TRAVEL PILOT: 50,000 San Francisco Bay Area residents will receive a free Clipper BayPass transit card

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) and more than 20 other transit agencies that support the Clipper fare payment system in the San Francisco Bay Area of the USA are trialling a contactless transit pass that will allow passengers to take unlimited free journeys on bus, rail and ferry services in the region.

The Clipper BayPass will be distributed to some 50,000 Bay Area residents over the course of a two-year pilot scheme, enabling them to travel on services operated by participating transit agencies without charge.

“Participants in the BayPass program will continue to use their Clipper cards — either traditional plastic cards or Clipper cards on their smartphones or Apple Watch — to tag on (or off) at faregates, on buses, on rail platforms or at ferry ramps,” MTC explains.

“Aside from travelling at no charge, the Clipper BayPass will function like any other Clipper Card.”

The passes will initially be distributed to participating students at San Francisco State University, San Jose State University, the University of California’s Berkeley campus and Santa Rosa Junior College before being offered to residents of affordable housing communities managed by MidPen Housing.

“This limited distribution, which will be based on random assignment, is designed to measure the impact on travel of an all-system pass when compared with students not using Clipper BayPass,” the MTA says.

The information collected will be used “to help shape the development, pricing and implementation of one or more new multi-agency passes or fare caps that eventually will be used by vastly more riders,” MTC chair and Napa County supervisor Alfredo Pedroza adds

“This pilot program is an exciting step toward fare coordination among transit agencies and toward making it easy for organisations to prioritise and promote transit as the preferred mode of transportation in the Bay Area,” BART president Rebecca Saltzman says.

“Studying a regional fare pass using students and residents of affordable housing communities makes clear our commitment to building a more equitable fare system.”

In addition to BART, transit agencies taking part in the Clipper BayPass pilot include SFMTA, AC Transit, VTA, Caltrain, SamTrans, Golden Gate Transit, San Francisco Bay Ferry, County Connection, Dumbarton Express, Fairfield and Suisun Transit, Marin Transit, Petaluma Transit, Santa Rosa CityBus, SMART, SolTrans, Sonoma County Transit, Tri Delta Transit, Union City Transit, Vacaville City Coach, Vine, WestCAT and Wheels.

The digital Clipper card was rolled out for Apple users in April 2021 and for Android users in May 2021.

Clipper pilots contactless transit pass that provides unlimited free public transport across the San Francisco Bay Area was written by Tom Phillips and published by NFCW.

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