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Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Big Updates on TransLink to Clipper Card Transition & $2.63 Million Revised Budget (Was $1.4)

Ready to take-on even more TransLink card news? Sure you can! The MTC's Operations Committee is meeting this Friday to talk about the big transition from TransLink to Clipper, and they will be recommending approval to spend thousands of extra dollars for the transition and also add some more features to improve the program.

Let's take a look!

In the TransLink contract actions document, it mentions a new customer service option for cardholders and when the new Muni faregates will be ready for operation:
  • The MTC wants to open-up an in-person customer service center at one of the downtown BART/Muni stations, and they are keeping their eye on Embarcadero station to be the location. They will be able to add funds, exchange broken cards, and everything else just like the telephone center does; but this means instant service instead of mailing cards and waiting days for a replacement. The plan is to open the new center on June 1, 2010. The cost: $500,000 for just one year.
  • Muni will have the new metro faregates and vending machines in operation in August of this year.

In another list of TL contract actions, AC Transit riders will be saving some money by committing themselves to the TL/Clipper card:
  • AC Transit customers will be getting an incentive to ride the transit agency for 25 cents less than the regular fare. The MTC will invest $250,000 to promote the TL/Clipper card to be the primary fare card for all transit rides on AC Transit.

But I've left the best for last... the cream of the crop!
The TransLink/Clipper folks have a presentation, and includes images of the new Clipper card and some design changes to the existing equipment as well.
  • Starting April 15th, the old TransLink symbols and signage will be changed to the new Clipper logo. Current cardholders will get a notice from the authority of the transition from TL to Clipper.
  • (As you already know) June 1st will be the opening of the in-person customer service center.
  • On the week of June 14th, the massive switch will happen for Clipper. The new website Clippercard.com will be born (currently, it's just a parked domain) and the rebranding should be completed.
  • Starting June 15th, Clipper cards will start being distributed to the public. The TL cards are still OK to use while the transition is happening.
  • While the adult clipper cards will have a blue background with white arrows (their new logo), discount cards (e.g. seniors) will have a different card with a white background and blue arrows to differentiate the type of card issued.
  • The distribution of Clipper cards will be free (upon approval from the TL board), instead of paying the $5 fee.
  • A current cardholder of a TL card can have their data transferred to their replacement card in two ways: The telephone customer service will mail a replacement card within 2-3 days, or visit the in-person kiosk and the transfer will be done on the spot.

This is all great news. Be aware folks, I didn't list every single item mentioned down from the notes provided from the meeting. If you want to review all the documents to be discussed at the Operations Committee meeting, please click here.

Like I said before, the TransLink/Clipper folks are facing a steep challenge to make their goal dates.

In my opinion, there are some operational expenses that sounds really costly. I don't necessarily agree MTC needs to spend $250K to give 25 cent discounts for AC Transit riders for a short term period to encourage them to ride transit. In one way, it's too much money to fry, on the other hand, how about giving us Muni riders a 25 cent break too?

While I may disagree about spending a half million dollars to operate an in-person customer service center, I agree that we need to have such a location. People like instant satisfaction when they can use an automated machine or go to an in-person authorized vendor to add funds and passes without the 72 hour delay or waiting days for a replacement card to be mailed. Some have argued they have a monthly pass on their TL card and the delay for a replacement card means the passenger will pay cash for their rides, making their pass utterly useless for a short time. Since many people commute to/from San Francisco and stop at a downtown station, it's easy to understand why a place like Embarcadero is the perfect spot.

511 Fail: System Error


If you recall my previous article that was featured on SF Appeal (thank you Eve for the research credit) and a news report on KTVU (no credit for my work and was reported one day after my posting), it was going to cost $1.375 million just for the initial transition of TransLink to Clipper.

But now... in addition to that, let us add on $500,000 for a new customer service booth, $250,000 for 25 cent discounts for AC Transit, $300,000 will also be used to purchase additional Muni faregates as backup stock in case of a failure, $80,000 to "implement revised transfer rules" between Golden Gate Ferry and Muni, and a contract revision to add $125,000 to the $1.375 million being spent to advertise TL to Clipper. This is all found on the Operations Committee agenda. Just these additions alone costs $1,255,000.

The project transition costs has now skyrocketed to over $2.63 MILLION.

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