Last weekend is the worst experience for me using my electronic "Muni only" pass on vehicles and the Cable Cars. I've never seen such poor performance from the equipment, from ones with blank screens (no power), all three color lamps lit (out of order), and a handheld card reader saying "no."
In a recent conversation, I spoke to one of the operators about the reliability of the readers. He noticed only 60% of the readers are working (in other words, 40% are busted). I asked him if he was given any training on it, he received some training, and is required to report any problems during his inspection of the bus before leaving the yard. We agreed that within the past month, the reliability of the card readers on Muni vehicles has been hitting new lows. That conversation alone answered most of my questions from a previous blog post.
Here's a list of frustrating issues I've noticed on April 17th and 18th:
- In the mid-afternoon on Saturday, I rode the K-Ingleside outbound on vehicle 1534, and while the air conditioning was busted (it was very humid), the card readers on the vehicle had all the lights active (out of order). 311 was not very helpful in filing a report: My message, their response, my reply, and their lazy excuse.
- In the evening on Saturday, I rode the Mason line Cable Car from the Wharf to Powell, showed my card to the conductor, and he pulls out his reader and received a "NO" message in red letters on his screen. He tried a couple of more times and received the same thing. He took a look at the card's "products" and noticed the "M" pass was on my card. He let me go since I had a valid pass, but he and I were scratching our heads on what the hell is going wrong with the program.
- Since I was concerned that my pass may have been wiped out, I took a test run on the Muni metro and my pass was recognized by the fare gates, but the train I boarded also had the three color lights lit.
- Around noon on Sunday, I rode the 38-Geary outbound and when boarding, the reader's screen was blank (no power), the driver told me that it was broken and let me go.
I will say, reliability on the metro fare gates is excellent. I've never seen a reader ever go "out of order," although on a couple of occasions, the turnstile didn't unlock when I got the green light to enter.
Something very strange is going on. In my observations and reading other blog posts (like Eye on Blogs) just within the last 30 days, things have turned really sour. Muni and the TransLink folks needs to work on this problem. Could it be a software problem, or is it the reliability with the electrical systems?
The big day when TransLink becomes Clipper is just a couple of months away. While Muni is giving away their remaining stock of TransLink cards to the general public (the old cards are OK to use when name change happens), why give out more cards when the poor reliability of the system is already costing the agency thousands of dollars in lost fare collection?
I may be an advocate for TransLink/Clipper for it's potential to save agencies money and making it easier to pay for transit, however, the reliability of the system must be their highest priority. The TransLink management board meets Monday, March 26th at 2PM and I hope the board members are reading this (ESPECIALLY NAT FORD), because they are going to give an earful to the contractors who are executing the TransLink/Clipper program.
I am highly considering to tell Commuter Check to mail me a paper "M" pass starting with the June benefits period instead of having funds added to my debit card which is used to buy the TransLink e-pass.