The Metropolitan Transportation Commission last week approved an extension of the Clipper® START pilot program through June 30, 2025.
Clipper START offers discounts on public transit to qualifying Bay Area adults with low incomes. Twenty-one Bay Area transit agencies are participating in the pilot program: Seven agencies offer a 50% discount, while 14 additional agencies offer a 20% discount.
The approved extension of the program will incorporate changes that:
- Reach more people in the target population,
- Make it easier for those individuals to sign up for Clipper START, and
- Make it easier to use and understand the Clipper START program.
Some additional ideas will require further exploration and research by MTC staff, and may be included in Clipper START at a later date:
- Auto-enrollment for qualified individuals (for example, people who currently qualify for the CalFresh program)
- A setup that lets participants “self-verify,” which would make the application process faster and easier
- Increasing the maximum qualifying household income, which would allow more people to qualify for Clipper START
- Setting a “fare cap,” so that frequent transit riders will not pay more than a set maximum amount
MTC staff will report back to the Commission with further recommendations as they are developed.
Clipper START launched in July 2020 as a 36-month pilot program. As the three-year anniversary of the program approaches, MTC staff is evaluating the program’s successes and the areas which have room to improve.
The chart below illustrates some highlights from the program so far:
Data show that Clipper START participants are choosing transit more often than they would have without access to the program. The average rider takes more than five trips per week.
And while the Clipper START pilot demonstrates good ridership from the people who are participating, the number of enrollees (approximately 19,000) is far below the total number of Bay Area adults (1.6 million adults) who qualify for the program. MTC staff is looking for ways to improve outreach to increase the number of program participants, particularly residents of Equity Priority Communities.
Clipper START was developed as an effort to increase affordability and to ensure that public transit in the Bay Area remains equitable and accessible to everyone.
Once approved for the Clipper START pilot program, riders receive a Clipper START card that automatically applies fare discounts when used. For more information about the program, qualifications and available discounts, go to clipperstartcard.com.