San Francisco is apparently exploring need-based transit fares, with the idea that pass prices could be based on income rather than simply age or disability:
A struggling 19-year-old service worker barely earning enough to make ends meet has to pay $64 for her monthly Muni pass. A wealthy 66-year-old homeowner from Pacific Heights can purchase that same fare for $22. Seem fair?
Apparently San Francisco has a “Lifeline” programme with a discount for “residents whose income equals or falls below 200 percent of federal poverty levels”, which isn’t a lot of money in a city whose average rent is well over $2500 a month. The article goes on to discuss the pros and cons of a need-based system.
I’ve noticed, however, in Seattle we have no low-income fare programme that I am aware of; our discounts are for the disabled, seniors and youth. Which is too bad because it’s for precisely the same reason transit fares could be burdensome to the disabled and the elderly that the fares might be burdensome to other passengers with low-incomes: lack of money and more likely an acute dependency on transit. A large part of me thinks we should try the same thing here: give everyone with low incomes the option of a cheaper pass. I think a tiered-system, based on income is a very good way to make transit fares.
Something else I’ve noticed about the Puget pass relative to other San Francisco’s passes. As you can see, the monthly Puget Pass takes more requires more transit trips to pay for itself than Muni’s pass does, however, you can use one Puget Pass for multiple transit systems’ service here. So it’s a bit apples and oranges. But still, the discounts offered here to the disabled and seniors are larger than those in San Francisco, for single fares, but the discount for getting a pass is smaller for everyone here. Just a point of interest.