Today is the first day for the Translink program to allow users to use Caltrain with their green colored cards.
What does this mean for the public? You can now ride many major transit agencies to get around the Bay Area: Muni, AC Transit (with Dumbarton Express), Golden Gate Transit & Ferry, BART, and Caltrain.
Still, the other big players such as Samtrans, VTA, and the other ferry companies needs to join the club, but also the little guys like Vallejo Transit.
How you can participate:
- If you do not have a Translink card, sign-up with the Caltrain program and get yourself a free card ($5 value) and $12.50 in free e-cash. You heard me, free money to ride public transit.
- If you have an existing card, you can sign-up with Caltrain to partake in surveys and such. But the website does not mention about the $12.50 free e-cash incentive, neither does it say that you won't get it.
- Hidden away in the FAQ section of the Translink website is anyone with a Translink card can use Caltrain, regardless if you sign-up to participate in surveys. This is the same arrangement BART is doing, where only select people take surveys, but allows anyone with the card to use the system.
Here's some of the unique rules about using your Translink card on Caltrain:
- You must tag-on at your boarding platform, and tag-off at the exiting platform. Failure to tag-on will be caught by the conductor and your ass is getting a citation. Failure to tag-off (if you tagged-on) will charge the maximum one-way fare for Caltrain).
- You must have a minimum of $1.25 on your Translink card when tagging-on, regardless of the distance/zones you travel. The maximum the card can go into a negative balance is $10.00, and since $11.25 is the maximum fare on Caltrain, that's why you need to have that $1.25.
- Adding more e-cash is not easy; only three Caltrain stations have the addfare machines and must be done in-person. Best suggestions: Autoload program, and automatic loading of transit benefits on monthly basis. You can do phone and web loading, but remember the 72-hour rule.
- There's a new "15-minute rule" for Caltrain. If you tag-on at your starting station, but decide to cancel your trip within 15 minutes, just tag your card at the same reader and your money will be fully refunded. After 15 minutes, if you tag-off, you are charged a one zone fare. My suggestion, tag your card within 15 minutes of your train's scheduled arrival, if you hear an announcement that there was a suicide or delay, you can tag-off and find an alternate way to get to your destination.
- Lastly, since this is technically in "testing," remember, that if Translink fails to work, get yourself a paper ticket. Caltrain won't give away free rides (they are broke!).
- To learn more about the Translink & Caltrain program, visit the Translink website.
- For a helpful and printable brochure, see this brand new PDF from Translink (it's on legal size paper, so remember to set your printer settings to "shrink to fit").