AC Transit continues suspending fare collection amid funding uncertainty

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AC Transit has temporarily suspended fare collection since March 23 in order to comply with Alameda county health officers’ orders for social distancing, according to AC Transit spokesperson Robert Lyles.

Per county orders, AC Transit has been required to adopt rear-door boarding, which prevents it from collecting rider fares as usual at the front of the bus where a collection device is, according to Lyles. Passenger fares make up about 13% of AC Transit revenue, according to its website.

Lyles said to make up the lack of farebox recovery the organization is reaching out to the federal government for funding assistance.

“We anticipate restoration of full fare collection in the coming weeks,” Lyles said in an email. “We will use our communication platforms to notify riders and East Bay communities of a date of restored fare collection.”

Tess Lengyel, executive director of the Alameda County Transportation Commission, added that another part of the AC Transit revenue comes from sales tax mandates voted on by citizens.

The commission provides almost $60 million per year to AC Transit for regular fixed-route services and Americans with Disabilities Act funding, according to Lengyel.

Lengyel said there will be an impact on this funding due to the economic downturn from the COVID-19 pandemic and added that the commission plans to reduce its allocation of funds to AC Transit. However, the commission is still waiting for more data from the state before it can understand the scale of the impact.

According to Lyles, AC Transit is currently in stage two of California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s four-stage plan to reopen the state following shelter-in-place orders. California moved into stage two May 8, which allows lower-risk workplaces to open gradually with adaptations, as stated on the governor’s website.

There has been a 72% decline in ridership since the shelter-in-place order, noted Lyles. This resulted in the temporary termination of some bus services. All employees, however, continue to receive full pay and benefits.

“We have been prudent with budgeted dollars and as a result have not experienced furloughs or layoffs of any portion of our workforce,” Lyles said in the email.

Unlike some other essential services, AC Transit drivers do not receive separately identified hazard pay in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Lyles.

Lyles added that AC Transit will continue to monitor guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the state of California and local health officials as well as operate on a modified service schedule.

“Although other companies sheltered-in-place, thereby conserving spending, our service is deemed essential to the people of the East Bay,” Lyles said in the email. “As a result, we have continued to operate, day and night.”

Contact Claire Daly and Dina Katgara at [email protected].