With word that Muni (SFMTA) is going to install new fare gates next year, this means the end of the classic Muni fast pass.
SF Appeal and Streetsblog San Francisco reports that Muni did a demonstration of their new fare gate and separate ticketing machine for the press at the Van Ness station. As you may see in the video, the gate moves slowly, and they set it up so that you have to tag-out to leave the system (what the hell?).
As each article stressed, Translink based RFID cards will be the only way to access Muni Metro's subway stations. Two types of cards will be accepted at the gates: Translink cards (able to be used on various transit systems), and a "limited use" card issued by the new vending machines at every station which will more likely restrict people to use the cheap card on Muni vehicles only.
It's basic logic my dear Watson, once the first fare gates are installed at Forest Hill in the early part of next year, Muni is forced to have Translink in full-operation (including use in Cable Cars), and that means the magnetic striped fast pass must go away. Do they really expect station agents to buzz people in every time they flash their paper fast pass while the gates are being installed at all stations and slowly phase out the Translink card?
But for Muni, the elimination of paper passes will also have a setback for people with the scratch-off day passes (for the tourists), CityPass users with 7-day Muni access (another tourist gimmick), and disabled people with the monthly stickers. Muni station agents could "buzz" people into the Metro system, or replace all paper media with an RFID based media, in which the disabled cards already have an RFID antenna inside (Muni still sells stickers instead of trying to broker sales via Translink).
On the other hand, upgrading the fare gates and demanding all paper media to be banned may actually eliminate station agent booths and staffing since the gates are entirely automated and requires less maintenance since there's no coin jams in the gates.
Take my advice folks, demand for Translink cards to replace the monthly fast pass will be very high and may run-out. This happened in Washington D.C. where the SmarTrip card was required to pay for parking (no more cash accepted) and they RAN OUT OF THE CARDS. Why not get yourself a card right now and don't mess with the mob? Many Walgreens locations will sell you the card for $5. If you sign-up as part of a trial program with Muni or Caltrain (via Translink.org), you can get a free card in the mail, and maybe free e-cash credit if you participate with Caltrain.
Here's a curious question for Muni, what happens to the "BART to Muni" transfer coupons for those who will pay cash at the Muni ticket vending machine? Will you issue a secret code number on the ticket to be valid for an hour and punched in at a keypad at the nearest Muni ticket machine for the 25 cent discount?
(Video from YouTube user: ATMK10001)