East Bay News

Occupiers take on AC Transit fare transfers

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Occupy Oakland, working with Alameda-Contra Costa Transit bus operators, launched a campaign today asking drivers to honor transfers in ways that will ease the financial pain felt by the system's riders.

Before the last round of service cuts, it was AC Transit policy to honor transfers for up to three hours. Currently, transfers are only valid for two hours.

At the campaign announcement outside the Fruitvale BART station this afternoon, Occupy's Cicily Cooper said that service cuts and fare hikes have made life harder on both riders and drivers, who often sympathize with their riders' financial hardship.

Cooper said the service cuts disproportionately affect communities of color, as the disappearance of routes has meant riders in poorer neighborhoods need to take additional buses to reach the same destinations.

"Riders increasingly have to pay more to get less," Cooper said. "It is the working people that suffer from these cuts."

Last year's fare hikes saw the basic adult fare increase by 10 cents and the youth, senior and disabled fare increase by 5 cents, raising the basic bus fare to $2.10 and the discounted fare for seniors, youths and the disabled to $1.05.

Another round of fare increases is scheduled to go into effect next year.

The transfer campaign aims to make transportation more accessible for low-income riders, who represent the majority of the system's users, and to reverse concessions transit workers made in their current contract, which expires in a little more than a year.

AC Transit spokesman Clarence Johnson declined to comment on the matter other than saying, "We have a bus fare policy in place, and we have no reason to expect that any of our bus operators won't adhere to it."

Cooper said the transfer approach is a small step "but will be one of any" as the campaign escalates.

Fellow occupier Mike King said that, before taking additional action, the group plans to assess the campaign's effectiveness in about a month.

"We saw the transfers as a logical first step," King said, because many passengers pay two fares in a single direction of travel when transfers expire while people are waiting for their connecting bus.

King said the campaign is asking drivers to do their job, which, according to operator Dave Lyons, is to simply state the fare -- not enforce collection.

Lyons said that fare disputes, including disagreements over transfers, are the number one cause of assaults on drivers.

"We're making life harder for them and for ourselves," Lyons said this afternoon.

Lyons said that bus drivers should use good judgment when weighing whether to allow passengers with expired transfers to board without conflict.

"You have to be reasonable," he said, and consider the safety and comfort of all passengers because escalating the situation, by demanding a passenger pay a second fare or by calling security, can impact service.

Lyons said the matter boils down to mutual respect, as drivers are capable of showing sympathy but ask that riders not abuse their understanding.

"I think all drivers get at least a little bit annoyed when riders don't respect drivers," Lyons said.

King said that increasing bus fares and declining working conditions have roiled passengers and drivers.

"This reality can only be rectified by riders and drivers standing together and building collective social power to create a just bus system for everyone," King said. "We've tried to create an agreed upon system of mutual respect and solidarity."

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occupy movement, oakland, ac transit, occupy oakland, east bay news
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