Means-Based Fare Discount Program | Plans + Projects | Our Work

Means-Based Fare Discount Program

ClipperSTART Pilot Set for 2020 Launch
Friday, December 13, 2019

For most Bay Area households, transportation is the third-biggest monthly expense — trailing only the cost of housing and food.

MTC in May 2018 adopted Resolution No. 4320, establishing the framework for a 12- to 18-month pilot program — expected to begin in Spring 2020 — to offer a 20 percent to 50 percent fare discount to eligible low-income adults for travel on:

  • BART (20 percent discount)
  • Caltrain (20 percent discount)
  • Golden Gate Transit (50 percent discount; excludes zones 3-4)
  • Golden Gate Ferry (50 percent discount)
  • Muni (50 percent discount)

Known as ClipperSTART, the program will allow adults who live in the Bay Area and whose annual earnings are up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level to qualify for fare discounts. The ClipperSTART pilot will require riders to use Clipper for fare payment. Riders will be able to apply online or by submitting a paper application. Applicants will need to provide proof of identity and proof of income, and those approved will receive a personalized Clipper card that can be used for sing-ride discounts on the participating transit agencies' systems.

ClipperSTART will be centrally administered on behalf of all participating transit operators; and will be subject to revision based on financial sustainability, efficiency and effectiveness.

MTC committed roughly $11 million to implement the ClipperSTART pilot program. This includes $8 million in State Transit Assistance (STA) funds generated by the state sales tax on diesel fuel plus $3 million from the statewide Low-Carbon Transit Operations Program. 

Establishment of the ClipperSTART  program followed a three-year study launched by MTC in 2015 to determine if a transit fare program based on household income would be feasible and effective. This Regional Means-Based Transit Fare Pricing Study included three main objectives:

  • Make transit more affordable for low-income residents
  • Move toward a more consistent regional standard for fare discounts
  • Develop implementation options that are financially viable and administratively feasible

Study Reports (Draft Final)

For more information, contact Melanie Choy at

MTC has long identified possible transit-affordability barriers for low-income riders, and has supported several initiatives to address the problem.

These include:

  • Lifeline Transportation Program
  • Coordinated Public Transit-Human Services Transportation Plan
  • Transit Sustainability Project
  • Community-Based Transportation Plans

Though MTC does not determine fare policies for the Bay Area’s transit agencies, we do have the authority to promote regional fare coordination.

We are funding the roughly $200,000 needed for this study through the State Transit Assistance program.

Key areas of focus for our pricing study include identifying:

  • Possible fare structures and payment methods
  • Eligible recipients
  • Overall program costs
  • Potential funding sources
  • Impact on transit agencies’ fare revenue
  • Relationships to existing discounts
  • Technical challenges

The Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) was established to provide input and feedback on the study. The TAC consists of a broad-based group of stakeholders including representatives from public transit operators, social and human services agencies, academia and non-profit organizations. The TAC met four times through the course of the study: