their cars).
b) let's people ride more. I didn't think twice about hopping on the bus on the weekend when I was buying the passes. I was much more likely to try to use the bus rather than drive when I wasn't commuting.

I now can no longer commute by bus and I use it less because I don't have the pass.

Anonymous said...

I don't like the idea of a broad monthly pass- it would have the core subsidize the suburbs.

The Muni pass works as a monthly pass for BART within the city- that seems like the core zone. Zone passes could work (there are clear edges to zones that would make sense, such as Rockridge to Orinda).

Also, I've moved away- is BART doing anything to promote the EZ Rider Card? I had one and it was convenient; works like the Charlie Card in Boston except it does automatic refills from your credit card and gives you the bulk purchase discount.

Pantograph Trolleypole said...

I think they are testing something. They are also testing translink which they should have had years ago to be able to pay between transit agencies without having to get 3 different tickets. Being all tech driven, this region should have had that years ago.

njh said...

I'm with arcady here. There is nothing more powerful for encouraging off peak travel than to know it is free. People further out already have a cost that the core doesn't: extra travel time.

I love my unlimited VTA pass. It is so enabling!

brian said...

"At the same time BART is mostly a commuter line, I feel like a monthly pass would subsidize living past Pleasanton (in the central valley) if you work in San Francisco which I believe is the wrong signal to send"

I wonder if someone once said that about Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx...

off peak trips would def. increase since for most bay area residents, driving at these times would be a cheaper and faster alternative to BART

Alon Levy said...

Brian: no. At the time, everyone agreed Downtown Manhattan was overpopulated and was glad to vent people off Uptown and to the Bronx and Brooklyn. The subway was built with the explicit purpose of promoting suburbanization, complete with people owning detached homes. The reason Upper Manhattan was built at an urban scale is that the subway was subject to chronic delays. Planners first floated the idea in the 1860s; the subway opened in 1904, by which time the area was already peppered with tenements.

The idea that the traditional city is a good place to live in is actually fairly recent, and dates back only to when auto-centric suburbanization started in the 1950s.