By Stuart Cohen
Even with all of latest emerging mobility options, the most affordable, environmentally friendly, and healthiest options remain riding public transportation, walking, and biking. Those options also help unclog San Francisco’s increasingly congested streets. Yet too many people don’t have easy access to these reliable and affordable car-free ways to get around.
In January, TransForm was awarded a grant from Just Transit SF* to develop an incentive system that helps people, especially low-income and transit-dependent residents, find better and more affordable transportation options in the San Francisco region.
But we’re not doing it alone. We’re partnering with MTC, Muni, and Swiftly to create an integrated, affordable, and user-friendly solution that will not only improve existing transit riders’ woes, it will encourage more people to hop on board.
So just how will we make this happen? Here’s our plan:
- To make it easier and more affordable for more people to ride public transportation, we are working with MTC to give out pre-loaded Clipper Cards with incentives to sign up for auto-reloading. This will help low-income riders get discounts on Muni fares, and transfer easily between Muni, AC Transit, Caltrain, and BART. We will also be helping to build awareness around the new Muni Mobile app, which will allow people to pay for their ride via smart phones, skipping the need to pay single fares with cash (saving everyone time and money!). This coordinated effort extends the effectiveness of Muni’s equity strategy, as we are working to ensure that affordable and dependable public transportation is easily available to the people who rely on it daily for their most basic needs.
- In order to give everyone more real-time transportation choices, we are excited to be collaborating with Swiftly. Swiftly is a mobile app that shows transit directions, arrival times, costs, and the benefits of taking alternative transportation (like walking and biking). The Swiftly app gives people all their options for mobility, so they can easily find alternatives when they need to get somewhere faster than anticipated via traditional transit. This partnership with Swiftly will encourage people to choose riding transit or biking and walking over driving; this is good for their health and wallets, and it also benefits our planet and air quality by reducing emissions.
- To ensure that this project will focus on the communities who need it most, we will be partnering with youth, senior, and other community groups throughout the city, especially those that serve low-income communities of color. We will be focusing on transit lines with high levels of cash-fare paying customers as well as some that have recently undergone rapid bus upgrades. These lines include the 14 (Mission), 9 (Excelsior, Visitacion Valley), 31 (Outer Richmond), 28 (Outer Sunset), and 48 (Outer Sunset, Mission, Portrero).
These combined strategies will make commuting car-free easier, more affordable, and even enjoyable for the 1.7 million transit trips Bay Area residents make each weekday.**
And on a personal note, I am particularly excited about this project because it is such a clear embodiment of TransForm’s mission to promote excellent transportation choices that connect people of all incomes to opportunity, keep California affordable, and help solve our climate crisis.
* The project is funded by The 11th Hour Project, a program of The Schmidt Family Foundation. It was one of three winning transportation solutions for the Just Transit SF challenge. The goal of the challenge is to increase access to reliable, cost-effective, and lower-/carbon transportation options, leverage existing infrastructure, and partner with local organizations to implement the project by November 2017 in San Francisco.