OAKLAND -- AC Transit on Tuesday will change the fare payment method for thousands of East Bay riders in a move aimed at making service faster and more reliable.

The Bay Area's third largest bus system will end the sale of paper transfers -- which buy another ride on another bus for 25 cents -- and replace them with $5 one-day passes for unlimited trips.

In a related move also effective Tuesday, AC Transit will begin discounting regular bus fares from $2.10 to $2 if passengers pay with a Clipper card, an electronic fare payment card, instead of cash.

When the changes take effect Tuesday, Clipper card holders will automatically pay $2 for the first ride of the day, $2 for the second ride, $1 for the third ride, and nothing more for further rides.

An AC Transit passenger, right, requests a transfer pass while boarding a bus on the 51A line in Oakland on June 25, 2014. (D. Ross Cameron/Bay Area News
An AC Transit passenger, right, requests a transfer pass while boarding a bus on the 51A line in Oakland on June 25, 2014. (D. Ross Cameron/Bay Area News Group)

Riders paying with cash can pay $5 for unlimited rides or they can pay $2.10 for each separate ride.

The two changes -- the day pass and the discounts -- will speed bus service by reducing the number of delays at bus stops when cash-paying riders fumble for coins, and drivers hand out paper transfers, the district says.

Riders still can pay cash, but far fewer are expected to do so because of the convenience of the day pass and fare discount.

"Our aim is to make our service more reliable and financially efficient while offering our customers faster commutes with better, smarter ways to pay fares," said David Armijo, the AC Transit general manager.

The bus system carries some 192,500 riders a day in 14 cities stretching from San Leandro to San Pablo and including Oakland and Berkeley.

Not everyone is happy with the change, and some critics assert ending the transfers will hurt some low-income riders.

Some riders who now pay $4.70 for two tickets and two transfers will have to pay $5 for the day pass.

Alia Phelps, a member of the Alliance of Californians for Community Engagement's Bus Riders Union, said the day pass is a good change, but said AC Transit ought to continue selling the transfers via Clipper Card.

AC Transit says that is too complicated.

Phelps also predicted the end of transfers will result in mass confusion Tuesday as riders accustomed to transfers suddenly can't buy them. "It will be chaotic," she said.

AC Transit spokesman Clarence Johnson said the district has posted signs on buses for weeks about the changes. On Tuesday, the district will deploy employees to bus stops and on buses next week to help passengers.

"We know it's a change for riders, and we're prepared to help them get through it," Johnson said.

Chris Peeples, an AC Transit board member, acknowledged the fare payment changes won't benefit "a distinct small group of riders," but added, "Most will benefit."

In a federally required study, AC Transit determined the changes will not have disproportionate adverse effects on low-income and minority riders.

Peeples said the day-pass will increase ridership over time by giving people a new incentive to take the bus to lunch, shops or run errands midday when many bus seats are available.

Once a rider has a day pass, another trip costs nothing extra.

AC Transit says it's one of the last large transit systems in the country that still sells paper transfers.

Ending transfers also will reduce fare fraud, officials said. Some riders use transfers for the return leg of a round trip -- a form of fare cheating called round tripping. Others sell paper transfers to others who use it to avoid paying the full fare.

Abolishing transfers also removes stress for passengers trying to squeeze in multiple bus trips within the two-hour time limit for which transfers are good, Johnson said.

Contact Denis Cuff at 925-943-8267. Follow him at Twitter.com/deniscuff

new day pass and clipper card discounts
Starting Tuesday, AC Transit will no longer sell paper transfers to ride another bus for 25 cents within a two-hour window. As a replacement, the bus system will sell day passes good for unlimited rides in a day.
Also, Clipper Card holders will receive a 10-cent discount on the regular bus fare of $2.10 per ride.
For a Q and A about changes, visit bit.ly/1iHV9Qm