SONOMA COUNTY (CBS SF) — The Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit District plans to offer a 50 percent discount on train fares for low-income adult riders starting this spring.

The reduced fares on SMART are part of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission’s Clipper START Low Income Fare Program. The SMART Board of Directors on Wednesday authorized staff to submit a formal request to the MTC to participate in the program.

In May 2018, the MTC established the framework for a 12- to 18-month pilot program that offers 20 to 50 percent fare discounts to eligible low-income adult riders. The MTC committed approximately $11 million in state funds to implement the program.

Under the Clipper START Low Income Fare Program, BART and Caltrain will offer 20 percent discounts for low-income riders, and Golden Gate Transit, Golden Gate Ferry and Muni will offer 50 percent discounts. The Golden Gate Transit discount does not include zones 3-4.

The Clipper START program discounts will apply to adults whose annual earnings are approximately $50,000 a year for a family of four.

Cubic, the agency that managers the Clipper transit fare card program, will serve as eligibility verifier and perform intake, review and approval and customer service functions for the Clipper START program participants.

“SMART is part of the fabric of the North Bay and we need to continue to make access to the train affordable for all residents. With transportation costs being a sizeable expense in a family’s budget, I’m pleased we now have the opportunity to offer a discounted fare for people with low incomes, “SMART Board of Directors Chair Eric Lucan said.

The MTC said transportation is the third-biggest monthly expense for Bay Area households, trailing housing and food.

SMART said it has carried 1.74 million riders in Marin and Sonoma counties since August 2017, and 85 percent use SMART on weekdays.

SMART is asking voters in the two counties to approve Measure I on the March 3 primary election ballot. The measure, if approved by two-thirds of voters, would extend a quarter-cent sales tax to help SMART finance its operations and pay down debt until 2059. The tax is currently scheduled to expire in 2029.

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