people entering a taxi

Photo by SFMTA Photography Department

Update August 4, 2020:

The Essential Worker Ride Home program is now available to essential workers impacted by public transit reductions commuting home from work at any time of day. Previously, the program restricted eligibility to  essential workers commuting between  9:00 p.m. and 8:30 a.m.

Please visit the Essential Worker Ride Home website for program details.

Update May 19, 2020:

The Transportation Authority Board has approved additional funding to expand the city’s Essential Worker Ride Home Program, which provides frontline workers critical to the city’s coronavirus response with a reliable and safe ride home after work. 

Based on application data as of May 15, there were 161 San Francisco residents who applied for the program so far and 97 non-San Francisco residents who applied. District 10 had the most applicants of the San Francisco districts. In regard to occupation, 74 of the applicants are in healthcare and 26 are in social services.

The new funding comes from San Francisco’s half-cent sales tax for transportation and it will double the number of essential workers served each week to 121-188 from the current 71-100. It also will extend the program to August 31 instead of the previous July 31 end date.

View the SF Environment's Essential Worker Ride Home Presentation featured at the Transportation Authority Board’s May 19 meeting (starts at 21:30).

The Essential Worker Ride Home program, run by the San Francisco Department of the Environment, is an additional resource for essential workers who commute by transit or other sustainable modes, helping to fill the gap left by reductions in public transportation services, especially during evening hours.

“Those people running our hospitals, essential services, and grocery stores deserve our maximum support at this challenging time,” said Transportation Authority Board Chair Aaron Peskin (District 3). “I’m grateful to the Air District and SF Environment for supporting this critical program which assists our pandemic response efforts even as we look to retain riders until such time as regular transit services can resume.”

“During this unprecedented and difficult time, City departments are stepping up to serve those in need,” said Debbie Raphael, Director of the Department of the Environment. “We are so proud to be partnering with the Transportation Authority to quickly and creatively support our essential workers, who leave their homes each and every day to fight the spread of coronavirus. Now we can ensure that their trip back home is the easiest part of their day.”

The new program responds to a request made by Transportation Authority Board Member Matt Haney (District 6), to help essential workers commute home to areas with reduced transit services, such as to the East Bay with BART’s service shutdown after 9 p.m. 

“This program will aid our essential workforce who face challenges getting back home from their jobs after the recent transit reductions,” said Board Member Haney. “We are very appreciative of all the agencies who are pulling together to help these heroes during this difficult time.”

The program expands upon San Francisco’s existing Essential Worker Ride Home program, which is funded by an existing Transportation Authority Transportation Fund for Clean Air grant and administered by the San Francisco Department of the Environment. The Transportation Authority is supporting the program expansion with funding from San Francisco’s half-cent sales tax for transportation.

For more than 10 years, Emergency Ride Home has provided commuters taking sustainable modes of transportation to work a guaranteed taxi ride in case of an emergency. In this time of uncertainty, the Essential Worker Ride Home program provides assistance to transit commuters to make trips where transit options are temporarily unavailable. The program will also support the taxi industry, while maintaining transit use and discourage solo driving - a key goal of the Emergency Ride Home program. 

How the program works

The new Essential Worker Ride Home program is available to all employees of essential businesses in San Francisco, performing essential job functions, as classified by the City. It works by reimbursing commuters for taxi rides home from work at any time of day. The program will cover the cost of up to 10 taxi rides home, per person, per month, and up to $70 per ride.

To be eligible, essential employees must commute to work via a sustainable mode of transportation and must first be approved prior to requesting reimbursements for taxi rides home from work. Applications will be accepted and evaluated on a rolling basis. SFE staff will monitor demand and work with the SFCTA to evaluate utilization trends and introduce program modifications, should the need arise.

The program maintains its original purpose of protecting public health and the environment through the reduction of vehicle emissions. This goal is achieved by encouraging sustainable mode choice and providing a guaranteed ride home via taxi, which have clean air requirements and low emissions. 

To ensure public health safety, taxi drivers have been trained on proper cleaning techniques and have been provided personal protective equipment including masks, cleaning supplies, and CDC-approved sanitizer. Taxi drivers are required to clean frequently-touched surfaces in their vehicles to limit risk to both riders and drivers and will continue to be monitored for compliance by SFMTA’s Taxi Division.

The program is now accepting applications. As the program administrator, SFE will review applications, provide notice of approval subject to verification, and process reimbursement requests. The program is subject to evaluation and modification based on updates to public transportation schedules and operations, program funding, and/or status of the shelter-in-place order.

To apply or for more information, visit SF Environment's website.

For language assistance, please contact 311 by dialing  3-1-1 (within SF) or 415-701-2311 (TTY 415-701-2323).

Related Content

The Transportation Fund for Clean Air supports bicycle, pedestrian and other transportation projects that help clean the air by reducing motor vehicle emissions.