AC Transit puts end to paper bus transfer payments

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The AC Transit bus system said goodbye to paper transfers Tuesday, meaning passengers who rely on them will need to adjust to different methods of payment.

Prior to these changes, riders could transfer from one bus to another using paper slips purchased from bus drivers for 25 cents. Now each time patrons board the bus, they are required to pay the normal rate, and transfer slips cannot be accepted as payment.

Alternatively, patrons can use the newly introduced AC Transit Day Pass, a flat $5 fare for unlimited local rides throughout the service day. Riders who pay with cash have to purchase a day pass specifically, while Clipper card users automatically invoke the day pass if they ride the bus more than twice in one day.

Additional changes, such as discounted fares, also incentivize usage of the Clipper card over paying with cash.

Fees for UC Berkeley student Class Pass stickers and faculty Easy Passes remain unchanged. According to Clarence Johnson, a spokesperson for AC Transit, this is because students with the Class Pass have already paid an agreed-upon fee to ride the bus for free as often as they want.

“There aren’t any price changes. The basic bus fare will be the same,” he said.

The phase-out of paper transfer slips is an effort to expedite bus service, Johnson said, as idling buses waste time and fuel.

“The boarding process is probably the biggest hindrance to our on-time performance,” he said. “To minimize the amount of time our buses spend dwelling at bus stops is a really big deal in terms of making our service more reliable.”

AC Transit is working to get more Clipper card vendors installed in Berkeley and throughout its service area, Johnson said.

Seamus Wilmot, director of parking and transportation at UC Berkeley, said he feels the changes reflect AC Transit’s desire to streamline the payment of standard daily bus fares, much as it did for UC Berkeley students.

“What it sounds like to me is that AC Transit is going more towards what the Class Pass is (for students),” he said.

Riders’ opinions thus far have been mixed. Kay Smith, an AC Transit rider who often transfers, said the changes weren’t advertised well or far enough in advance.

“I imagine a lot of people are frustrated,” she said. “A lot of people are probably in for a shock today.”

Sarah Burkhead, another bus rider, said the policy could be beneficial or detrimental to commuters, depending on their circumstances.

“If I need to go to a bunch of places in one day, it’s fantastic,” she said, referring to a trip that would require more than two transfers. “But if I want to (go out) and go home, it sucks.”

Contact G. Haley Massara at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @BylineGraph.