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Six Transit Agencies to Join Clipper START Program

Fare Discounts for Lower-Income Adults

Six more Bay Area transit agencies this month will join the new Clipper START program, which allows lower-income adults age 19-64 to receive fare discounts ranging from 20 percent to 50 percent on a growing number of transit systems around the region. Beginning Monday, Nov. 23, riders with Clipper START cards will receive 50 percent discounts on San Francisco Bay Ferry, SMART and Marin Transit trips, and 20 percent discounts on Petaluma Transit, Santa Rosa CityBus and Sonoma County Transit — although the latter three bus operators have not yet resumed fare collection after suspending fares earlier this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

These agencies join Muni, BART, Caltrain, and Golden Gate Transit and Ferry, which inaugurated the Clipper START program in mid-July with 50 percent off fares on Muni, Caltrain and select Golden Gate Transit and Ferry routes, and 20 percent off BART fares. MTC expects 11 more bus systems serving Alameda, Contra Costa, Napa, San Mateo and Solano counties to join the Clipper START program in early 2021.

Clipper START is an 18-month pilot program initiated by MTC and Bay Area transit agencies that uses the Clipper transit fare payment system to reduce the cost of transportation for adults whose household incomes are no more than twice the federal poverty level (for example, $52,400 for a family of four). This can be an important benefit, as transportation costs are a significant burden on many households, particularly during the current economic climate. 

As MTC Chair and Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty noted at the time of Clipper START’s summer rollout, “MTC has a long history of serving low-income residents through community-based planning and other programs,” said MTC Chair Scott Haggerty. “Clipper START is really expanding that commitment to make transit more affordable to a wider group of people. We’re excited to see how many will take advantage of this pilot program.”

Applicants to the pilot program can provide a copy of an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card or Medi-Cal card, a county benefits eligibility letter, their Muni Lifeline card number or a copy of their last federal tax return to demonstrate their eligibility. Once approved, they will receive a personalized Clipper card that must be loaded with cash value before use.

The Clipper START discounts are automatically applied whenever the card is used on participating transit agencies. Clipper START is not a transit pass — it is a program that offers discounts for single rides on the 10 participating systems. The card also can be used just like a standard Clipper card to pay for fares on any agency that accepts Clipper.

Riders interested in Clipper START can learn more about the program and apply online at The website guides customers through the application process, details what documents customers need to upload, and will save applicants’ progress to allow them to return later to complete the application if necessary.

MTC over the last several years has worked with its longtime Clipper card contractor, Cubic Transportation Systems, to develop the pilot program and to make application, verification and ongoing account maintenance (such as a lost card) a simple and straightforward process for lower-income riders.

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