Well I'm going to give you a big "secret" that only a select number of people in the public knows about the future of this project. You can't find this in any local newspaper, but you can just look at the SFMTA meeting that was held on September 16, 2008; the same day the board was going to hear comments about Muni's TEP program. Now, you can watch five hours of video, but who really wants to get tortured all day long watching a government meeting?
So I'll give you the brief here at the Complaint Department!
I got tipped off by the folks at "BART Rage" a blog forum for people who want to rant about BART. One writer gave a brief update about Muni's future role in the Translink program, and pointed a link towards the SF Government's online video library. In the 9/16/08 SFMTA meeting video, the SFMTA got a presentation from representatives of the Translink authority about the future of Muni and Translink (21 minutes and 30 seconds into the video) and they blab on about the three phases they will go through before the public gets their hands on giving the system hell.
- The first phase is active right now and is about 1000 Muni employees doing a dry run of the system.
- The second phase is coming in November where 1000 employees, plus a select group of riders will be testing the system and providing feedback through surveys and focus groups.
- The third phase is in April 2009, and they will push for more of the public to test the system, and all Muni employees will be handed a card to try too.
- Eventually, Translink will inform the SFMTA/Muni if it is fully ready to bring the system up to full speed with mass public use in 2009 (however it sucks that they won't tell us when, maybe to cover their ass from people like me who expect people to stick to their word).
Also, the presenter admitted to the SFMTA board that the metro faregates are really near the end of their useful life and mentions that there may be issues with the card readers installed on the "exit" gates which can be used to scan cards for entry to the system. On the brighter side, Muni plans to replace the gates in 2012 (damn... those old gates will be dust by then).
Next, Cable Car usage for Translink. The presenter noted that Translink is finding a solution for the Cable Car operators to use the Translink program. Since they can't modify Cable Car equipment to install readers (one of those historic landmark laws or something), the conductor will carry a portable card reader that can deduct fares.
Lastly to sum up this 20 minute video of hell, one of the SFMTA board members asked about Muni metro and those fare enforcers that has been pissing off the citizens of this city for a looooooonggg time. Well, the Translink rep says that they will carry card readers to check on these cards. Personally, my fear is that they won't be armed with readers for a long time when the public is testing out this program, and the testers will get pissed when they see $100 fare evasion tickets (here come the lawyers!!!).
So are we ready for Translink now? Things are looking up for Muni, but damn... why do we have to wait until April? It's proven itself on Golden Gate Transit and AC Transit, can't we use the lessons they learned to make this program come out a little faster?
And if you want to know, will I be a volunteer? I've been a pilot tester since 2001 when Translink first came to the scene with very limited routes and stations on multiple systems. Most bus drivers and station agents were curious, but in some cases, I've had some operators who went from super nice to full blown pissed off when I used my card; and in one situation a driver nearly threw my card out the window. I went nuts and started blowing steam at Translink and Muni, and that guy is either working behind a desk or is fired. I still have my card today in my wallet, but I won't dare to use it on Muni. But for Golden Gate? Sure! 20% discount every time! F-yeah!
So will I volunteer? Nope. Until I feel that there's enough trust and education provided to all Muni drivers and agents about how this thing works, I won't use my card.