Analyzing equity impacts of transit fare changes: Case study of Alameda-Contra Costa Transit, California
Many public transit agencies consider increasing fares when faced with budget shortfalls. This paper analyzes the Alameda-Contra Costa (AC) Transit District's five alternative fare proposals introduced for public discussion in March 2005. The proposals combined fare hikes, base fare reductions, eliminations of free transfers, and discontinuation of periodic passes. Using the agency's 2002 on-board survey data, the study assessed the impacts of individual fare proposals on different subsets of riders and evaluated if they were equitable; and estimated potential fare revenues, using alternative price elasticities to estimate changes in ridership due to changes in price. The analysis revealed that proposals that increased the cost of transfers or eliminated unlimited-use passes produced dramatically unequal impacts on certain riders. Proposals for flat fares per ride were found to be least equitable, even when the base fare was lowered, because lower income riders, youth, and minorities made more trips and transferred more frequently than their more affluent counterparts. Proposals that maintained existing pass instruments and allowed transfers for small fees were the most favorable. The paper demonstrates the utility of on-board surveys and details an approach that could be widely used for evaluation of equity in public transit and other areas.
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