In San Francisco, You Can Get Paid to Commute Outside of Rush Hour

Commute to work
Rafael Castillo under Creative Commons

Maybe your city’s public transportation system offers reduced fares if you commute to and from work during off-peak times.

But what if you could get paid to adjust your commute? Would you change your work schedule to make extra cash?

San Francisco’s BART program is testing a BART Perks program that rewards riders with points riders can exchange for money.

But don’t expect to strike it rich with this bonus program. You might have to wait a while for a substantial payout.

Perks and Points for BART Riders

After enrolling your Clipper card, you earn one point per mile you travel on BART. If you travel during “bonus hours” of 6:30 to 7:30 a.m. or 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. Monday to Friday, you earn three to six points per mile depending on your Perks status (bronze, silver, gold or platinum).

You can redeem every 1,000 points you earn for $1.

You could choose cash rewards delivered via PayPal automatically each month. Or, if you’re feeling lucky, you can play a Spin to Win game for a chance to win random cash rewards (between $1 and $100) or additional points.

One Business Insider writer who commutes on BART from Oakland to downtown San Francisco five days per week estimates being able to earn about $1 “and change” in a month’s time.

It doesn’t seem like much, but the program advertises occasional “bonus box” earning opportunities tailored to your ridership habits. Riders can also earn 250 points per referral to the Perks program.  

What’s Your Commute Time Worth?

This pilot program is an interesting idea to alleviate stressful peak ridership times.

In Washington, D.C., where I live, Metro riders pay a discounted rate if they ride outside of peak commuting times of 5 to 9:30 a.m. and 3 to 7 p.m. during the week. Instead of paying up to $5.90 per one-way trip, the maximum off-peak fare is $3.60.

It feels nice to pay a little less if you’re traveling outside of typical commute times, but I don’t think many people wait to start their commute until 9:30 just to get a reduced fare.

I have, however, seen plenty of people waiting by the fare gates at 6:55 p.m., waiting for the stroke of 7 to start their journey home. Sometimes, if I’m not in a rush, I’ve waited among them. Sometimes, I haven’t cared enough to delay my trip, because Metro does enough to delay my travel.

But BART’s Perks program seems a bit more reasonable than my area’s peak ridership fares. Granted, some work schedules just won’t accommodate a flexible or adjusted commute.

I might not make a concerted effort to change my commute if I worked or lived in San Francisco, but I might hustle to make it to the station a little earlier if I usually started my commute at 7:30 a.m.. 7:25 seems like a reasonable departure goal, right?

Your Turn: Would you change your commute if you could earn money?

Lisa Rowan is a writer and producer at The Penny Hoarder

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