Caltrain Approves Deeper Discount for Low-Income Riders


The Caltrain Board of Directors unanimously approved increasing the discount available to riders who qualify for the regional means-based fare pilot program from 20% to 50% off of single-ride adult Clipper fares. The program, now known as Clipper START and administered by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), will allow eligible low-income transit riders to access the discount through the use of a Clipper card.

In February 2019, the Caltrain Board adopted a resolution of support for Caltrain’s participation in the regional means-based fare pilot program by offering a discount of 20% on single-ride adult Clipper fares for qualified riders. In September 2019, the Caltrain Board adopted a Fare Structure that included this discount for eligible participants in the Clipper START program.

However, the economic impacts resulting from the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic have made it more challenging for lower income, transit dependent riders. Offering a deeper discount of 50% will help preserve Caltrain as a relevant, accessible, affordable option for more riders as the region struggles to recover. The decision follows the agency’s postponement of a fare increase that was planned to go into effect in April.  

“With so many people facing serious economic hardships in light of the coronavirus pandemic, now is the perfect time to provide a 50 percent discount to low income residents that rely on transit,” said Caltrain Board Chair and San Mateo County Supervisor Dave Pine. “Not only can we help existing riders, many of whom are providing essential services, but we also hope to attract new riders at a time when Caltrain is experiencing sharp ridership losses with most office workers continuing to work from home.”

One of the goals of the Caltrain Fare Policy, adopted by the Caltrain Board in 2018, is to “advocate for and participate in State and regional programs that make it more affordable for low-income customers to use transit.”

The regional pilot program will run for 12 to 18 months and is expected to launch over the summer. Adults that earn less than 200% of the Federal Poverty Level will be eligible for pilot program. Other regional transit operators participating in the Clipper START pilot program include the Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART); Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District (GGBHTD) for both its bus and ferry services; and San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA). 


Owned and operated by the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board, Caltrain provides commuter rail service from San Francisco to San Jose, with commute service to Gilroy. While the Joint Powers Board assumed operating responsibilities for the service in 1992, the railroad celebrated 150 years of continuous passenger service in 2014. Planning for the next 150 years of Peninsula rail service, Caltrain is on pace to electrify the corridor, reduce diesel emissions by 97 percent by 2040 and add more service to more stations.

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