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SamTrans to reduce day pass fares and shift payment systems

 
A new, zero-emissions SamTrans bus. The transit agency board has agreed to lower rates for day passes and make other changes to how people purchase tickets. (Photo courtesy SamTrans.)

The SamTrans board voted on Aug. 7 to change some of the agency's fares to be more affordable for users.

The San Mateo County transit agency will eliminate its charge for transferring between local SamTrans routes when using the Clipper card or SamTrans mobile app.

While the adult base fare will remain at $2.25, the cost of a local day pass will decrease by $1 to $4.50. Youth day passes will be reduced from $2.20 to $2.00, responding to concerns that these cash-only passes required loose change to buy.

Several speakers from the Youth Leadership Institute in San Mateo asked the SamTrans board to consider doing a study to see what it would take to make transit passes free; to change the definition of youth to "student" or to include low-income young adults ages 18 to 25 in considerations for reduced or free fare; and to consider making passes free to everyone, but especially youth and seniors.

The agency also plans to eliminate the use of metal tokens and replace them with paper ones, which is expected to save SamTrans about $250,000 a year, though if these tokens have been purchased, people can still use them.

In addition, change cards -- magnetic-stripe cards used to store money when a customer overpays, which can only be used toward future SamTrans trips -- will be phased out in favor of encouraging customers to use Clipper cards or the SamTrans mobile app. SamTrans will also phase out its 50-ticket book offering as well as group rates, which are underutilized, according to staff.

For express services, like the new express bus between Foster City and San Francisco set to launch Aug. 19, one-way fares will be $4.50.

Changes are expected to take effect on Jan. 1, 2020.

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