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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Hey SF Muni - Where's my Translink Trial Group Confirmation?


On a previous post here at Akit's Complaint Department, I talked about having more trust in the Translink program on SF Muni after spending one day riding the trains and buses with my green colored card, and also mentioning that I may register for the test group.

I posted that on December 29, 2008, and now it's January 21, 2009. I registered online just a day after my previous posting (via Survey Monkey link on SFMTA/Muni and also on Translink's website), and I have heard NOTHING after 22 days from the folks at the SFMTA/Muni and Translink authorities who promised at the end of the registration to contact me no more than two weeks after submitting my request online.

I have learned that others who have registered for the program to test Muni received a letter (not sure if e-mail or snail mail) that states their participation in the program. I do not know if the person registered with an existing card with Translink or is a new user who had to be issued one. But from past experience, the document can be helpful in gaining leverage when confronted by Muni bus drivers, station agents, and fare inspectors when trying to prove that the Translink cardholder is testing out the program.

There have already been accusations by cardholders that when using the card to e-transfer to Muni metro, it doesn't show-up on the fare inspectors' card readers for "proof of payment" and if true, that's a serious flaw in the Translink software that can waste tax dollars when those inspectors have to issue tickets and the time wasted to appeal the citation which would include Translink staff conducting research on the past history of tagging the card.

For example: "David G." of Yelp posted this complaint about Translink:
"The bad news - Muni's utterly stupid fare policy. I got stopped by a Muni Cop a couple of days ago doing a routine fare check and she pulled out her little machine and read my card. Seems I was out of compliance - a fare cheat - and then proceeded to explain the policy. Apparently once you tag your card, you can ride for 90 minutes on the Muni system. After 90 minutes, you become a fare cheat - and subject to fines if you get caught - unless you re-tag the card. Now in this particular case, I tagged my card at Montgomery, went to Davies for a doctor's appointment, and took the N Judah back downtown. When I got on the N, I tagged the TransLink card a second time. The reader told me it wasn't decrementing anything from the balance, because I still had time left over from my initial tag. So even if I had only one minute left out of my initial ninety, the reader wouldn't re-tag the card. The cop checked my card something like 5 minutes into my ride. She told me I was technically out of compliance - but she didn't ticket me because Muni is still in the "adoption / passenger education phase" with TransLink."

(Please note: I only used the portion mentioning the confrontation between the card user and the Muni fare inspector)

During my run as a very early adopter of the Translink pilot program in 2002, I carried a letter in my wallet that came from Muni's revinue department that described my participation in the pilot program and that all vehicle drivers are ordered to accept the Muni monthly pass sticker on my Translink card when a Translink reader is not available. That letter alone saved by back a few times when confronted about the legitimacy.

But still (and to re-mention), there is no confirmation of my registration from SFMTA/Muni and Translink. They have not sent any e-mails to me, and have not invited me to take surveys that is promised on the SFMTA/Muni and Translink websites. Plus they are offering "prizes" which, with this budget situation, sounds a little odd. I never wanted the prizes, unless if Nat Ford wants me to meet with him and grant one wish, which would be, eliminate the CultureBus program!!!!

The question to the SFMTA/Muni and Translink authorities: do you feel that am I such a threat to this program for being an outspoken critic who posts on a blog, that you have quietly rejected my application? As an agency of the city government (Muni), and state government (Translink is part of the MTC), they are required to respond to all requests, no matter how much the agency doesn't like them. It is good business practice to reply to any requests or questions for all public/government agencies and private businesses. I work for the state government and if anyone leaves a voicemail or e-mail, I always call or write them back.

Here's an example: There's a guy who has been making numerous "Sunshine requests" for city government documents just to clog-up the system, but the city government still has a responsibility to obtain the documents he requests, no matter how much the government dislikes him.

Actually, I hope that Muni and Translink doesn't "dislike" me, I hope they can think of me as a person who knows the quirks of the Translink program (from a local citizen's POV) and accepts me as an citizen advisor to improving the program to make sure it works for everyone.

If you will accept my application, please write back. If you reject it, write back too, I'd like to learn more about why, then post it here for everyone to read.

7 comments:

Rice Mama said...

I already have a TransLink card (I commute from the EB on AC Transit), I signed up my card as an "existing cardholder" and didn't see anything at the end of the survey promising that I would be contacted in two weeks. It did say that I would receive a survey in a few weeks, though.

I don't think there's any reason they would "reject" someone who already has a card -- I'm not sure they could even connect your card to your blog.

I have a co-worker who signed up to be a new tester and they got a card in the mail along with a "thank you" letter from SFMTA and some information about using the card.

m e l i g r o s a said...

I had no idea about the testing. Thanks for the info. I used to commute to the EB via transbay AC lines, like Rice Mama, and it was so disfunctional it only worked a percentage of the time...
who knows.
But I really have enjoyed it for ferry use.

Anonymous said...

I signed up for testing about 5 days ago and I'm the proud owner of a SFMTA testing Translink card, complete with iPod Nano sweepstakes for filling out surveys and tagging my card! Sorry to gloat.

Akit said...

No problem about the gloating.

No word from the SFMTA and Translink about this posting. And I really think they know who I am... they could just find my name somewhere around this blog.

Alex said...

I never got any confirmation after signing up. I already had the card. I know people who got a new card and received a letter.

Reading the comment about Muni's fare policy on transit is a bit disturbing. I am worried that my transfer will expire without me knowing it. Isn't TransLink supposed to keep track of our transfers so we don't have to always think about them? They should continue to allow the transfer period for 90 minutes but give a grace period for someone to complete their journey. In New York, a transfer is allowed any time within 2 hours of the first swipe between subway and bus. It doesn't matter if you swipe 10 minutes after, or 1 hour 59 minutes after. As long as that second swipe is within 2 hours, it's considered valid.

Nan&Curry said...

I too signed-up for the trial group and already have a card. After completing the survey monkey form it said that I was now in the user program, entered into the contest and would receive a survey in a few weeks. So I am under the impression that since I entered my number they know I am using TransLink and will eventually send me a survey. Hopefully the'y send me an Ipod too :-)

My friend is new user and did get her card and a letter within a week.

I am sure they'll send out the survey in a few weeks. As long as I am entered into the contest I am fine with that.

Also, the transfer period seems to work fine for me. It calculates the 90 minutes from the first tag correctly; and you are suppose to tag each time you get on when you transfer. It won't deduct the fare if you are still in the 90-minute transfer period and it lets the Muni Police know that you are still valid. You can complete your journey, same as New York. Those little machines they have show that you tagged within your period and you shouldn't get a ticket.

Also no offense Akit, but I doubt anyone at Muni is paying attention to your blog as well as keeping you from being part of the TransLink program. I am not worry about the receiving the survey, I am sure it's just late.....like the N-Judah last week.

Also whatever happend to the Rescue Muni group????? Do they need rescuing??

Akit said...

Nan&Curry,

Muni pays attention... see this comment thread:
http://www.akit.org/2008/12/did-sf-munis-pr-person-maggie-lynch-get.html#comments

Even the folks at NextBus too:
http://www.akit.org/2008/12/muni-is-committed-to-translink-card.html#comments

Also: Alex,

Yes, it is disturbing about Muni's fare policy. Citizens hate the metro policy where if your transfer (including paper transfers) is expired DURING your journey, but was valid when you entered the system, you get nailed with a ticket. Seems like crap to me when the metro gets stuck in a tunnel or something goes wrong.