BART pilot program to test frequent flyer
By Brigid Gaffikin, Bay City News Service
October 14, 2006
Bay Area Rapid Transit will begin Monday to select customers
for a pilot program involving prepaid "flash passes,'' as
the agency considers new ways to reward loyal riders.
BART is considering offering discounts to regular customers through
a flash pass or "smart card" fare payment system, agency
spokesman Linton Johnson said yesterday.
"We're looking at all kinds of different options to give
our loyal riders rewards," he said.
Benefits could include free trips and any other bonuses that
would reward regular customers, he said.
A pilot program with 250 customers, who will be selected beginning
Monday, will study the use of prepaid passes that allow a rider
to pass through BART gates without having to buy new tickets or
refresh old ones.
Riders would simply swipe the pass over a reader on top of the
The system would function much like the Fastrak automatic toll
collection system on bridges, Johnson said. Dashboard-mounted
Fastrak transponders allow drivers to pass through toll gates
and pay electronically without stopping to hand money to a toll
collector. The transponders can be replenished automatically with
payments charged to a credit card.
The BART pilot program will probably begin within a month, Johnson
"We want to test it until we're comfortable that it works,"
Under the pilot scheme, pass users will put $48 onto a smart
card, which, linked to a credit card, would also automatically
replenish once the balance drops to a certain amount, like $10,
Currently BART riders can buy high-value tickets at $45 that
provide $48 worth of rides, a 6.25 percent discount, he said.
But the paper tickets have to be replenished in person at ticket
machines. Johnson said the agency hopes the smart card will create
a larger pool of loyal BART riders.
Only around half of BART's 330,000 daily passengers use the system
on a regular basis, four or five days a week, and smart cards
would have the advantage of not requiring a rider to travel five
days a week to accrue bonuses, he said.
Some 2 million of the Bay Area's 7 million residents ride BART
at least once a year.
The smart cards could also be used to pay for parking at BART
Johnson said that BART's ridership pattern and the fact that
the agency receives around 60 percent of its revenue from fares
mean that a pass that expires at the end of each calendar month
is not a feasible option for the agency.
Unlike BART, many other transit agencies receive as much as 70-90
percent of their revenue from taxes, he said.
Monthly passes, which do not generally produce revenue for transit
agencies but which have the advantage of helping retain riders,
are better options for systems in which trips are all short or
all long in length, he said.
Pilot program participants will probably be identified by BART's
marketing department, he said.
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