OAKLAND, CA — The Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) this month teams up with AC Transit to begin offering residents of select transit-oriented development (TOD) complexes around the East Bay unlimited free travel on AC Transit’s local and transbay buses for a time. The partners will distribute TransLink® electronic fare payment cards loaded with AC Transit passes to members of up to 1,500 households in about 20 TOD properties in Oakland, Berkeley, San Leandro, El Cerrito and Emeryville. The initiative kicks off a 12-month pilot program designed to pioneer a new institutional transit pass for use throughout the Bay Area, and to help MTC and the region’s transit agencies learn more about TOD residents’ travel patterns. Through the program, MTC expects to distribute up to 1,900 personalized TransLink cards featuring the individual residents’ photos. Some of the developments will be given passes for one year, while others will be given passes for six months — the pilot project will include an evaluation of these different passes.
“We’re very excited about being able to offer a free transit pass to residents living in transit-oriented developments,” said Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates, who also serves as an MTC Commissioner. “We’re using the program to introduce more people to transit, and raising awareness of the high-quality AC Transit bus services to San Francisco and around the East Bay.”
MTC and AC Transit will provide TransLink cards for residents of both rental apartments and owner-occupied condos. Participating properties include brand-new complexes now in sales or lease-up as well as established buildings. Taken as a whole, the properties will include a large number of units reserved for lower-income residents.
“There are three main criteria for selecting a TOD for the pilot program,” explained Bates. “The properties must be located along or very close to at least one high-frequency AC Transit route; it must be a high-density complex with little parking; and it must have a site manager willing and able to publicize and support implementation of the project.” Bates spoke in the courtyard of Sacramento Senior Homes, a 40-unit complex at Sacramento and Blake streets in Berkeley developed last year by Affordable Housing Associates. The site is served by AC Transit’s Transbay J line, as well as by local lines 9 and 88.
In addition to expanding residents’ mobility and helping cities to reduce their “carbon footprints,” the increased access to transit is expected to dramatically lower the percentage of household income that participants — especially low-income families with children — spend on transportation, by supporting their use of lower-priced transit as an alternative to driving. For TOD developers and managers, the program offers an extra amenity with which to attract and retain residents.
MTC and Bay Area transit agencies expect the pilot program to test the impact on ridership of providing free transit passes to residents of a variety of TODs, as well as testing the public’s response to the convenience of TransLink, which allows riders to pay their fares without having to carry transit passes or correct change. The program offers an opportunity to boost AC Transit ridership, and to get more customer feedback about TransLink. This will help gauge the viability of future arrangements in which the cost of subsidizing transit passes for TOD residents and employees may be shared with cities and developers. Depending on results of the pilot program, developers of future TOD projects may qualify for waivers of some parking requirements in exchange for covering the cost of discounted passes.
AC Transit has priced the unlimited TransLink passes at its “eco-pass” rate of $100 per person. MTC is financing the program through TransLink marketing funds provided through voter approval of Regional Measure 2 in 2004. Additional Measure 2 funds will be used to support marketing, resident outreach and program evaluation. Total program costs are expected to run about $280,000.
MTC is the transportation planning, financing and coordinating agency for the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area.
John Goodwin, MTC: (415) 778-5262
Clarence Johnson: (510) 891-4745