BART to offer free Clipper cards to low-income riders


Low-income BART riders will soon be able to get their hands on a free Clipper card before a 50-cent surcharge on paper tickets takes effect on Jan 1. 2018.

BART will distribute the free cards through community-based organizations near low-income BART stations, and train organizations on how to use the card and register the card online starting in October, under a plan approved on Thursday by the transit agency’s Board of Directors.

Besides distributing Clipper cards to community organizations, the transit agency will also host up to 23 events at stations and with community organizations to teach riders on how use Clipper on BART and how to register the card online.

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission, which oversees the Clipper card program, will provide the Clipper cards for free for both the distribution of cards to organizations and for the promotional events.

Promotional events will last through Mar. 2018, but distributing Clipper cards to community organizations will be ongoing as long as the organization continues to request the cards, according to BART documents.

BART staff said they will monitor the usage of the specific Clipper cards handed out using the serial numbers that the MTC and community organizations will provide to BART.

The transit agency will monitor key metrics such as a decrease usage of paper tickets at BART stations in low-income communities, an increase in Clipper card usage, making sure riders are using the distributed cards, number of trips taken with the distributed cards and reloading value of the cards.

In June, the BART board approved a fare equity analysis, a requirement by the federal government when a transit agency makes any fare changes. The report stated that the 50-cent surcharge on paper tickets would disproportionately affect low-income riders, which required the board to come up with a mitigation plan.

BART directors will receive an update next year in the spring on how the plan is performing.

Jerold Chinn
Jerold Chinn is the San Francisco Bureau Chief of SFBay and covers transportation and City Hall. He has spent a decade covering transportation in San Francisco. Jerold is a San Francisco native and frequently takes public transit everywhere he goes. Follow Jerold on Twitter @jerold_chinn. Email tips to

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