I noticed a few changes to using the TransLink card I wanted to share with you. Other than the controversy over the possible changing of the name to "Clipper" and no word of the management board's next meeting which should discuss this topic (no meetings scheduled from now until 2/12/10), there are some improvements that I'm impressed with, but there are also a few noticeable problems as well:
- There are upgrades happening on all the vehicle card readers. If you ride Muni buses, you will notice a small white sticker on the right side of the reader. From the looks of the sticker, TransLink has upgraded the memory and the battery backup for their equipment. The memory upgrade is a big plus and I find the readers to be even more responsive than before. As for the battery backup, it's a feature you will hardly notice.
- Another improvement is their response time for history reports. Instead of waiting several business days in the past for card transaction history reports, users can still make their request online and TransLink will e-mail you your history report within a matter of hours. My last request only took four hours, a dramatic improvement. TransLink claims they automated the online request process and will result in reports being generated within 24 hours.
What needs work:
- The card readers are still very unreliable on the F-Market cars because they are either not turned-on, have the red light with the "DC Not Responding" message, or the readers constantly trying to restart but continuously failing to operate in normal condition. I feel it is possibly due to the age of the vehicles, frequent power fluctuations (the lights flicker on the train when the overhead wires cross another wire); the SFMTA claims it's due to a power related problem.
- A second problem is Muni has not installed TransLink readers on their remaining F-Market vehicles that are not the PCCs and Milan cars (e.g. "boat" car, "Desire," and Melbourne). These are the "rare" cars that typically don't operate on Market, but run the shortened routes from Fisherman's Wharf to the Ferry Building.
- While the card user report is being generated at a much quicker pace, there's a need to allow the website to access immediate viewing of history reports instead of waiting for an e-mail.
- While I understand the TransLink management board is talking about our city's Cable Cars having portable card readers, Muni will never be fully TransLink ready until all the cable car conductors have the technology with them. I have a monthly Muni pass on my TransLink card, but I can't use them. If fare inspectors and Caltrain conductors have the new wrist strapped card readers, where are they for the Cable Car conductors?
- Is there a plan to install stationary TransLink card readers at the 4th & King metro platform for after AT&T Park sports events? If TransLink is in full swing on Muni and there's thousands of cardholders riding the metro, wouldn't it be beneficial to have an express line or an easy way to simply tag at the platform entrance and board the trains? Currently, the fare inspectors usually tell cardholders to tag on the trains, but due to the sardine packed crowds on the train, you may not get a chance to tag your card.