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BART's Keller seeks even more regressive flat fare scheme

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  • 9/17 Oakland Tribune
    Published Sunday, September 17, 2006, in the Oakland Tribune Flat fares for BART attractive to some Critics say it would hurt low-income families and
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 17 10:06 PM
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      Published Sunday, September 17, 2006, in the Oakland Tribune

      Flat fares for BART attractive to some

      Critics say it would hurt low-income families and short-distance

      By Erik N. Nelson

      If it's good enough for the Big Apple, why can't the Bay Area Rapid
      Transit system adopt a flat fare, so that every rider pays the same
      one-way fare, asks a BART board member who represents outlying areas
      of Contra Costa County.

      Controversial because it would likely involve major hikes for short
      rides, the idea was suggested Thursday by BART director Joel Keller,
      who directed BART staff to study it. He estimates that the fare
      would have to be between $2.40 and $2.50 to equal BART's current fare
      revenue, or 100 million trips now yielding $240 million to $250
      million a year.

      "Certainly a simple, uncomplicated fare for each person would attract
      additional riders," Keller said. New Yorkers seem accustomed to the
      idea of plunking $2 every time they ride city subways, be it 10 blocks
      or 10 miles, and the Bay Area "is no less urbanized than the New York

      The idea is just one of several that BART staffers are exploring in
      order to improve on a decades-old fare scheme loaded with
      surcharges that are a mystery to most riders.

      One surcharge for 79 cents pays for passage through the Transbay Tube.
      Getting on or off at stations in San Mateo County costs $1.14 beyond
      the normal mileage-based formula. Airport passengers pay an extra
      $1.50. In January, BART directors approved a 10-cent surcharge to
      cover capital costs.

      [BATN notes, again, that such a per-ride increase is regressive --
      as BART's entire fare system has always been -- disproportionately
      raising fares on urban riders using the most cost-effective parts of
      the system in order to subsidize more affluent, longer distance
      suburban and exurban commuters.]

      "It's just not very transparent," said Randy Rentschler, spokesman for
      the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, which generally doesn't
      get involved in individual transit agencies' fare debates. "People
      just don't know any of this, and to the uninitiated, to those who
      don't study it, it just doesn't make any sense."

      That being said, BART may be ready for a hard look at how it
      calculates fares, Rentschler said.

      But flat fares are certain to upset supporters of affordable transit
      for disadvantaged riders in the area's urban core.

      "A flat fare would be extremely regressive and would directly hurt the
      urban riders who have come to rely on BART for local trips," said
      Stuart Cohen, executive director of the Oakland-based Transportation
      and Land Use Coalition <http://www.transcoalition.org>. "Working
      families feel that bite when its a 10 percent increase, and you're
      talking about a 70 percent increase."

      Another fare-change proposal that surfaced Thursday, likely to be much
      more palatable to Cohen and other advocates for urban riders, was
      proposed by BART Director Bob Franklin, who represents northwestern
      Alameda county areas.

      Franklin proposed using smart cards, which are now used by BART
      employees in a Stanford University-run pilot program, to keep track
      of how many rides a passenger has used and give free rides to anyone
      who has paid for 40 rides or so.

      "If you're going to commit yourself to transit, once you reach the
      threshold, we'll give you a break," Franklin said.

      Franklin also decried Allen's idea, saying it would "really
      disadvantage shorter-distance riders, because they would be
      subsidizing (someone else's) longer trip."

      Contact transportation reporter Erik Nelson at
      enelson@... and read his Capricious Commuter blog at
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