June 30--The transit-riding tradition of grabbing a transfer will disappear from AC Transit Tuesday as part of a fare-restructuring some consider unfair to low-income riders.
The new fare structure, approved last December, eliminates transfers, which now cost 25 cents and are valid in a single direction for two hours. It replaces them with an unlimited-use day pass that will sell for $5. Fares will not increase from the existing $2.10, but passengers will have to pay full fare each time they board a bus.
In addition to trading transfers for day passes, the East Bay's largest bus transit system will offer discounted fares to passengers who use Clipper cards. They'll be charged $2 for the first two rides and $1 for the third, as the day pass kicks in automatically.
The changes are intended to speed AC Transit by reducing boarding times and save money by eliminating transfer fraud and the cost and hassle of dealing with transfers.
"They all center around becoming more efficient," said AC Transit spokesman Clarence Johnson.
But some riders argue that eliminating transfers increases costs for people who depend on the bus to go to the grocery store or the doctor.
AC's existing transfer policy gives riders two hours to travel to a destination but does not permit round-trips, though some passengers take them anyway. A round trip, with transfers, costs $4.70 but would require the purchase of a day pass for 30 cents more under the new fare program.
"For a very small number of folks, they may have to pay a little more than they pay now," Johnson said.
Some riders, however, abuse transfers, Johnson said, and day passes will make that more difficult. It should also eliminate conflicts between drivers and riders who insist an invalid transfer should be accepted.
"There is a certain level of fraud with transfers," he said. "They are supposed to be one-way but some people use them all day or to make trips in multiple directions."
For people who take more than a single round-trip in a day, he said, the day pass is a good deal.
AC Transit, like other transit operators, is required by federal law to study whether fare increases have disproportionate impacts on low-income or minority communities. The agency's study found that was not the case.
Buses have displayed signs warning of the impending fare changes for weeks, and AC is prepared to assist riders with Tuesday's changes, Johnson said. The agency plans to send workers to bus stops and ride buses to help riders with the adjustments.
AC Transit carries about 193,000 riders a day, serving East Bay communities from Richmond to Fremont. It also runs transbay buses across the Bay Bridge and Dumbarton Bridge.
Michael Cabanatuan is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @ctuan
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