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Getting People to Vote: Fare-Free Transit and Bike-Share on Election Day

The Tempo bus in Oakland. Photo: AC Transit

Millions of California voters have already sent in their ballots, but plenty of people still plan to vote in person tomorrow. With fewer voting sites than four years ago - in part because every voter was given the option of mailing in their ballot to avoid public gatherings during the pandemic - people may have to travel longer distances to reach their polling stations.

To make it easier, transit agencies across the country are offering free bus rides all day - some since polls opened on Saturday. It's a big deal, as transit agencies have been struggling with plummeting fare revenue while providing safe transit. Many California have been experimenting with various types of fare-free rides for several years - and especially since the pandemic began.

Also, many bike- and scooter-share companies are offering free rides on Tuesday, including Bird, Motivate, Spin, L.A.'s Metro Bikeshare, and Lime (use the code “LIME2VOTE18” in the app).

Below is a partial list of California transit agencies supporting this get-out-the-vote effort with free rides. Check with your local provider - there are hundreds of transit agencies in the state, so it's very likely we've missed some. Find their websites here.

Also, double check your polling place location, as it may have changed since the last time you voted.

Southern California

San Diego's MTS will offer free rides on fixed-rout bus and rail services throughout San Diego County.

L.A. Metro, LADOT, Pasadena Transit, and Antelope Valley Transit Authority will all be fare-free on Tuesday.

L.A. County's on-demand transit for people who can't ride regular transit, Access, is also offering free rides by reservation to disabled residents to and from their polling location.

Some sources have listed the Culver CityBus and Long Beach Transit among those offering free rides on Tuesday, and while that may be so, it's not clearly announced on the agencies' sites.

Victor Valley Transit is offering Free Ride Day on Tuesday.

Riverside Transit Agency has been letting people ride for free since March, but as of today began requiring bus fares again - hopefully transit-depending voters in Riverside have already turned in their ballots.

Bay Area and Northern California

Marin Transit is offering free rides on its buses from Saturday, when polls opened, through Tuesday.

The Sacramento Regional Transit District is offering free rides system-wide  on all bus, light rail, SmaRT Ride and SacRT GO paratransit services "in celebration of Election Day" on Tuesday, November 3. The agency has been offering free rides since the first day of early voting on October 24.

While not specifically offering free fares on election day, AC Transit is still offering free rides on its new BRT service, the Tempo Line, until November 9.

SolTrans in Solano County will offer free rides on all local and paratransit services on Tuesday. "It is our commitment to offer free rides this election day to allow our community access to the polls," says its website.

Santa Cruz Metro will offer free rides on its fixed-route services throughout the county.

Central California

The City of Clovis has eliminated fares for everyone on its Stageline and Round Up (on-demand) services, all the time, not just on election day.

Bakersfield's Golden Empire Transit District will offer free rides on Tuesday.

Lodi Transit is offering free rides through Tuesday.

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