In response to the upcoming New Year’s Eve festivities, AC Transit will be offering free fares from 8 p.m. on Saturday to 5 a.m. on Sunday.
The free fares include all AC Transit bus lines throughout the East Bay, according to AC Transit spokesperson Robert Lyles. Lyles said during the free fare hours, fare boxes and clipper card readers will be covered and will not accept payment.
This is the second year AC Transit has offered this service. According to Lyles, last year about 10,700 people used AC Transit services to travel on New Year’s Eve. In the press release announcing the continuation of this service, AC Transit called itself “your designated driver to and from your celebrations without cost.”
“AC Transit wants to provide a safe alternative to intoxicated driving,” Lyles said in an email. “Those numbers were encouraging to our Board of Directors, who agreed to offer free fares for the second year.”
According to Berkeley Police Department spokesperson Sgt. Andrew Frankel, the number of alcohol-related incidences typically increases around New Year’s Eve. Frankel said BPD released a Nixle alert Thursday detailing alternative transportation options to driving on New Year’s, including AC Transit, CalTrain and BART.
“(The services) absolutely help, which is why we shared all of those agencies as well as their hours,” Frankel said. “I think it’s safe to say that these programs help reduce the number of impaired motorists on the roads.”
Daniel Sheel, the general manager at Tupper & Reed, said offering free fares could get people more excited about taking the public transit options. According to Sheel, he’s noticed that when customers are driving, they often limit their experiences during their night out and can’t truly enjoy themselves.
Sheel added, however, that rideshare options such as Uber or Lyft were safer alternatives because unlike public transit, they can drop people off directly at home.
In addition to the bar and restaurant scene, The UC Theatre on University Avenue will be hosting a 1350-person sold-out concert on New Year’s Eve. In preparation for the event, administrators emailed ticket buyers about BART’s extended hours and AC Transit’s free fares.
“We surveyed patrons in the past that come to shows (and) the majority of them take public transit,” said Tessa Morris, the marketing director for the UC Theatre. “It’s great that all these companies are offering extended hours as well as free rides — (It’s) a great opportunity for the community to get home safe.”
According to Frankel, there will be additional BPD officers working on New Year’s Eve. In addition to impaired driving, Frankel said other common issues associated with New Year’s Eve celebrations include complaints about loud parties, fireworks being mistaken for gunfire and public drunkenness and urination.