Friday, May 27, 2016

Green Caltrain: Clipper 2.0 isn’t yet fostering regional fare integration


At SPUR’s recent event in San Francisco on Clipper 2.0, panelists from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, Muni, and Golden Gate Transit agreed that the next generation regional payment system would make minimal progress toward implementing fare coordination, beyond incremental steps such as a common age for student and senior fares.
The current Clipper contract expires in 2019, and the project to develop the next generation technology is under way.   According to program head Carol Kuester, the major technology upgrade is expected to provide important improvements, including:
  • immediate access to funds, instead of a time lag
  • mobile payments as an option for users who use mobile devices and don’t want to carry cards
  • easier ability to add new services, such as bikeshare, carsharing, and other transportation services that emerge
However, providing greater integration of fares is beyond the scope of what the Clipper program is taking on, since this is considered politically very difficult. Some of the reasons explained by the panelists include:
1) The assumption that people in the Bay Area want local control over transit fare structure: “in San Francisco we don’t want people from Walnut Creek having a voice in our fares”
2) Concern by transit agencies that an individual transit agency might lose out financially, even if overall ridership and system revenue would go up. “No CFO of a transit agency would responsibly agree to fare integration because it might harm the agency financially.”
3) There is no political will to take on this difficult issue.

Organizationally, responsibility for Clipper has recently moved from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission to an executive board consisting of major transit agency executives. Transit agencies have been frustrated with the costs and lack of flexibility to address transit agency needs.
Meanwhile, the MTC is conducting a study on opportunities to improve fare equity.  The barriers with fare coordination could make implementing recommendations more of a challenge.


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