In light of word from the SFMTA that Muni's famous Cable Cars now accept TransLink cards with monthly passes only is a great step forward for the agency (also, kudos to SF Appeal for their coverage), I thought it was time to try it out for myself.
Back when TransLink was in its baby stages, I participated in the program as a monthly Muni passholder and the agency mailed me a monthly Muni sticker to be used as a 'flash' pass for all buses and vehicles not equipped because the metro was the only vehicles used in their initial pilot program. This meant I showed my card to the Cable Car conductor and they'd give me the OK since it was valid for the month. (See photo of stickers)
Today, Muni doesn't give monthly stickers since all vehicles have the proper equipment, and the Cable Cars were the last to be equipped due to issues with historic monument rules. The conductors are supposed to carry handheld cardreaders, but on Saturday April 3rd, it didn't go so well:
- I rode the California Cable Car and the conductor didn't carry a cardreader. But he asked me a few questions such as if I had a monthly pass, and I paid the $60 fee; he simply said "OK."
- I also rode the Powell/Mason Cable Car from California to the Powell turnaround and the conductor also didn't have the cardreader. He also let me go because he also asked me the same questions as the California conductor asked.
On the Powell line Cable Car, I had a great discussion with the conductor and while he knows he needs to carry a reader with him, he believes it's too much of a safety risk to do so. Since the conductor is responsible for the rear braking system, giving the one/two bell signal to the gripman (operator of Cable Car), collecting cash fares, and answering tons of questions by curious tourists, it's a lot for a conductor to do. We agreed that installing card readers on the vehicles may violate historic monument policies and the devices would need to have the batteries recharged every single day.
In my opinion, the conductors needs to carry them in order for TransLink to be a big success, there's really no excuses to exclude themselves from being part of the program; they just need to get used to how it all works and understand the ultimate convenience of using one card to ride multiple transit agencies around the Bay Area.