Wheel, rail or sail, transit prices are going up

Fare hikes and service reductions have been increasingly used as solutions for fiscal issues that plague transit providers.

Fares start increasing this weekend on several Bay Area transit agencies — and the move is becoming a rite of summer for riders.

Muni, BART, Caltrain and Golden Gate Transit will all implement fare hikes beginning Sunday. They are modest, but the cumulative effect of years of increases has driven the cost of transit up significantly.

Muni’s 30-day Fast Pass with BART service will rise by $2. But the $74 passengers will now pay is a 64 percent increase from 2009.

Golden Gate Transit’s increase marks the 14th straight year the agency has raised prices, and that will continue. The hikes set to start Sunday mark the second year of a five-year plan of increases for bus and ferry passengers.

Fare hikes and service reductions have been increasingly used as solutions for fiscal issues that plague transit providers.

Greg Dewar, a transit advocate who writes the N-Judah Chronicles blog, said costs are rising while service has suffered, leaving passengers to pay more for less.

“The fact of that matter is that transit agencies are balancing their budgets on the backs of passengers,” Dewar said. “You almost get numbed by the ritualized beating you take every year with these fare increases.”

Transit agencies have been particularly hurt by the economy’s lingering struggles. Receipts from sales tax proceeds, which often benefit transit operators, have been low, and high unemployment means fewer people are using public transit, thus lowering fare revenue, said Virginia Miller, spokeswoman for the American Public Transportation Association.

With their budgets in the red, public agencies have had few choices besides fare hikes. Muni had to clear a two-year, $80 million budget deficit, and Golden Gate Transit approved its series of fare increases to help work off a five-year projected shortfall of $89 million.

BART’s budget is in much better shape — the agency actually has an operating surplus — but its long-term infrastructure needs are underfunded by $7.5 billion. The fare increases are essential to helping BART pay for its new fleet of trains set to arrive later this decade.


Permits, tickets to be more costly

Transit passengers will not be alone in paying more for travel come Sunday.

Residential parking permits in The City are set to increase from $100 to $104, and parking citations will increase by $7 to $8, under plans approved by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency.

The cost of residential permits — designed to keep out-of-towners from parking all day on city streets — has increased 73 percent since 2008. Four years ago, a permit cost $60.

The permit program is supposed to be cost-neutral, meaning the SFMTA should not make a profit off it.

As part of a pre-approved policy, citations will increase by 2.7 percent and more fees will be tacked on to recover costs from the state. For example, a street-sweeping fine will go up from $55 to $62.

— Will Reisman

What to expect

Riders on Muni, BART, Caltrain and Golden Gate Transit will see fare increases starting Sunday.


  • Fast Passes with BART service will increase from $72 to $74
  • Muni-only Fast Passes will increase from $62 to $64
  • Senior, youth and disabled monthly passes will increase from $21 to $22
  • Low-income monthly passes will increase from $31 to $32


  • Fares will increase by 1.4 percent


  • One-way cash fares will increase by 25 cents and round trips by 50 cents
  • Golden Gate Transit
  • One-way cash fares for bus travel will increase by 25 cents
  • One-way cash fares for ferry travel will increase by 25 cents from Larkspur to San Francisco and 50 cents from Sausalito to San Francisco

Sources: SFMTA, BART, Caltrain, Golden Gate Transit

Correction: This article was corrected on June 26, 2012. A previous version of the article incorrectly stated that the SFMTA would make money from the residential parking permits in San Francisco. The program is revenue neutral and the agency should not make money from it.

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