Who we are:
The Fare Free Alliance is a non-profit organization committed to reducing traffic congestion, pollution, and transportation costs in the San Francisco Bay Area. We propose combining low-cost smartphone-based carpooling with fare free public transportation (free BART, buses, ferries, etc). Our goal is to use low-cost ($1.50 a ride) on-demand carpooling, as well as other mobility solutions, to solve the first mile-last mile barrier to using public transit and to create a transportation alternative everywhere. By using Uber-like technology to take casual carpooling to the next level we will put every empty seat in public and private vehicles to work and reduce the number of cars on our roads. Our transit choices will be easier, faster, more convenient, and cheaper than driving alone.
In sum, we will create the most dramatic incentives ever to encourage usage of public transit and carpooling over using private cars, effectively using cars to fight the problems they create. Commute costs can decrease or go away for everyone. Congestion will be eliminated, parking will be more available, and greenhouse gas emissions will be dramatically reduced.
We call our proposal FareFree+. The Fare Free Alliance will prove FareFree+ economically viable and secure its implementation by creating legislation, and necessary technology, as well as building a coalition to support this proposal.
Transportation consumes too much of our time and our paychecks, and has devastating environmental impacts. Our roads and freeways are crammed with congestion, yet anyone sitting in traffic can see that these cars and even buses have massive numbers of empty seats. Car exhaust from passenger vehicles is the leading source of greenhouse gas emissions in California, making those empty seats all the more harmful.
Traffic congestion and parking shortages are also the main threats that deter building much-needed housing. Communities simply don’t believe that new units will not bring more cars, and clog nearby streets and parking spaces, even if they are built near transit.
Presently, public transit cannot match the convenience of a car. Few people know where public transit goes. Service rarely goes directly to our destinations. When it does, it does not go at the times we need to travel. We fear being stranded when BART stops running at the end of the night or when we miss a bus that doesn’t come again for another hour, and there is little backup. We cannot park at most transit stations, nor can we easily get from transit stations to our destinations. Bus service can be infrequent, slow, and unreliable, and gets bogged down in the same traffic as cars. As a result, most people avoid transit, and most public transit vehicles operate at or near empty, filling only at peak locations and times. Public transportation is very expensive to operate, often requiring taxpayer subsidies of over $10 per ride to cover costs. Despite these subsidies, the fares charged to riders, which range from $1.50 to $17, are enough to discourage many riders, especially those who need it most. Worse still, transit agencies often spend as much administering and enforcing fare collections as they collect.
In many situations Lyft, Uber, and scooter/bike share, are proving more attractive than public transit, further eroding its use. We are left with a situation where taxpayers pay a lot for transit that goes underutilized.
FareFree+ turns our problem into a solution:
Our roads and freeways can be seen as streams of empty seats going all or part of the way to most destinations. With smartphone-based on-demand carpooling, we can match riders and drivers blocks or even miles away from transit routes, and provide cash and other incentives to drivers to use their empty seats to provide low-cost end-to-end transportation to riders. Access to express lanes and reduction of bridge tolls has made casual carpooling work for decades over the Bay Bridge. New ridesharing technologies can now provide even better incentives to encourage carpooling everywhere.
Using carpooling and other mobility solutions (such as bike/scooter share and eventually autonomous vehicles) to serve neighborhoods allows us to redeploy high capacity vehicles where their capacities can be put to full use.
By harnessing the full capacities of public transit and private cars, we can save so much fuel, equipment, road space, parking, time, and money that the collective savings vastly exceed expenses.
- We will use smartphone rideshare technology to harness the empty seats in cars for carpooling in combination with empty seats in public transit. When connected to an app, computers monitor the location of a driver and search for passengers needing to go from points near a driver’s intended route to points along that driver’s route.
- Passengers will be able to get to and from anywhere in the Bay Area at little-to-no cost, with a combination of on-demand carpooling, public transit, and other mobility options, seamlessly integrated in an app that will handle all of the transfers for them.
- Under our current proposal, if a carpool connection is required to complete the trip, riders will pay $1.50 per trip, regardless of the distance. This payment helps cover the cost of the payments to drivers, and incentivizes using public transit when available. Rider payments are capped at $75 a month, after which all rides would be free.
- Drivers would get $1 per pick up, and $.20 per mile for each passenger. Drivers could also potentially be rewarded with cash or credits that might be used for gasoline, parking tickets, priority parking, bridge tolls, HOV lane access (even without passengers), or other rewards.
- We propose funding through payments by carpool riders, as well as a $0.25/gallon fuel tax and a $150 per year auto registration fee. Reduction in car traffic will reduce the demand for gasoline, which in turn will lower the price of gasoline, offsetting the fuel tax. Car owners who utilize Fare Free Transit or get incentive payments for offering carpool rides can more than offset the additional registration fee.
- Transportation can already make-up a large portion of cost-of-living, especially for lower-income communities that have historically been under-served by public transit. This proposal can reduce that cost and possibly eliminate the necessity for many people to own private cars entirely.
- Viewed another way, funding comes from putting wasted transportation assets to work. We see the $2 billion in annual funding raised from the gas tax and registration fee as unlocking a significant portion of the $62 billion of transportation value of empty seats in cars in the region and allowing that value to be returned directly to bay area residents.
- Underutilized public transit vehicles will be repurposed, freeing them up to provide capacity and frequency on more heavily utilized routes, while dramatically decreasing the average cost of each transit ride. Smartphone-based carpooling will replace the repurposed transportation capacity.
- When carpool drivers are unavailable, the system may suggest that a would-be passenger with a car drive their own vehicle – and create three additional seats in the process. Commercial ride-hailing services will be used as affordable backups when needed.
- Where meaningful, participant preferences can be respected – for example, is a rider willing to stand during their trip? Some women may prefer to only ride with women. Parents may prefer that their children only ride with companions or only with specially certified drivers.
- Studies show that a reduction in traffic of 15% greatly speeds vehicle flow. Since most cars now operate with 2-3 empty seats, a reduction in car traffic of up to 75% is theoretically possible. The reduction in traffic means that the unhindered buses can provide faster transportation over bridges and freeways.
- Premiums will be awarded as necessary to encourage drivers to provide vehicles and personal accommodation to people living with disabilities. Even the presence of a bicycle rack could earn extra credits.
- To keep all of our transit operators viable, farebox revenues will be replaced as part of our funding plan.
- Scooters, bike share, and other micromobility solutions can easily be added to the system and made freely available to riders.
- As autonomous vehicles come online, they can be seamlessly integrated into the system.
- Artificial Intelligence components will facilitate efficient deployment of transit assets.
- Elimination of fare enforcement will allow resources currently dedicated to pursuing fare evaders to be utilized to improve usability and public safety on transit.
Will FareFree+ increase ridership and overwhelm BART and other transit?
Buses will be redirected from underutilized routes easily serviced by carpooling to mitigate BART loads with various express services equaling or exceeding convenience to BART riders. Because each Fare Free Transit journey begins with a smartphone ride request or public transit ride, computers will be able to manage and appropriately distribute the load across transit and carpooling in response to changing needs. This proposal will create an equilibrium that efficiently uses all vehicle capacity, which will ensure that BART and other transit systems are not overwhelmed.
Benefits of our proposal:
- A significant reduction in overall transportation costs, and the possibility to eliminate the need for many people to own private cars.
- Environmental impacts and fossil fuel consumption will be reduced along with the overall number of cars on the road.
- Resistance to housing development often centers around concerns for increased traffic congestion and parking shortages. Because our proposal produces a practical alternative to car ownership, we will be able to move forward more of the housing development needed to combat the housing crisis.
- This will enable denser housing, which will drive down housing costs, encourage living near transit, and enable more people to live near where they work, reducing overall commutes.
- Less land will be dedicated to roads and parking. Resources currently locked into supporting cars can be reconsidered for other uses such as housing and parks.
- Businesses will be more accessible to customers, which will revitalize our commercial corridors.
- Increased mobility and quality of life for seniors, people living with disabilities, families with children, and others for whom transportation can be a challenge.
- Improve the tourism experience throughout the region and increase tourist spending.
- Carpooling will reward drivers for turning otherwise empty seats into an essential part of the transportation network, and eliminate billions of dollars of waste in the process. These savings will be converted into spendable income that will support the local economy.
- As new population centers develop, they will have transportation options from the outset, saving taxpayer money and providing data about when and where to deploy mass transit vehicles, as they become necessary, while in the meantime, leveraging carpooling.
- Reduce drunk driving, by providing a simple way for people to get home late at night.
The economic foundation of Fare Free Transit is based on converting the waste in our current transportation system into an asset. The total amount of waste, as a result of empty seats in the cars on Bay Area roads, totals over $62 billion per year. This is a combination of fuel and operating costs, environmental impacts, congestion, road maintenance, and more. This doesn’t include land use and equity impacts, or the higher housing costs that result from fighting for space with cars and their insatiable need for ever-widening freeways and more parking spaces.
At the same time, taxpayers are already subsidizing public transit. Costs for Bay Area transit agencies exceed what they collect in fares by $3.08 per ride on average (and for at least four agencies, it’s over $10 per ride). That taxpayer transit funding is above and beyond the fares that transit riders actually pay, which range (for non-discounted fares) from $1.50 to $17. The highest fares are often paid by people with lower incomes who can’t afford to live near where they work.
If implemented, FareFree+ can eliminate a large portion of this waste. With our current proposed registration fee and fuel tax increases, tax revenues would increase by almost $2 Billion per year. The cost of replacing fare revenues to fund transit agencies would be approximately $1 Billion per year. The cost of carpooling will vary with usage (and subsequently the incentives paid out to drivers); but if we assume that 5% of all car trips are replaced by carpooling, it would cost $1.3 Billion per year, $600 Million of which would be paid for by riders. Even with only 5% of rides replaced though, Bay Area residents stand to save $3.2 Billion in total costs, between the total cost of driving and free fares. Those savings apply whether the trip is replaced by carpooling or transit.
At higher levels of participation, we stand to save even more, with a savings of $5.5 Billion per year at 10% of all car trips replaced, and $12.5 Billion per year at 25%. These savings result from harnessing technology to eliminate the waste in our current transit system by filling empty seats in cars, buses, and trains, reducing the overall number of cars on our roads. This reduction of waste is the ultimate proof that FareFree+ is a proposal worth supporting.