But the news gets even more interesting...
The ORCA card uses the same exact technology and vendor who installed the Translink card readers in the SF Bay Area, better known as ERG (see image). The reader looks exactly the same, and if you watch the YouTube video below, it will show you similar card readers, like the ones installed at the Golden Gate Ferry terminals and Muni Metro stations.
But what makes me really curious about the ORCA program is that they are able to get NINE transit agencies in full use while Translink only has a few agencies using the card. They were also able to install the self-serve add value machines at every single rail station using the program as well. Even more interesting, it looks like the ORCA program was built and operational in much quicker time than Translink.
As you may as well know, the Translink card program here in the San Francisco Bay Area has been a slow and painful process. I think a lot of our transit agencies continue to bicker (or I call bitchin') about this program.
I was a pilot tester starting in 2001 and I've been a loyal cardholder for eight years; but I am so shocked on just how long it takes just to get only TWO transit agencies in full public use (AC and Golden Gate), ONE agency still "testing" but allows any Translink cardholder to use it (Muni/SFMTA), and TWO agencies still under "construction" (BART and Caltrain). This still does not account for the other major agencies like Samtrans, VTA, Vallejo, WestCat, etc.
Translink needs to kick it into gear NOW. We've been surpassed by many other regional transit programs out there, including in Washington D.C., and now we can add Seattle to the list. If you want the public's confidence, you need to do more public campaigning for the program.
Start out by telling the public about the goal dates for the program (not "2010," an EXACT DATE):
- When is Muni ready for full public use? This means: ending the trials, getting the Cable Car conductors equipped to handle the cards, installing readers on the remaining historic streetcars including the"boat" car and the "Desire" car (all PCCs are done), and start Translink fare collection for passengers leaving the SF Giants baseball game.
- When will BART start their public trial? "Early in the summer" is just an excuse for BART to say, "we'll try... sometime."
- When will Caltrain start their public trial?
- When will the other agencies start their public trial?