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or, better yet, give him a job."
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Saturday, March 6, 2010

Comments to Author of: "Burn Your TransLink Card"

I noticed on TweetDeck a blog entry titled "Burn your TransLink card" written by David Pollak, and it has been re-tweeted several times this evening. Since he did not allow any comments to be posted on his blog entry (but he has allowed on other entries on his blog), I'm going to post my comments on my blog as I am known to write very thorough opinions and commentary about the TransLink program.


First accusation: He states, without any links supporting it, "there are certain bus lines that will only accept the TransLink card during rush hour... you won't be able to ride the bus except with one..."

Akit's reaction: Since I monitor the meeting agenda and documents presented to the TransLink management group, there is no such policy where the TransLink card is mandatory to ride a bus or train line during rush hour, and would never be enforced today or ever in the future. People still have the right to pay for their transit rides in cash. Tourists and visitors will ride public buses and trains during rush hour, and they have the right to pay for their rides in cash.

You should revise that statement. The only agency requiring TransLink is AC Transit for Transbay bus service. Passengers who want to use a 31-day pass to go across the bay must use a TransLink card with a pass loaded onto it, but passengers who still wish to pay the $4 fare can do so in cash by utilizing the farebox. Muni also plans to transition their adult monthly fast pass to TL, but passengers still have the right to pay their fares in cash if they refuse a monthly pass.

Second accusation: David alleges that it is not appropriate to ask for a birth certificate to get issued youth TransLink cards. He states his children are kindergarten age (five years old). He continues to rant about privacy rights and the absurdity of the program requiring such information.

Akit's reaction
: I understand your frustration that your children, who are very young, need to have proof of identification before being issued a card. I'll also admit that the policies on issuing youth and senior cards are very lacking and not the most up-to-date on the TL website. With the transition from TL to Clipper, the website will definitely get a major update in the coming months.

As I understand the policy, in order for TransLink to issue a specially encoded youth card, the applicant must show proof that they are of the appropriate age, regardless if they are five or seventeen. Unlike adult cards that can be issued immediately at a vendor, a youth card must go through an additional process where TL will mail the card to the applicant.

The transit agency responsible for preparing the application for the card must also take a photo of the youth applicant. The reason why they must do this is because the card will be a personalized one with their photograph attached to it (as per AC Transit). In a situation where the person may be required to show proof of age, the TL card with the photo will be sufficient proof. This also can stop illegal activities with the card, such as passing on the discount to an adult, as a fare inspector or bus driver can look at the card and notice that it is not issued to that appropriate person.

Also, people with disabilities are issued an RTC discount card which informs the transit agency operator or ticketing agent that they are eligible for a discount fare without being questioned about their disability every single time. Their photograph is taken onto a card, and enables a passengers to either pay the discounted cash fare, get issued a disabled pass, or can use the encoded TransLink feature on the card to ride (PDF document). Disabled people who wants to get the discounted fare and TransLink rights have to go through this process and show documentation to get the card, so what's the difference of having people under 17 show proof of age when getting a specialized TL card and getting their photo taken?

Let me modify your complaints in this fashion: If your children are 16 years old and look like adults, would you still get upset that you would need to produce a birth certificate to get a youth encoded TL card?

Transit agencies who issue discount passes and allow discounted cash fares have the right to deny passengers to pay the discounted rate if they don't show proof of age. Sure, agencies rarely ever enforce this policy, but it's absolutely true. Muni fare inspectors have the right to check for proof of age if they believe a passenger is wrongfully using a senior fast pass; so the same goes for youth. TransLink is getting into the middle of the mess by issuing a transit card with their photograph to give them the proper rights to ride with a discounted fare or pass and the transit agency would not need to demand identification anymore.

The Peralta colleges also utilize the photographs to the card as well. Their EasyPass program allows full-time students to ride all AC Transit lines for a small per-semester fee, and the agreement between the Peralta colleges, AC Transit, and TransLink is to take the student's photograph and attach it to the TL card. The photo policy is similar to the youth card policy where only the card issuer who is receiving the discount, is the only person with the right to use the card (no sharing).

Next time, call TransLink to find out where you can register for a youth card. Some places do tabling at a major train station (schedule varies), while others requires passengers to visit their main headquarters.

I don't know what to say about privacy rights as I am not such a blogger to cover that field. The best I can suggest is to tell your kids to keep paying cash fares; it's the only way to be truly anonymous and not be "tracked."

Disclaimer: I don't work for TransLink or any other public transit agency.

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