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Sunday, August 30, 2009

Solutions to when Translink "Doesn't Work"

If you have a Translink card and you always think the program is some sort of failure start picking your brain at the reasons why your Translink card is not responding when you "tag" your card.

Let's learn some basic rules:
  1. Always hold your card to the "T" logo or the circular pattern on the BART gate. Wait until you get the beep.
  2. Quickly tapping your card or waiving it around the sensor will not give you the OK to ride. Hold the card steady. This is the most common mistake that people make, and if they did it correctly, they would not be venting their anger.
  3. Don't punch a hole in the card. The antenna is about a half inch around the entire perimeter of the card (put it under a bright lamp).
  4. Don't bend the card.
  5. It's better to maintain your card in a separate sleeve to reduce the risk of bending.
  6. If you put it in a wallet or purse, make sure that the card is the closest one to the sensor. For example, don't stack the card the farthest away from the reader, put it as close as you can to the purse or wallet surface.
  7. Did you add funds and not see it on the reader? You must obey the 72-hour rule for all internet and phone transactions. Read this to learn why.
  8. Green light means OK.
  9. Green AND yellow lights mean your balance is low, but still OK to ride.
  10. Red light means you should try to tag again, you already tagged, denied boarding because you don't have enough funds or went too far into a negative balance, or there's a problem with your account (blocked). Read the message on the reader.

Here's a few complex problems that may happen:
  1. It's very rare, but some of them are not turned-on. Doesn't seem to be an issue on Muni these days because they are always turned-on 24-hours, even if the engine is shut-off.
  2. If you use Autoload, did your credit card expire or you had to cancel it?
  3. Does your wallet or purse contain another RFID card, such as a proximity card or a debit/credit card with the wireless payment feature? Translink readers will not respond if they notice two or more radio signals. Your card must be the only one that's read.
  4. Your new monthly pass didn't show up? Give them a call.
And lastly, if all else fails, call Translink.


So... why did I write this posting? Well, this jackass named Brian Zisk wrote some inconsiderate comments about Translink on Facebook. This guy is as just as pissed-off as James Fang of BART when he went on the attack against Translink (SFgate story and my coverage) and the public pushed back really harshly.

I did my best to play devil's advocate (or is it angel's advocate?) and explain that some of his problems are caused by the reasons I've listed above, and some other ones you'll see in the conversation:

Zisk's Initial Posting:
"What a defective program. How did this ever get approved? #fail My TransLink card often fails to work, causing me to pay again in cash even when it's prepaid for unlimited rides for a month.

The card is fragile, and if it cracks, it won't wo
rk, and you'll need to pay to replace the card. If you want to cancel the card because it's costing you more money than a FastPass, you'll be charged. to leave the program.

If you want to ride a cable car, these cards aren't accepted, though a fast pass is accepted at the same price you pay for a Translink.

Hardware and support costs must be much higher than the existing FastPass system. Understand conceptually why it seems like this system might be better, and understand why folks associated with TransLink need to stick up for it, but in practice, folks need to be warned that they will be signing up for a vastly inferior and often frustrating experience if they decide to try out these cards."

Reply from Akit:
"Here's a bit of advice:
--Hold the card at the sensor til' it beeps. If you just wave it around or just tap it for a brief second; it won't respond. Just an extra couple seconds of patience pays off.

--The system has a fail safe feature that your card won't respond to the reader if you also have in the reader's range, a proximity (access) card, or any of those debit/credit cards with the RFID technology.

--Report problems to Translink. Note down the vehicle number or entry point and call them the same day. If nobody reports problems, it will continue on for days and even months.

--The cards should be handled carefully. Carelessness will break the antenna. Never punch a hole into the card.

--You were clearly informed that Cable Cars are not yet equipped to handle Translink. Historic monument laws forbid modification, and therefore they can't install equipment on the vehicles. Handheld readers that can deduct fares are being worked on.

Reply from Zisk:
"You can repeat the how to manual, but even the folks most sucking up to TransLink acknowledge that the problem on individual buses can persist for months, as you mention in your post above.

If the real answer is to "hold the card at the sensor til it beeps" as you suggest, muni would grind to a halt as folks stand there trying to make the often failed system work.

If you think that only carelessness will break the antenna, you obviously don't know what you are talking about.

As for insisting that I was clearly informed, your misinformed babbling is totally condescending, and you are not correct in any case.

You all can wave you hands and chant "TransLink works great" over and over, but as it stands now, they system is a huge fail, and it should be shut down before any further money is wasted.

According to some reports, they system was originally scheduled to cost $4 million, but has since ballooned into the hundreds of millions of dollars.

Akit's final reply:
"So before you go nuts in your next reply, let me state that this is all based on personal experience (since joining the pilot program in 2002) and some simple searching through public records.

Holding the card until it beeps is what is supposed to happen. Usually it's one second and sometimes two. I've seen people just quickly tap it or waive it around, and they either get no light/tone or the error sound. It doesn't hold-up buses if people do it correctly. I'm hoping they'll do a software upgrade to make it even more responsive.

Can you please explain to me other ways you can break the antenna? The only two I can think of is punching a hole or bending it too much, but that's the same if you did it to a BART ticket.

Tell me, how am I misinformed or telling all lies? Everything Translink has told everyone on how to use it properly and has been supported by many cardholders' experience who feels the program works.

Lastly, get yourself a paper pass or pay cash."

The lesson kids is... don't mess with Akit; especially when he's been a Translink cardholder since 2002.


troymccluresf said...

"The card is fragile"

Eh? You could cut a sandwich in half with this thing.

Akit said...

Who wants peanut butter and jelly sandwiches?

Erorg said...

I dont recommend giving Translink a call. Rarely they are able to credit or even solve problems. I have been told to fax in my Muni transfers for them to credit my account, and they failed to do so. I also have been told they would call back, and add a $2.00 credit for incorrectly charging me "per ride" on Muni and not allowing my transfer to work (system was incorrect in time stamp)...but they never did that either.

I informed Translink, thats why I stopped using my card till I felt bugs were worked out, but clearly the same bugs have not been worked out. I am in the trial, yet, I have only been able to do ONE survey and that was a year ago....There is no way to complain or update the issues.