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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

It is Inexcusable to Take a Bike on an Escalator

I don't care about how much hate mail I'm going to get for this one today, I'm going to make it very clear...

There is no excuse or "good reason" why you should take a bicycle on any escalator, including ones at BART stations. While I'm at it, I'm going to also include baby strollers too.

You can blab all you want saying that BART is not bike friendly or the BART police and station agents are acting like assholes. Every time I ride a BART escalator and notice a bicyclist holding their bike in front of me, I either have to wait until that moron clears or I keep my distance in case the jackass screws up and it flies down the stairwell. It's just like not wearing a bike helmet and using front and rear lights, you are setting yourself up for a vacation at the morgue or the trauma center at SF General.

It's already common sense wheelchair users should never use an escalator for any particular reason. At BART stations, there's always an elevator or some ADA accessible way to get from the parking garage, the entry gates, and train platform.

So if common sense logic works correctly, if you have any type of big wheels, you should not be using the escalators in the first place. Would you be on roller skates or a Segway and ride an escalator?

Sure, it makes it look easy to get up and down that big set of stairs by simply holding your bike on a moving escalator, but let's see what bad scenarios might happen:
  1. As a courtesy, transit station escalators have a basic rule, standees on the right side, and those wanting to pass stay on the left. Bicycles block the entire width of the escalator and makes passing impossible or dangerous.
  2. If the bicycle gets wedged in between the width of the escalator (front tire gets wedged on one side while the back tire is on the other), that blocks the entire path of the moving escalator and there could be a large collision of passengers until, hopefully, a passenger on the bottom of the escalator can hit the emergency stop button in time.
  3. Normally, elderly people would ride the escalator if they can safely enter and exit, but using it means they don't have to exert as much energy than using the stairs. If the elderly person is standing behind the bike passenger, if the bike rider loses control of the bicycle and falls down the escalator stairs, well, the elderly person is likely going to be seriously hurt. But it doesn't have to be an elderly person, it could be any person of any age.
In my opinion, there is no "safe" reason why a bike or any large object should be riding an escalator. Those who do it set themselves up for a civil lawsuit and may be subject to a citation; or if someone gets killed or injured, possible criminal charges (e.g. negligence). People must be responsible for the safe operation of their bicycles, baby strollers, wheelchairs, everything else in between. If I drove a car irresponsibly and hit a person, I'd be blogging in prison.

What are the best ways to get from one level to the other with a bike or other wheeled object? Use an elevator or stairs.

Update 12/28: Some typos pointed out by others; they have been corrected. Kudos to them.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Attention Young and Old People of SF: Register for a Clipper Card Now!

Transition from Paper Pass to Farecard
If you are 17 or younger, or 65 and older and don't have a specialized Clipper card, now is a good time to start applying for it in preparation of Muni's transition of paper passes for these two groups.

Muni intends to transition all "Y" (youth) and "S" (senior) passes starting February 2011. This means, the last paper passes for these two groups will be issued for the month of January.

Unlike the adult Clipper cards, youth and senior Clipper cards are specially encoded to assure eligible people receives the proper discount as certain agencies have different definitions of what constitutes a discount, and to prevent fraudulent usage of the cards by adults. Here's a few examples:
  • When it comes to specially encoded Clipper cards... BART has a different policy for youth (red) magnetic paper tickets. The age limit is 12 years. Once that person becomes 13 years old, they must use a blue adult ticket or the special orange ticket which has severe restrictions on use and limited to some school institutions. When using a Clipper card, a youth card registered to a 10 year old will be eligible for discounts on BART and Muni (Muni's is 4-17 years old), but a 15 year old will be charged the full adult fare for BART and will get the youth fare for Muni.
  • To prevent fraud, Clipper simply cannot issue youth and senior cards to the general public in vending machines or in-person vendors. It would be easy for adults to cheat the transit systems unless a fare inspector with a card verification reader can find out. It's like the RTC disabled discount card, nobody can get their hands on it unless they provide written verification of a disability and file an application.
Why am I giving an early warning? I'm going to bet a bunch of you young kids and seniors will get lazy and won't register for a card until the last few days in January. History repeats itself, again and again. Take a look at these last two Clipper transitions gone sour by lazy idiots:
Please take my warning seriously, REGISTER NOW. As my former supervisor said to me: early = on-time, on-time = late, and late = you are screwed.

How can you register for a youth card?
But... if you need a youth card with AC Transit youth pass privileges, you must register this way:
  • The youth must be present at the AC Transit ticketing sales office at 1600 Franklin Street (Oakland), and must complete an application and show proof of age.
  • The youth will have their photograph taken and a youth Clipper card will arrive in the mail with their photograph attached to it.
  • There is no way around this policy. If a youth Clipper card application is received by any other agency than AC Transit, vendors and automated machines won't sell the youth passes for AC. But youth Clipper cards issued by other agencies will honor the youth e-cash fare on AC Transit.
Seniors, here's how you can apply for a Clipper card:
  • Complete the application form and bring it with proof of age to the Van Ness and Market SFMTA Customer Service office.
  • If you cannot make it to the SFMTA office, you can drop it off at these senior services centers, but be warned, these locations will only accept them on certain days and hours. Click here for alternate locations.
  • Once the application is received, the card will be mailed to the specified address listed on the application.

FYI: Since Muni is planning to open their new sales booth at Geary and Masonic starting December 27th, they may also accept youth and senior applications. This has not been confirmed; but if there's a SFMTA spokesperson who wants to answer this question, please leave a comment.

Monday, December 20, 2010

$829,000 for Two Muni Sales Booths? I Thought the Agency was Broke

On Thursday, December 16th, the SFMTA's public relations department published a press release mentioning about opening a new "customer service" location where the public can purchase various Muni fare media and handle Clipper card transactions, and replacing the existing sales booth at the Powell cable car turnaround.

Total cost of the new booths: $829,000, and all paid for by grants. Ouch, $414,500 per booth? What is Muni smoking now?

Other than replacing the booth at the Cable Car turnaround, a new booth will be established at Geary and Presidio, home to the Presidio Yard where the trolley buses are stored and serviced.

But why a new booth? For you long time San Franciscans out there, you've always known the Muni 2nd floor revenue office at Geary & Presidio was also the sales office to purchase all the Muni pass media. The old location closed when they moved all pass sales to their new office at Van Ness and Market.

But, who even likes going to the SFMTA office down at Van Ness? Since April 1st, Muni has been tacking on a $3 surcharge at that location. Nobody is that dumb to pay that kind of price when vendors like supermarkets don't charge such a stupid fee (except those "My Transit Plus" booths like at Embarcadero station loves charging 85 cents for using a debit card).

So why spend $400,000 on a booth when the SFMTA can simply restore the old sales location or refurbish an office space in their facility on Geary? Does the booth also include a gold toilet? If Muni wanted a new booth, they could spend at least 75% less and still get the safety and security it requires.

The new booth opens on December 27th. I wonder if anyone is even going to notice it or just how soon will the agency also tack a $3 surcharge just for using it.

Money down the toilet. That's the Muni way for ya.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Did Muni & Clipper Screw-Up the "Sunday FunDay" Pass Promotion?

If you are one of the thousands of Muni passengers taking advantage of the "Sunday FunDay" pass program during the month of December and used a Clipper card, you could have been cheated out of more than just the initial $2 all-day fare.

Since I'm keeping watch of the tweets coming fresh from the bakery oven, I'm noticing some passengers getting charged a second or third time for using their Clipper card on Muni during their "Sunday FunDay" promotion period.

Twitter user: "verbalcupcake" said:
"Clipper Card fail: I haven't gotten the promised all-day SF transfer Muni assured us Clipper would calculate on Dec. Sundays. Lame."

The policy for cash (non-Clipper card) paying customers is to pay $2 and get an all-day paper transfer from the operator. The transfer is then valid for the entire day without the need to pay an additional fare, unlike on non-FunDay promotion days when transfers expire in 90 minutes. It's a pretty simple promotion for those customers.


But the promotion is not going so well for Clipper card e-cash and Limited Use Ticket (metro vending machine) purchases...

Muni's website says to all Clipper and LUT customers:
(See Muni's Sunday promo info from their website by clicking here)
Your first Sunday FunDay trip
During the Sunday FunDay promotion, tap your card or ticket to the Clipper reader upon your initial boarding or subway entry to receive your Sunday FunDay all-day transfer.
OK, that sounds fine. I just tag my card on the first vehicle or metro gate. Let's see what else they say:
Second and subsequent vehicles
After your first Sunday "tap," present your card or ticket to the bus operator or station agent to gain access to Muni.

Important: Do not tap your card or ticket again as re-tapping will deduct another fare payment from your fare media. Refunds will not be made for subsequent deductions.
Uh, what? Another PR fail? Like this one, and how about this one?

Am I understanding this correctly? Muni is asking Clipper card and LUT customers to visually show their card/ticket to the operator or agent to gain access to the vehicle? Are you telling me all Clipper e-cash and LUT transactions only issued a 90-minute e-transfer?

As a veteran user of the Clipper card program, that has to be the worst and most incredibly stupid policy I've ever heard of.

As most users of Clipper cards know:
Muni operators instructs all passengers to tag their Clipper card upon boarding the vehicle. There's no excuses or skipping that step on any day, including this Sunday "FunDay" promotion. How in the world is a Muni operator or station agent going to magically identify who did pay $2 on their initial ride of the day vs. those who are just cheating the system of $2 when Muni's "FunDay" website instructs them to "present your card or ticket" to the operator or station agent?

How about all those Muni metro patrons who enters the underground stations and use Clipper or LUT? They only get the standard 90 minute transfer, and once the 90 minutes expires, they have to pay another $2 (Clipper e-cash) or deduct a second single ride (LUT) from their card when entering the metro system after the first use. Don't forget, some stations don't have a second station agent to buzz you into the system, and they are not psychics who can identify who has an all-day pass or not.

This is one big incredible failure. What was Muni and Clipper thinking (or possibly drinking and smoking) when they created this promotion?

If Muni and Clipper did this correctly, the Clipper card and LUTs should have their e-transfer expiration at 11:59PM so all passengers can continue to tag their card on their second, third, etc. vehicle/metro gate without being charged full fare.

DING! There goes the common sense bell.

"Sunday FunDay," what an insult to the public.

I demand Muni and Clipper to issue apologies and refunds to all passengers who was charged more than $2 during the "Sunday FunDay" promotion. If you are with me, drop a comment saying so.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Reckless Driving at Ocean Beach Parking Lot

When I have to drive my car to work, I normally drive downhill going past the historic Cliff House and along Great Highway (southbound), and always pass by the large parking lots for the people wanting to enjoy the beach. The segment I am talking about today is the Ocean Beach/Great Highway parking lot nearest to Balboa & Great Highway.

One of the issues I regularly see is when drivers decide to skip the stop sign at Balboa by taking the turn-off before Balboa to enter the parking lot, drive straight through at full speed (speed limit on Great Highway is 35) and take the parking lot exit that continues along southbound Great Highway (basically, taking an illegal shortcut).

If you remember your driver's education, driving in a parking lot is limited to 10 MPH (please correct me if I'm wrong) and that's because of many people walking around the lot loading and unloading their cars, and the risk of vehicles slowly backing out of their space.

By speeding in a parking lot, and using it as a shortcut to avoid skipping the stop sign at Balboa, it could be considered reckless driving as defined by the California Vehicle code, section 23103(b):
"(b) A person who drives a vehicle in an offstreet parking facility, as defined in subdivision (c) of Section 12500, in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property is guilty of reckless driving."
Something needs to be done to stop people from taking this shortcut, and the possible risk of a person getting hit and killed or getting into a car wreck. Since the lot seriously needs new parking stall stripes, can they also install some speed bumps?

To make it visually understanding of what I'm talking about, I've used Google's street view to help me out:

View Larger Map
This is the entrance to the parking lot if a driver is going southbound and just recently passed the Cliff House. I see drivers decide to cut through the parking lot at this point to avoid the stop sign at Balboa (below).

View Larger Map
This is the stop sign location at Balboa & Great Highway. Since there is nothing ordering drivers to stop if they drive in the parking lot, they just go full speed just to save themselves a few seconds.

View Larger Map
The blue car in the middle is yielding to approaching traffic. Many who decide to shortcut just bolts right through if there's light traffic and gets away with it.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Clipper on SamTrans Delayed - MTC Didn't Care to Notify Public

Amid much hype on my blog and Clipper's twitter account, Clipper cards was supposed to be accepted on SamTrans starting December 15th (Wednesday), however the debut will be delayed.

Maybe I should rephrase that... there was not much word spread around about the delay. SamTrans and Clipper's website did not mention anything about a planned date for debut, nor announce a delay. Even the MTC's public relations or media office didn't publish a press release or even link a news article about the delay.

You'll hear it now because I like banging on pots and pans to get attention:
The new debut date for Clipper on SamTrans will be Wednesday, December 22nd.

The only news coverage of the delay came from the San Mateo County Times; the article mentions there was some "software issues" discovered on Monday, December 13th that caused the debut to be delayed a week. Most of the rest of the article sounded like a promotional advertisement for Clipper.

Akit's Opinion:
I'm a little frustrated by all of this. Clipper makes one real big announcement of the launch of the blue card on SamTrans, but nobody tells the public there's been a delay? One newspaper, just one newspaper tells the public in one little sentence about the delay.

It's even worse when the Metropolitan Transportation Commission kept their mouth shut about the delay by not notifying the public. Once Clipper opened their mouth (okay, tweeted it), MTC is responsible for notifying the general public of a delay. With my increasing readership of my blog telling them of the December 15th debut, I wonder how many people tried to use their Clipper card on SamTrans that day and was told it was not ready?

I'm also not happy SamTrans and Clipper also kept their mouth shut. Not even one little blurb on their websites saying the launch would be held off for a week.

And what's up with this software problem? SamTrans and Clipper had months to tinker with the software and make sure all the equipment is ready for use for the public.


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Muni Paper Transfers versus Clipper e-Transfers: What is Better?

One frequent complaint I notice on my Twitter feed is about the 90-minute transfer policy on Clipper cards and it being so strict versus paper transfers that can have an expiration that wildly varies, and in some cases at least two hours.

Let's do a comparison of the two transfers.

Muni Paper Transfers:
  1. Issued at time of purchase, that is, if the passenger takes one.
  2. Easy to show to fare inspector.
  3. Expiration time may vary. Muni policy requires 90 minutes, but some drivers do not change the time too often, so they put extra time. Some may get two hours, while if a driver forgets to fix the time, a passenger may get a short expiration.
  4. Easy to identify when it expires based on the time the transfer was cut.
  5. If done using Muni, can give transfer to another passenger to use.
  6. "Late night" transfers can be issued starting at 8:30PM and expires at 5AM the next day.
  7. Mass printing of transfers for drivers every single day, causes littering (especially at terminal stops).
Clipper e-Transfers:
  1. Automatically issued on first tag on reader. No need to ask driver for one.
  2. Fare inspectors must use their card reader to verify validity (non-expiration).
  3. Strict 90 minute time limit. No more, no less.
  4. Not easy to identify when it expires. Only will show expiration time when tagged on their first transfer to another vehicle or station. Since Muni metro's "Proof of Payment" policy requires a transfer to be valid, it's hard to track when it will expire and a new fare must be paid. Passengers will need to use a stopwatch or keep an eye on what time it would expire. Clipper did admit there was a glitch causing some vehicles internal clocks to not be synced with all others.
  5. If done using Muni, can't give away e-transfer on Clipper card with another passenger. But can if it's the last ride on a Limited Use Ticket.
  6. No "late night" e-transfers issued. Muni rejected this at a past Clipper/TransLink board meeting.
  7. No paper waste and littering.
Each option has their own strengths and weaknesses. I would take a paper transfer because I may get more time and can easily identify when it expires, but a Clipper card's e-transfer lets me automatically get a transfer and there's less littering on our streets. I live not too far from a bus terminal stop and I always see tons of transfer stubs all around the ground, even when there's a garbage can just feet away.

If I ran Muni...
I'd extend Clipper e-transfers to two hours because there's no simple way to identify when the e-transfer expires. Paper transfers would still be issued for people who pay with cold hard cash, as there's no way to fairly enforce the "Proof of Payment" system without some kind of fare receipt.

Monday, December 13, 2010

What's Inside a Muni Limited Use (Clipper) Ticket?

SF Citizen did a great bit after I gave the blogger some advice on how to get the guts out of a plastic Clipper card. All he did was drop the card in acetone and the plastic disintegrated over time. In the end, the only thing remaining was a small bit of copper wire and a chip.

It made me think, how about I perform an autopsy on one of those Muni Limited Tickets made of paper? One person was able to take a photo showing the guts underneath the paper, but I wanted to see the insides for myself.

Here's what I started with:
Muni Limited Use Ticket

I found this leftover card on Monday with no value and decided to simply soak it in a glass of water. In a matter of minutes, the water penetrated the paper layers and I started peeling it off little by little. The way it was constructed is a sturdy piece of paper on both sides, and sandwiched in between is the RFID technology.

Here's what it looks like after peeling off the layers and rinsing it clean:
Inside a Muni Limited use Ticket

The RFID layer contains a ribbon surrounding the edge. This is what is known as the "antenna" as it makes communication contact with the Clipper readers. The chip is the little black dot in the upper right hand quadrant and contains the memory that holds it's serial number, card expiration, and all transactions. The antenna is connected to the chip so it can read and write information.

There's a reason why Muni can't recycle these, it's because the RFID layer is not recyclable.

Since I did wash off the paper layers and bent it a few times, I likely destroyed the card for future use. But it was a cool experiment!

Time to Switch from Muni Monthly Passes to 31-Day Passes?

As the months fly by the seat of our pants, and youth & senior paper passes will be eliminated in February 2011 (last paper pass issued in January) in favor of Clipper e-passes, maybe it's time for Muni to consider changing the way it sells passes.

When I say: "changing the way it sells passes," I don't mean to have the prices radically change or make it too complex; my idea is simple: switch from a monthly pass system to a 31-day pass system.

Wouldn't it be nice to purchase a 31-day Muni pass effective the first day you activate it instead of buying just before the new month comes around? Or for those who are forgetful, how about loading up to two or three 31-day Muni passes on your card for back to back coverage?

Sounds great... but how can Muni change? Take a look at these examples of agencies using the 30 or 31-day system:
  • AC Transit used to have flash passes on a monthly basis (the ones you visually show to the driver), but with the replacement to magnetic stripe passes to stop fraud, the agency changed from a monthly pass basis to a 31-day pass. Passengers would purchase the ticket at a vendor, and once inserted into the reader on the bus, the pass is immediately activated for use. The big advantage is a passenger could activate their pass at anytime, no matter if it's the first of the month, mid-month, or end of the month. Since AC Transit is converting all passes to Clipper, they have maintained the same policy with 31-day passes as people would purchase it onto their card, and their first use will activate the 31-day clock.
  • New York City's subway system sells various unlimited use MetroCards, from one day to 30 days. With the use of a simple tracking system, passengers can buy their passes at anytime instead of lining up at a ticketing machine or vendor days before the new month and hoping the monthly pass is still in stock.
Muni does have something like a 31-day pass where it's valid for first use at anytime, it's known as the Muni passport. Many visitors purchase the one, three, or seven day pass and is activated when the user scratches off the month and date of first use. If I understand correctly, Muni may also consider converting the paper passports to Clipper cards (or possibly Limited Use Tickets).

Here's my suggestions and ideas for Muni to convert from a monthly pass system to 31-day:
  • 31-day passes can be purchased at anytime. This reduces the demand on in-person vendors by not having a swarm a week before the new pass is due (monthly system). It would also benefit the automated machines by allowing passengers to purchase the passes at anytime.
  • It's perfect when you have friends or guests in the city that's staying for a long period, and especially when they visit mid-month.
  • Allow Clipper card users to hold more than one 31-day pass at a time. This gives coverage after the initial 31-day pass expires. This may be a requirement as commuter benefit programs that automatically load Clipper passes only disburse them on a monthly basis.
  • There would be no 3-day grace period, otherwise it would be called a 34-day pass.
  • The pass prices would remain the same. No more complaining that February has only 28 (less days of unlimited rides) days while October has 31 days.
  • A 31-day pass would be beneficial to college students because the first day of classes for Fall and Spring doesn't start until mid or late of the respective month. They don't need a January pass they won't use for about the first 20 days.
  • If a passenger has a damaged, lost, or stolen Clipper card, the 31-day pass can be freezed until the new card arrives and the remaining days will be reactivated when tagged on a Muni reader. Some have complained that a lost, damaged, or stolen card can take longer than promised, thereby their monthly pass can't be carried over the extra days it took to issue a new card.
I also think Clipper machines at Muni metro stations should also sell day passes and multi-day passes. Visitors and locals alike not needing a full 31-day pass can get something smaller and fits their budget. Not a lot of vendors around the city sells the paper scratch-off passports, so adding more places to buy would help.

Lastly, an alternative to the 31-day passes would be the pass accumulator program. It's basically a policy where if you use so much e-cash in a day, multiple days (e.g. one week), or month, the rest of the rides on the transit agency would be free; it's simplified because there is no need to purchase monthly or 31-day passes. Explanation of the pass accumulator program here.

What's your thoughts on my proposal on the 31-day, day, and weekly passes? How about the pass accumulator program? Leave it in the comments.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Opinion: Things are Going Better for Clipper

Many of you rely on Akit's Complaint Department to provide you the latest information about Clipper and those times when things can go sour. Thank you for taking time out of your day to read my blog.

I think to myself about how much the mass media has been going into chaos about the news pieces such as the youth in Alameda County not getting their Clipper cards due to the mandatory AC Transit pass transition, the new Muni gates giving "free" access with the wave of the hand, and cheating BART with just $2.

For once, I can say, most of the problems just went away or was resolved, and things seem to be calming down.
  • The AC Transit pass transition went bonkers because parents were too lazy to drag their kids to one of the many sign-up events held by AC Transit, and AC Transit has been telling parents for over a year to bring their child(ren) to the sign-up events to get prepared for the transition. To those parents, here's what I say: "Excuses, excuses. A bunch of bullshit."
  • The Muni gate controversy was a totally worthless story as the old gates was easy to evade, it's called the emergency swing gate; I haven't witnessed anyone trying to cheat the system on my weekend rides on the metro, and I believe Cubic Transportation Systems made a software patch to resolve the issue. Now, most people are used to the new gates (courtesy of my video? Just to make you aware, I revised and reposted it, that's why the view numbers are low).
  • The $2 BART rip-off rides was more of a total joke when BART Board members learned that very few have taken advantage of it. At least KPIX admitted on live TV the station's management debated if it's morally appropriate to report on how to cheat the system.
Even there was a sense of fear in the air with Muni's transition of 40,000 "A" fast passes being moved to Clipper in November, but that went very smoothly and even better than I expected. I thought the December pass would be a big problem, but it seems our savvy citizens have learned where or how to purchase their December pass since paper pass only vendors can't sell Clipper related media.

But still, some small issues came up in the last 30 days...

Occasionally, I notice on Clipper's Facebook page and checking on my Twitter account of people who complain about the little things regarding the program, and there are some who are having trouble getting a refund or totally blows a relatively small problem out of proportion. After all, it's normal; if you have thousands of people using a program, you'd always expect a very small group of those who have an issue. Heck, I work for the state government, you'd always expect that a few citizens will go nuts while the other 99% are A-OK.

For now, the folks at MTC, Clipper, and Cubic can breathe a sigh of relief and look forward to Samtrans joining on December 15th and VTA in February. For me, I'm focusing on the holiday season and having fun with my new cardholder.

For any of you readers who have questions about Clipper, ask me! Just leave it in the comments and I'll get back to you quickly.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Clipper Updates: VTA Ready in February & BART Parking Now Available

There are two big announcements for the expansion of the Clipper card program:

VTA will be joining the Clipper family in February, but there will be some limitations on their first phase of public usage:
  • VTA will accept Clipper e-cash for single rides only. There will be no e-cash pass accumulator (if you tag your card multiple times, you'll earn a day pass). If you need a day pass, pay for one with cash to the driver or use a light rail ticketing machine.
  • Only monthly VTA passes will be sold (adult, express, senior, youth, & disabled). No day passes and annual passes.
  • If you pay e-cash to use light rail, you will have two hours to complete your journey. Tag your card at the platform stop reader, as there will not be one on the train.
  • In-person locations to add Clipper e-cash or passes are very limited. Review this map to find your nearest location; otherwise, consider adding value via phone or online. MTC and Clipper intends to add more places to add value through upgraded light rail ticketing machines.
  • Inter agency transfers will be honored. If you have a two or more zone Caltrain pass on Clipper, VTA will give you a local fare credit. If you transfer from AC Transit, BART, or Samtrans (monthly passes only), you will also get a local transfer credit within their time limitations (listed here). If you are going to ride a VTA express bus, you must have $2 in e-cash on your card to pay your express bus upgrade ($2 local fare credit paid w/inter agency transfer & $2 express upgrade fee charged to e-cash).
Translink Card - BART

BART Parking is now available on Clipper too!
Due to the transition of EZ Rider, the folks at Cubic was able to find a way to transition EZ Rider to Clipper; but even if you don't have EZ Rider for parking, you can sign-up your Clipper card for BART parking.
  1. To register for BART parking, go to the EZ Rider website.
  2. Select the appropriate option, if you are transitioning EZ Rider card parking to Clipper, or you don't have EZ Rider and you want it on your Clipper account.
  3. You will need to input a credit or debit card to get enrolled.
  4. You will be charged a $2 hang tag fee on your credit/debit card. The tag you place on your rear view mirror is mailed to you a few days later.
  5. Select your preferred station location and BART will determine how much to initially pre-fund your account. This is charged to your credit/debit card.
  6. Once everything is setup and you get your hang tag, park at a BART station, tag your Clipper card inside the station, and you are good to go. Your Clipper card account is linked with your unique hang tag ID#, so don't lose the tag or use a different Clipper card.
Lastly, I've updated the Muni gates tutorial video with footage of how to tag your Clipper card on the gates. Enjoy!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Clipper Card Reader Meltdowns - Still Not Resolved

I would believe by now, Clipper should have resolved the card reader meltdowns on buses and trains (especially Muni), but it seems it hasn't been resolved. If you don't know what I'm talking about, click here for my first story posted on October 13, 2010.

Fortunately, a Clipper representative wrote a comment on my blog explaining why the readers are beeping like hell (more than one RFID card was read at once) and said it should be resolved in November with a software update.

Um... OK, it's now December and where's this software update? On Sunday, I boarded a M-Ocean View train going inbound and had to get off at the next stop because the beeping was was totally annoying. Luckily for me, a K-Ingleside train was right behind.

Want to see the annoyance in action? Here's one of many clips available on YouTube:

There are also a few people who are complaining on Twitter about it too: Tweet #1 and tweet #2.

Come on Clipper, you can get this annoying problem resolved. Look what the ORCA card organization did, they fixed their readers to say "one card at a time please" which means that the user who used the card reader had more than one RFID card present during the scan. See photo below from Flickr user: Atomic Taco:
ORCA: One card at a time, please

A broken card reader means lost revenue for Muni, puts passengers at risk of receiving a "fare evasion" citation from fare inspectors, and also means a free ride too.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Akit Returns to his Drug of Choice: Muni Pass on Clipper Card

The rumors are true (huh? What rumors?), I have returned to loading my Muni monthly pass to my Clipper card.

I reported in late April I decided to switch from an e-pass to a paper pass because of the technical problems lingering with TransLink (former name of Clipper), including a bad experience on the Cable Cars.

The reason why I switched back from a paper pass to an e-pass is because of another unfortunate situation, Commuter Check. They have been mailing me my paper pass for six months, and it went mostly well, except for my November pass. A new policy is if a person wants to have more than one fare media mailed to them, they are mailed in their own envelope. For me, I asked for a paper pass and a voucher for the remaining balance, and they sent me two envelopes. For the November pass period, I got my pass in the mail on the very last day of the previous month, which really made me feel uncomfortable.

I switched back to Clipper because I asked Commuter Check to send my funding to my commuter benefits debit card and no fear of a delay in the mail since funds are electronically added 10 days before the new month. Now I have the flexibility to purchase a monthly pass, or move the funds to Clipper e-cash in case I feel I can't make-up the $60 value of the Muni e-pass.

Another reason for the switch, since Muni's "A" pass users switched just a month ago, Muni really had to keep a good eye on the Clipper machinery used on all buses, trains, and metro stations because they knew that a broken system could mean losing thousands of dollars. I've noticed the reliability of Clipper drastically improving and it factored in my decision.

Some other Clipper thoughts:
  • It would be nice if Muni installed some more Clipper card/Muni ticketing machines at Powell station's main gates (west gates). They only have three machines and there's always a line of 5-10 deep for each machine.
  • Can BART ticketing machines be ready to add Clipper value sooner? EZ Rider's transition is going to be huge, and there's not many add value locations nearby BART stations (except downtown SF).
  • Can the face of the Clipper card be a little more scratch resistant? Even a small fingernail scratch ruins the shiny card.
Lastly... this is my 500th blog post! I can't believe I've lasted this long.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Update: SamTrans Will Accept Clipper on December 15th

Clipper on Muni
Originally, SamTrans was supposed to "soft launch" on December 15th, 2010 and do a "hard launch" on February 14th, 2011, but it seems the Clipper folks have some better news...

Just released today on their Twitter stream, SamTrans will accept Clipper cards starting on Wednesday, December 15, 2010, an early holiday present for Clipper card users.

Okay, they are "soft launching" it, which means you can pay for your rides on the buses in San Mateo County, but there is one big drawback until they do their "hard launch" on Valentine's Day:
  • There are very limited locations in San Mateo County to add Clipper value. The map Clipper provided shows there are only some Walgreens locations in San Mateo County, and they are all near Caltrain stations.
One big benefit to add SamTrans to the Clipper card family is Caltrain passengers with monthly passes can benefit with the inter-agency agreement, as long as the Caltrain pass user has at least two zones on their card. The drawback is that since VTA is not yet Clipper ready (another agency with an inter-agency agreement with Caltrain).

While Clipper will be accepted on SamTrans starting December 15th, this is a time to also pay careful attention to your usage. This is their first public usage for the agency, and you need to make sure your fare is being deducted correctly, or if using the Caltrain pass (with two or more zones) that your e-cash purse is not being deducted.

Until Clipper releases information on their website about SamTrans usage, there is no way to know how Clipper will handle selling passes and how to be properly charged for the bus lines that costs more than the $2 adult local fare.

Lastly: Don't forget, BART's EZ Rider card will not work starting December 15th. If you did not cancel your EZ Rider account, do so soon.

Monday, November 22, 2010

$2 for All Day Muni Rides & Free Downtown SF Parking

It's becoming an annual tradition on Muni where just $2 lets you ride Muni all you want for a day.

What tradition am I talking about? It's Muni's "Sunday FunDay Pass!"

Here's the details you need to know:
  1. It's held every Sunday in the month of December.
  2. Just $2 gets you a transfer that doesn't expire until the end of the day.
  3. Ride as many Muni lines you like; except for the Candlestick Express and Cable Cars.
And for all of you Clipper card and metro limited use ticket (LUT) users, you now get the benefit too! The initial transaction with the Clipper or LUT will automatically issue you an e-transfer valid to the end of the day.

(Sucks for me, I already bought a December "M" pass)


Now, how about some free parking? Maybe you don't want to haul all those nice gifts on the Muni ride home. That's right, the SFMTA's other tradition offers one or two hours of free parking too!

Here's the dirty details on the free parking:
  1. From December 1st to 26th, and from 10AM to 6PM each day.
  2. Use one of city owned downtown parking lots listed here.
  3. At the entrance of the garage, the employee will verify your carpool and validate your ticket.
  4. If you have three people in the vehicle, you get one hour free. If you have four or more people in the vehicle, you get two hours free.

Seasons greetings everyone! Remember to buy a gift for Akit!

Friday, November 19, 2010

New Clipper Vending Machines for BART? Can't They Just Retrofit?

It turns out the Associated Press decided to go national with a brief story about BART going nuts over the Clipper card program (via San Jose Mercury).

One item caught my eye today, it says that by March of 2011, every BART station will have Clipper vending machines to add funds to their cards. Since the AP article didn't give much about these machines, Streetsblog SF got some more info and said it will be new machines.

Strange... new machines?

I originally thought when BART stations was going to be able to add Clipper value, they were going to retrofit the existing ticketing machines to do that job. But... new ones?

Why should the MTC waste their money on installing new machines? They could just retrofit the BART ticketing machines to handle it. The machinery is already there, it takes bills, coins, credit cards, and has a round sensor where it can read and write to RFID cards.

What makes this more strange, the BART ticketing machines are from CUBIC! Yes, the same company that's maintaining and operating Clipper. The existing equipment is there, it just needs a software update and possibly some other minor physical upgrades (including sticker signage).

If BART stations needs to have machines to issue new Clipper cards for those who don't have one, buy one of those mass produced telephone card vending machines. The PATH system on the East Coast has telephone card vending machines selling pre-funded Smartlink cards and their ticketing machines can only add value.

If there's a MTC, Clipper, or BART representative out there, will it be new machines or retrofitting the existing BART ticketing machines?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Get Your Calculators - Clipper Just Got More Expensive

Last Friday, the Operations Committee of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (or what I like to call, the defacto Clipper Board of Directors) had their monthly meeting to discuss about updates about Clipper, amending existing contracts, and change orders to increase funding for the program.

Item three of their agenda contains a memorandum from the Executive Director. Here's the highlights:
  • As we all know, November was the big transition of Muni's "A" paper pass to Clipper (40,000 users). This is the biggest transition to date for the program and a month prior to the November switch, 40% of pass users already converted.
  • Clipper has faced a big challenge in advertising and promoting to people with limited English proficiency (LEP). SF Supervisor Chiu was the one who lit a fire under Clipper's butt on the issue.
  • Due to the lack of promoting to LEP communities, the Executive Director asked the Operations Committee to approve $500,000 (yep, half a million) for customer education and in-person outreach with Swirl Marketing. MTC and Clipper have already spent $900,000 and another $1,000,000 on marketing, but that budget included MTC's other services like FasTrak and 511 as well. Amazingly: "This amendment will bring the total contract amount to $16,398,475" (ouch).
  • The MTC also proposed to amend a contract with Booz Allen Hamilton, a company that provides "technical oversight of the Clipper Contractor and coordination with transit operators and other consultants." The amount to amend: $950,000. The total contract with Booz Allen Hamilton would be $5,507,988 (if passed by the committee).
  • It seems the demand for Clipper cards has skyrocketed and the MTC underestimated the demand by a a few million dollars. In a previous posting, I mentioned Clipper spent $1 million for 475,000 cards ($2.11 each), now Clipper wants to change the contract with Cubic by spending an extra $4 million to get nearly two million (actually it's 1.9 million cards, but those government folks thinks two million is a nice round number) additional cards in stock to meet demand.
  • The Clipper employment program and customer service needs a boost as well with $1.05 million more on top of their existing contract with Cubic.
  • Since VTA wants to adapt their ticketing machines to add Clipper value, that's another $550,000 in the bucket.
  • The MTC wants to add a third in-person customer service center (the first two will be in SF) by placing one in Oakland. That'll cost $400,000.
If my math is correct, these contract changes, procurements, and/or adjustments is: $7,450,000.

I'd better pray this investment is going to pay off dividends in the coming years.

In other meeting news, the BART Board of Directors is meeting this week and will talk about the transition of EZ Rider card users to Clipper. Unfortunately, last week's meeting on the 10th was abruptly canceled, but I was fortunate enough to get a copy of the General Manager's memorandum before the webmaster deleted the agenda's PDF file. The PDF file I got is a lot more extensive than the presentation now being shown on the current agenda on page 16.

Here's the highlights:
  • December 15th is the deadline for EZ Rider users to transition to Clipper. So if you have that EZ Rider card and try to use it on the day after... sorry!
  • For those who carry two cards: One for EZ Rider parking and the Clipper card for transit, a solution has been found to make it one card for both parking fees and transit fares.
  • There was an increase in the tagging error rate, up 1.7% from 5% reported in last July's meeting. This is due to a major increase from 14,000 trips to 45,000 trips every weekday. The cause of the increase in read errors is due to the inexperience of new users.
  • At its peak, EZ Rider had 50,000 users, but the Clipper transition has reduced it to now 9,000 still using the EZ Rider card.
  • Clipper increased their telephone customer service staff from 22 to 52 to meet demand of the transition of paper passes from other agencies.
  • In the month of September, Clipper has processed over 4,000,000 "fee generating transactions." Another way to think about it, a 400% increase in just six months.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Akit Delayed Muni Metro Today

Before you think I caused trouble on Muni metro today, please be aware: No, I didn't go nuts on the train, nor did I cause a disturbance with the fare inspectors. There is a very good explanation on why I had to be involved in delaying Muni metro.

Disclaimer: If you just ate your lunch, I'd suggest coming back in 30 minutes. This story is a little bit nasty...

After a nice lunch at Ike's Place at Lime (on Market), I took the F-Market to Van Ness station to catch the next train to AT&T Park to buy some World Series goodies. Lucky for me, the N-Judah just arrived when I got on the platform.

I was sitting in the second car, in the front half section, and facing towards the rear end. At Civic Center station, a man just stood up, was walking towards the third exit door, and he tripped and fell face first into the floor (everyone heard a big thud sound). A couple of passengers helped to pick him up and the train doors closed and progressed to Powell.

Ugh, not a pretty sight. He was all dizzy and was bleeding all over the train floor and his clothes. When the train got to Powell, I got off quickly to move to the first car so I can inform the driver, and also noticed the injured passenger exiting; the guy was so out of it, he fell on his back on the platform and scooted himself against the wall.

I got the driver's attention and quickly told him what was going on. As a trained first responder at my job at SF State (even though I was not on-duty), the safety of myself and others is a priority and the risk of blood borne pathogens on the floor was also a serious concern. The driver hit the emergency brake and called Central Control for an ambulance. At the same time, a station agent was on the platform to look at the guy who got hurt.

The train was stuck on the platform for about 5-10 minutes to assess the situation. The driver eventually ordered all passengers off the train and another N-Judah arrived shortly thereafter.

In the end, the passengers wasn't happy they had to get off the train, but most understood why.

I'm no hero, I just did the right thing like any responsible person would.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Akit says: Don't Exploit the Clipper Card - You Ruin it For Everyone Else

Remember the Muni gate controversy where people could wave their hand and get free entry through the gates? My blog entry said that we live in a society full of rules, and if you don't respect them, you'll pay a serious price for it. I wasn't amused that a news reporter mentioned this to big TV audience, but this is nothing new because people have always ripped-off Muni in some way; hell, I see it every time I ride the 38L-Geary Limited.

In today's news, it seems like the mass media wants to grab the news football, run like hell, and at the same time, carry a megaphone and yell at people just how to exploit one of Clipper's benefits. In summary, Streetsblog SF published an article mentioning about how the Clipper card's negative balance benefit can be exploited by having someone add just a couple of dollars and ride an expensive public transit ride (like BART to SFO), get the card into the negative balance, and just throw the card away. Since obtaining the card is free with a minimum purchase of $2, going one way to SFO is a huge savings (for scumbags).

Unfortunately their co-publishing deal with SFGate made their story headline news on that website and people are tweeting the crap out of it saying it's some sort of scam, cheat, or "dirty little secret."

I'm not at all against Streetsblog SF for posting their story, the media have a right to expose weaknesses. But the co-publishing with SFGate and putting it on the top of their page as a major story just made the can of worms explode. I would have kept it low profile so only a few hundred knew, not the tens of thousands. Now, I'm going to bet the local TV news stations will start reporting all about this exploit, and making the problem even worse.

Now, all because of this mass exposure, the people who use the Clipper card honestly are now screwed because this exploit got out like a rabid dog on the loose. The negative balance feature was to help passengers prevent getting stuck without a transit ride as long as there's some kind of positive e-cash balance on the card; if there is zero balance or a negative balance, the card cannot be used again until the funds are replenished.

Akit's opinion:

Nat Ford, CEO SFMTA (Parody)

Heads don't need to roll and people don't have to be fired. The folks at MTC and the Clipper board had good intentions to have this great benefit to have the card go negative so you don't get trapped, now, it's ruined for all of us honest folks who don't abuse our transit system.

Well, there's no turning back now; the negative balance issue is going to go nuclear by who else (assuming it will), BART Board President, James Fang. Yeah, you know the guy, the one who spent $350K on a cell phone program to pay transit fares and said TransLink (former name of today's Clipper) is a total waste; but the truth is, Fang's gamble went down the toilet fast because TransLink picked-up steam big time when it was available to the public.

There is no easy solution to fixing this problem. They cannot simply eliminate the negative balance program because BART does not have exitfare machines capable to add enough value to a card to match the distance taken by the passenger, and Golden Gate Transit & Caltrain customers may go into the negative balance because they charge the maximum price and must tag-off to be charged the appropriate zones from point A to B.

To resolve this issue, MTC and Clipper will likely have to take one or more of these suggestions:
  1. Stop giving away free cards, even ones where you add a minimal value to get a free card. Clipper was supposed to charge a $5 after a brief free card promo period. But... someone decided to extend the free plastic Clipper cards to JUNE 2011. Even if someone exploits the card, it won't be such a bad impact.
  2. Raise the $5 fee to the price matching a one way ride on the most expensive transit option available (the deposit is not credit to one's account, only to be refunded if the passenger quits Clipper). If Caltrain is the most expensive at $11.25 for a one-way trip, then make that the deposit fee to obtain a card. This will piss a lot of passengers off, but it's a way to prevent ripping-off the program. If the card is negative and a person wants their deposit fee back, the deposit funds wipe out the negative balance, and the remaining deposit balance is refunded to the person.
  3. Continue the negative balance option, on one condition: BART will not let passengers exit with a negative balance and they must use an exitfare machine that has been modified for Clipper cards to pay the balance to exit the system. Other agencies like Golden Gate Ferry may also demand it too because people can exploit the expensive cost of a ferry boat ride with the tactic used by Clipper card users exploiting BART.
  4. Modify the negative balance policy in a way where the maximum is not $10 negative, make it $5; or, to gain entry to certain higher priced transit agencies (BART, Golden Gate, and Caltrain), the card must have a higher minimum balance.

In another perspective, I just wonder how many people have even exploited this at all? Sure, one is too many, as transit agencies are financially hurting. If it's a few, it's not a huge problem, but since featuring the story on SFGate to a wide audience has now destroyed its reputation, how many more will exploit it?

Be honest people, you don't want to cheat the transit agencies. Doing so may benefit yourself with financial savings, but in the long run, it hurts the transit agencies with reduced fare revenue to run buses and trains, and hurts the public with higher fares and taxes.

As usual, those cheaters and scammers will give some lame ass excuse like some little kid who just lied to their parents. They'll say something like, "I'll do what I want!" Here's my reaction to such a childish comment, "I don't mind humiliating you on my blog! Let me get my camera."

As a previous commentator said: "morals, honor and respect: Amen!"

Monday, November 8, 2010

Illegal Dumping is a Big Problem & How to Fight Back

Almost every single day I ride Muni's 18-46th Avenue from the Outer Richmond district to SF State, I find illegally dumped items on sidewalks; in many cases, at the same spot time and time again. For example, I always find some kind of nasty looking treasure on the intersection of 33rd Avenue and Balboa, and the problem has been so rampant in that location, the city put up warning notices on the utility poles saying "NO DUMPING."

Some of the most common things I find is old televisions (the bulky tube TVs) and soiled mattresses. I sometimes find drawers and cabinets, while others are e-waste like computers and monitors.

Dumping items on the street is illegal. Our streets are not places where you can dump your used personal property and it's a free-for-all for people to grab the freebies. Dumping stuff on the streets is a huge eyesore and makes our streets look ugly.

Anyway, nobody wants a used mattress. I don't even want to know what the hell is that stain on it. Do you like a computer? How about one full of someone's personal information and possibly a virus?

I try to do my best as a local citizen to get those illegally dumped items removed. I always give a quick tweet or call to San Francisco 311 so it can be picked-up, but for every time the city has to do it, it comes with a high cost. DPW's clean-up trucks go around the city picking-up illegally dumped items from requests from the general public and whatever they find when they pass by. One time, I called 311 to report a huge TV on the street corner, and due to its size, they have to bring two city employees to remove it because who wants to pay workers comp for a back injury?


Here's some ways to fight back:
  • If you find someone illegally dumping, call the cops: (415) 553-0123.
  • If you find illegally dumped items, call: 311 or (415) 701-2311. You can remain anonymous.
  • Humiliate people who do it: Tape a sign on the illegally dumped item stating: "Illegally dumped, SHAME ON YOU!" You could also post a sign on a nearby lamppost saying: "To those who illegally dump, I know who you are."

How to get rid of large & bulky items (legally):

  • See if a local charity organization is having a pick-up. In my neighborhood, we get a courtesy card every couple of months of a charity asking for donations. Usually, huge items like mattresses are not welcomed, but they may accept large electronic items like TVs and computers.
  • Keep an eye out for drive thru drop-off events in your area. Some of them are available to anyone, regardless of what neighborhood or city you live in. In other cases, you must live in a particular neighborhood to utilize the service. Be aware, there may be certain limitations on what you can drop-off.
  • Goodwill locations are usually happy to accept a lot of items, that is, if you are willing to haul it and carry it yourself.
  • Contact Recology (a.k.a. Sunset Scavenger & Golden Gate) for pickup. If you have trash service in the city, you get free junk removal. The freebie pick-ups depends on the service the company provides (homes, apartments, multi-unit buildings, etc.), but each pick-up can be up to ten items. They can collect all kinds of items, and usually more than what other services will do for you. For more information, click here.

Take action! Keep our city streets looking nice!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Clipper Card Gets People to SF Giants Parade Today - Who's Laughing Now?

For the past few days, people have been posting their anger on Twitter against Muni and Clipper for the mandatory conversion of the "A" adult paper passes to Clipper only. But there's also the usual anger from other people saying it doesn't work on BART, Caltrain, and other agencies.

Here's some of the Twitter anger: Tweet #1, tweet #2, tweet #3, tweet #4, and tweet #5.

Well, today is the big SF Giants parade in celebration of their World Series victory, thousands are packing mass transit with longer trains on BART, extra ferries on Golden Gate Ferry, and lines everywhere for train and ferry tickets.

For those who says "Clipper sucks," who's laughing now?
Using the card is like the express line, no feeding bills into the farebox, you can enter the rear doors of Muni metro, no waiting for BART tickets, and speed through the line at the Golden Gate Ferry!

Here's some of the positive feedback for today's "who's laughing now?"
Tweet #1, tweet #2, tweet #3, tweet #4, tweet #5, tweet #6, and tweet #7.

If you don't have a Clipper card, why not get one? Visit your retailer and read my expert guide about Clipper.

Lastly, congrats to our hometown heroes, the San Francisco Giants! Goooooo Giants! Sing it Tony Bennett!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Update: Answer to Why Political Ads are Not on SF's Lampposts

Happy election day everyone. I hope you have already voted or will do so today.

In a recent blog entry, I mentioned it was really nice to not see those political ads on the city's lampposts. I never really knew why the practice has stopped and I assumed it was because it was just a waste of money with all that paper and labor needed to put it up on every single post in the city.

Just recently, a blog entry in SFGate's "City Insider" was talking about Proposition "B" and it mentioned about rules regarding the posting of bills or ads on city lampposts. They also provided a link to the Department of Public Works website about the city code regulating postings.

In summary of the city's policy, the city does not permit any signage larger than a letter size sheet of paper, and this includes political signage. Here's more info from the DPW's site:

To legally place a sign on a utility pole, it must:
  • Be less than 11 inches in height
  • No higher than 12 feet from the ground
  • Conform to the shape of the pole
  • Be attached with tape or other non-adhesive material such as twine, string or other non-metal banding material
  • Include a legible posting date in the lower right hand corner
  • Be removed after 10 days, if the sign is promoting a date specific event
  • Be removed within 70 days of the posting date
  • Not be installed on historic street light poles, traffic signal poles or traffic directional sign poles.
Good work SF, no more eyesores on our lampposts! Now, let's start getting after the other political annoyances like doorknob hangers, robo calls on my home phone, calling my cell phone (which is VERY ILLEGAL), and all that junk mail you keep mailing me weeks after I voted absentee.

Just mail me a voter information booklet; that's all I need to vote with. I don't read the paid arguments section.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

A Local's Survival Guide to PGA Charles Schwab Golf Tournament at SF's Harding Park

The PGA Champions Tour is returning to San Francisco at Lake Merced's Harding Park golf course. I've read over the material and found out this event won't be as bad as other times where streets have been closed-off, certain areas turned into defacto parking lots for the rich and wealthy, and Muni lines were seriously re-routed. With much less traffic and transit restrictions, it looks like this might be a much lower profile event than the other two that snarled the area and made a lot of SF State students, faculty, and staff upset; one huge reason, a one day ticket is only $25, while the last two events charged at least double or triple.

Here's an easy guide to a smooth experience during this golf tourney (whether you are a local trying to get around or just wanting to see golfers wash their balls):

Event dates:
  • Held from Monday, November 1st, to Sunday, November 7th.
  • Monday and Tuesday is not for the general public.
  • Wednesday through Sunday is for the general public to access. Practice round is Wednesday, and tournament play is the remaining days.
Traffic Closures:
  • The SFMTA's ISCOTT meeting agenda states in item "R," Herbst road that services the Janet Pomeroy center, National Guard, and the delivery entrance for the SF Zoo will be closed from 6:30AM to 5:30PM each day.
  • This is the only noted road closure from the ISCOTT notes, thereby any other closures could be deemed illegal because only ISCOTT can approve city road closures (that is, unless there's an emergency).
Transit Changes:
  • Sanctioned parking lots are located at the Stonestown Mall from Wednesday to Sunday, and SF State from Saturday to Sunday (see map).
  • Parking in the street might get tricky, especially with the heavy restrictions and time limits in the SF State area.
  • Don't park in the SF State garage until the weekend. Campus cops are watching, and you don't want to mess with thousands of students, staff, and faculty who uses the lot on a daily basis.
  • Do not park in Daly City BART to take advantage of the free shuttle. The BART lot is for passengers only and registering the car in the paid area of the station is REQUIRED. Abusing the system will result in a large fine and/or towing.
Transit options to event:
  • BART: Daly City station will have shuttles.
  • Muni: 29 Sunset provides service to the main gates near "Sunset Circle" (a.k.a. where Lake Merced Blvd. and Sunset Blvd. meets). L-Taraval is a walk to the main gates from the terminus stop at the Zoo. 18-46th Avenue passengers should exit at Sloat and Skyline and walk to main gates. 23-Monterey passengers should exit at Sunset Blvd and walk.
  • Bike: Free bike racks at "Sunset Circle" main gates.
  • Taxi: Drop-off on Lake Merced between Sunset and Skyline.
  • See complete map.

Here's some local resident tips if you are just trying to avoid this train wreck:
  • Great Highway between Sloat and Skyline is now fully opened in both directions. This will ease the traffic that will happen due to the golf tourney along Skyline.
  • If you are commuting along the 18-46th Avenue and 29-Sunset, expect some delays due to traffic.
  • If you work for the SF Zoo or need access to the Janet Pomeroy center, hopefully they informed you about the road closure.
  • You might want to avoid the Sunset Circle area and the adjacent roads.
  • If you work or go to SF State, arrive a little earlier. If you depend on street parking, you should definitely get to campus much earlier if those golf spectator cheapskates steal all the parking.
Let's hope for a smooth golf tournament and minimal road or transit hassles.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

SamTrans to Officially Accept Clipper on February 14, 2011

SamTrans and VTA are the next two transit agencies preparing to accept Clipper and join the consortium of other major transit agencies in the Bay Area to have a one card system.

On November 3rd, the Citizens Advisory Committee for SamTrans will be approving their minutes of their previous meeting on October 6, 2010.

The minutes for the October meeting mentions a MTC/Clipper representative was present to provide a statement about the upcoming addition of Clipper to SamTrans and answer questions from the committee.

Here's the key dates for the inclusion of Clipper for public use:
  • Soft launch will start December 15th.
  • Hard launch will start February 14th.
The representative also mentioned, nearly all fare media will be available through Clipper; this includes e-cash, passes (adult, youth, and other eligible), and inter agency passes and transfers (e.g. Caltrain 2-zone or greater passes). Tokens and Redi-Wheels will not change.

Isn't that great? Clipper accepted on Valentines day. Bring your partner for a heartwarming ride around San Mateo County on the blue card that makes it easy. Don't forget roses!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Best Comment of the Day: Muni Paper Pass to Clipper Transition

The media is once again pouncing on the news about the upcoming big switch from Muni paper passes to Clipper only passes. The media will do their usual crap, say it's some kind of panic, then a few days later, no news. Soon after, they'll say thousands don't have the Clipper card, while the truth is, people have been forewarned for many months the big day will come.

Some bright news, all Muni pass retailers will sell Clipper cards with the adult "A" pass pre-loaded on the card. However... they won't sell the cards again, which reminds people, find another vendor or automated machine to handle purchasing December's pass.

Since the media is having fun, so is the commentators. Here's the best comment of the day regarding the mandatory switch from paper passes to Clipper:

From the SF Examiner, by Fred Thompson:
"The complaints about language outreach are hilarious. Every other major metropolitan area uses a transit card similar to this, from London to NYC and there are never "language issues". The only reason people are complaining is now they wont be able to use ( and not pay for ) fake passes and get away with freebies under the guise of "cultural insensitivity" PC baloney."
Hmmm, makes me wonder how many people have fake fast passes and now realize that there's no way to fake an electronic fare card? Stop stealing from Muni and PAY UP.

Monday, October 25, 2010

BART Passengers to & from SFO Have Bad Manners

This photo just shows the poor manners of BART passengers by leaving their luggage on the train seats and not letting anyone else be allowed to sit on those seats.

I took this picture yesterday (Sunday) on the train heading towards San Francisco International Airport. The trains are a popular option for passengers going and leaving the airport on weekends as most of the seats are usually taken.

In other cases, I have found luggage hogging all the seats in the "quad" area, and on this same train where I took this photo, found a huge piece of luggage blocking the doorway.

Proper manners with luggage is to park your stuff in the open space where wheelchair passengers use or put them in your lap. Here's a photo of people doing it appropriately.

Want to see more photos of bad passengers hogging up space on the train with their luggage? Here's one, another one, oooh another one, and this one is the worst of the worst!

Isn't it Nice There's No Political Ads on SF's Lampposts?

In one week will be election day for California, and specifically in San Francisco. There's a lot of items for people to vote for, including a new Governor, school boards, BART board, judges, and of course, those crazy propositions ranging from pension plans to the state budget.

Other than the political junk mail (that goes straight into my recycle bin without reading it) and the bothersome phone calls from idiots saying "vote for me!" and "my rival is a scumbag," there's one bright spot in this upcoming elections.

That bright spot, there's no political ads posted on San Francisco's lampposts. Yeah, you know those ones that are bright in colors, full of stupid slogans, and makes it a total eyesore when driving.

Not long ago, those political ads polluted our thoroughfares of our streets, and every single lamppost on Geary Boulevard was crammed with things saying vote for this, and don't vote for that. There were people who had to park their fancy cherry picker trucks and block our streets to post this crud, and there were some random people deciding to cut down ads off the poles of candidates or propositions they didn't support.

Maybe those folks are getting the message, stop wasting your money on printing and wasting all that paper, and get a bunch of volunteer slaves to hound your ass on the phone and mail you garbage.

I am a permanent absentee voter; I vote immediately when I get the ballot, so you jackasses can leave me the fuck alone.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Caltrain Passengers with Clipper Can Now Buy Monthly Parking & Muni Passes

If you ride Caltrain and have a monthly or 8-ride loaded on your Clipper card, a new announcement from the folks at Clipper says it is possible to purchase a monthly parking permit through one of the self service ticketing machines. For those who have monthly Caltrain e-passes, it is now possible to purchase the Muni "sticker" from the Clipper program.


For parking, the process is as followed: A passenger must have a loaded monthly or 8-ride on their Clipper card & account, use the self service ticketing machine and follow the steps to purchase the monthly permit. The passenger must input their Clipper card's serial number during the transaction and will be verified by Clipper so the permit can be purchased. Payment methods accepted: Cash, credit, debit, and commuter benefit debit cards.

The old policy, shown on the brochure stated anyone that uses the parking permit program must still buy the old fashioned way with a paper monthly pass and getting their permit in the same transaction.


If you ride Caltrain and Muni on a regular basis, the inter agency benefit is Caltrain paper monthly pass users can purchase a Muni monthly pass sticker for just $55. Clipper has joined the bandwagon by allowing those with monthly Caltrain passes to purchase the combo package, but instead of a sticker, it will be electronically added to the user's card. The purchasing of the combo package should be done through the usual means: in-person vendor, online, phone, and Clipper automated vending machines.


Lastly, some other updates on Clipper and Caltrain:
  1. Eventually, the add value machines Clipper yanked out of the Muni metro stations will need to be installed at stations since the Caltrain ticketing machines are not likely to be upgraded to handle Clipper add value transactions.
  2. Inter agency transferring for Caltrain passengers with Clipper cards and at least a two zone or more pass still cannot get free rides on VTA and Samtrans . Until VTA and Samtrans are accepting Clipper, stick with the paper passes for now.