Sure, the bus was packed, but this young guy (passenger), a little younger than me, heard the beep sound, and asked me about the card. He was actually shocked that the device installed on the bus actually worked, and was not just an ornament installed to make Muni look fancy. So I told him a quick summary about how it works, and how I got an automatic transfer on my card.
So after venturing around town, I used the card again at the Muni metro platform at one of these gates:
It's actually nice that I used the card about three times that day, and every operator/agent I asked knew what the card does. Unfortunately, I haven't encountered the feared Muni fare inspectors.
What's really interesting from being a pilot tester for the Translink program is that I made many suggestions on improving the program, and one of my best suggestions has actually made it through the bureaucrats' ears!
- I suggested that the vehicle card readers should emit a louder beep tone when cards are read and confirmed as paid. During the pilot test, the readers installed on station platforms like on select Caltrain stops and Muni metro stations were LOUD, but on the vehicles, it was more of hushed tone, like a softer than a normal conversation voice. My primary argument is that people with even minor hearing issues may not hear the beep (ADA requirements), so Translink cranked up the sound to be as loud as the station platform readers on the Muni bus readers.
- Does Muni's "Culturebus" and the "Special Event" (a.k.a. Candlestick) buses allow Translink use with the proper fee charged? ($7 on Culturebus with an all-day transfer for free rides on Culturebus and other Muni services, and $7 for the Candlestick express with a free transfer for the return trip). Of course, I could just rip-off Muni and pay $1.50 for the Culturebus.
- If a Translink cardholder on Muni accumulates the value of a one day Muni passport ($11), is the rest of the rides on the system free? It is possible for passengers to accumulate more than $11 in Muni fares, especially the high price for a Cable Car ride ($5 per ride, that is, when Translink offers the service on Cable Cars with portable card readers with the conductors).
- Do the Muni fare inspectors carry Translink card readers?
Another nice thing, Translink accepts my Commuter Checks!
One thing I did today (Monday morning) is I brought my $30 Commuter Check to the Transbay Terminal AC Transit ticket office. The lady at the counter was so nice and said that my Commuter Check voucher is accepted to add Translink money to my account. This means that I don't need to buy anymore of those Muni token coupon books, and I can use the funds for other transit services using Translink, like the Golden Gate Ferry.
I haven't tried using my Commuter Check voucher at the SFMTA Customer Service office yet. AC Transit has been using Translink for a good while, but STMTA/Muni is brand new to the full rollout of the program. While Commuter Check can be linked directly to my Translink account, I still want the flexibility of a claim voucher so I can save it up or claim it for a non-Translink fare media like BART tickets.
Cool tip, if your employer offers Commuter Check, WageWorks, or a similar pre-taxed automatic payroll deduction transit ticket/voucher program, I suggest signing-up for it.
Instead of paying $1.50 for a ride on Muni, I only pay $1.15, or a 17% average savings (I claim it on token tickets). You can save even MORE by buying high value BART tickets that gives an additional 6.25% discount, and loading cash on a Translink card and using it on Golden Gate Transit/Ferry services which automatically gives all cardholders the "commuter" discount, regardless of how often you ride. But now that I can claim it on Translink e-cash, no need for physical tickets.
With this slight change in heart, I might just sign-up as a "victim" of Muni's testing of the Translink program (just don't reject my registration).