Spare the Air free transit program continues this yearThe Bay Area will be treated to three free days of public transportation this year during the region's smoggiest summer months.
The Metropolitan Transportation Commission voted unanimously and without discussion Wednesday to spend $7.5 million on the Spare the Air free transit program despite concerns about its effectiveness and cost.
Last year, the commission spent $13.2 million for six days of free transit. The goal is to reduce traffic congestion and smog on days the Bay Area is expected to exceed air quality standards.
The decision to continue the free rides on 26 of the region's transit systems was contingent on an evaluation of last year's program.
That analysis shows it cost nearly $411,000 a ton to reduce vehicle emissions and points out that the Bay Area avoided violating the ozone pollution standard on just two of the six free-transit days. Still, without the program "air quality conditions could have been much worse," according to the report.
During last year's six days of free transit, ridership increased 15 percent, or by about 1.35 million riders. That led to nearly 529,000 fewer car trips and 3.5 million fewer miles of automobile travel for every free transit day.
Bicycles are allowed on all buses and trains operated by San Francisco Bay Area public transit providers.