It’s hard out there for a paper ticket-using public transportation rider in the Bay Area. First Muni started charging 25 cents more this past January for riders who pay their fares in cash. Earlier this month, Muni announced they’re ditching the current paper transfers that so often let you ride much longer than 90 minutes in favor of generic-looking new digital transfers that will strictly enforce the 90-minute rule. Now BART is also slapping the cash-paying community with an extra charge, as the San Francisco Business Times reports that BART will charge 50 cents more for a paper ticket to encourage the use of Clipper cards.
That means for a standard, $1.95 one-way BART trip within San Francisco, paper ticket users will essentially be paying an extra 25 percent tax. But to minimize the many pains in the rear end of the current Clipper card system, BART promises to install Clipper machines in every station so you don’t have to schlep to a participating Walgreen’s or endure the aggravating three-to-five-day wait for adding value to your card online.
“To encourage more riders to use Clipper, the budget includes a 50 cents per trip paper ticket surcharge effective January 1, 2018,” the transit system announced in their 2018 budget passage. “There will also be a 2.7 percent across-the-board, inflation-based fare increase that will take effect January 1, 2018.”
That fare raise should not come as a total shocker. BART raises its fares every two years no matter what, to keep up with inflation. But the paper ticket surcharge is new, and a sign that BART will probably eventually eliminate those magstripe paper cards.
“We do have to get away from the paper ticket culture,” BART board member Lateefah Simon said during the meeting at which the paper surcharge was approved. “At Powell Street, on a daily basis, our BART staff will tell you… they’re fixing machines.”
The need to modernize the BART payment system is understandable, but charging people more for paper tickets is, in practice, kind of a tax on the poor. Many low-income riders can’t afford to keep a Clipper card loaded with a balance. Further, a cursory look at Yelp reviews of the Clipper card shows predominantly angry, one-star rants rating Clipper as “the worst service ever” and the “worst transit system in the history of the world.”