Low-Income Caltrain Riders Can Start Saving with Clipper START


As Caltrain ridership slowly climbs back from the steep decline caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the new Clipper START program will allow adults age 19-64, who are lower-income, to receive fare discounts on select transit services around the region. Clipper START offers eligible Caltrain riders a 50 percent discount, which the agency recently increased following the economic fallout resulting from COVID-19.

Clipper START is an 18-month pilot program initiated by Bay Area transit agencies and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) that uses the Clipper transit fare payment system to reduce the cost of transportation for adults whose household incomes are no more than twice the federal poverty level (for example, $52,400 for a family of four). This can be an important benefit, as transportation costs are a significant burden on many households, particularly during the current economic climate.

As Caltrain’s recent COVID-19 rider survey data illustrates, affordable public transportation is vital to equitably supporting economic recovery for the region. The riders reportedly most dependent on Caltrain are those who are lower income, as well as some minority groups. These are the same communities who plan to continue riding Caltrain just as frequently as they were prior to COVID-19, if not more, amplifying the urgent need for low-cost transportation services.

“While COVID-19 creates enormous uncertainty for Caltrain’s future, what remains clear is our role in making mobility more accessible for families experiencing significant financial hardship resulting from this pandemic,” said Caltrain Executive Director Jim Hartnett. “Clipper START is helping to advance that public charge by making Caltrain more affordable for the communities we serve.”

Applicants to the pilot program can provide a copy of an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card or Medi-Cal card, a county benefits eligibility letter, their Muni Lifeline card number or a copy of their last federal tax return to demonstrate their eligibility. Once approved, they will receive a personalized Clipper card that must be loaded with cash value before use.

Caltrain’s Clipper START discounts are automatically applied for eligible riders upon tagging off. Clipper START is not a transit pass—it is a program that offers discounts for single rides on Caltrain, Muni, BART and Golden Gate Transit and Ferry. The card also can be used just like a standard Clipper card to pay for fares on any agency that accepts Clipper.

Anyone interested in Clipper START can learn more about the program and apply online. The website explains the application process, required documentation and allows applicants to save their progress and return later to complete the process. To learn more about the program and apply, visit www.clipperstartcard.com.


About Caltrain: 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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