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Friday, June 25, 2010

Clipper Card Meeting - New Machines, Passes & $53 Million Price Tag

The Clipper/TransLink management board will be meeting on Monday, June 28th at MTC headquarters, and there are some great updates from the documents available to the public:

Based on their meeting minutes for their session held on April 26, 2010, here's information to know:
  • When vehicle operators attempt to restart the software for the Clipper readers (e.g. a malfunction), if done away from the bus/train yard's wireless range, the software would be inoperable for transactions. A patchwork is being corrected. The massive out-of-service card reader problem has caused Golden Gate Transit/Ferry to lose $80,000 in transit fares. Refer to my previous blog posting about the weekend of April 17-18 systemwide crash.
  • WageWorks and Clipper are not on happy terms when it comes to contract terms for peoples' WageWorks account funds being transferred to a Clipper account. The problem is being worked on by both sides, and affects approximately 5,000 people. If all else fails, Clipper will inform customers affected.
  • The board approved several key points, but I'll mention the useful ones: Senior and youth Clipper cards will be permanently free, adults will get a short reprieve on the $5 initial card fee, SFMTA will be able to do more tabling for youth and senior card sign-up, and any Clipper card is in-part or wholly funded with commuter benefits will receive no refund on their card when a customer requests to end participation.

Clipper Card Management Report:
  • As of May 31st, all VTA equipment has been installed, and Samtrans is nearing completion of their Gillig fleet.
  • Card transactions (tagging card) has increased 16.5% in May (62,850) when compared to April 2010, and nearly tripled from last year (May 2009).
  • As of May 2010, there are over 70,000 TransLink cards in the hands of the public.
  • Which transit agency gets the most transactions? Golden Gate Ferry comes first and Muni comes in dead last.
  • The new Muni metro ticketing machines/Clipper add value machines will be installed in August.
  • The new Muni metro fare gates will be installed in September and early October.
  • Clipper's in-person customer service center is delayed, but is confirmed to be in the Embarcadero station.
  • In the future, Clipper may have merchants/vendors with "super" capabilities; they will be able to exchange cards instead of just adding funds.
  • Clipper techies may need to revisit 100 installations of the Clipper technology on Muni vehicles. This is on discussion.
  • BART ticketing machines will be able to add Clipper funds in "early 2011."
  • Golden Gate Ferry plans to automate the ticketing and entry process, and proposed to complete the project by March 2011.
  • VTA's automated ticketing machines (the light rail stops) may be able to add Clipper funds in the future.
  • SFMTA wants to use Clipper cards to pay for city own parking garages.
  • Clipper admits there are problems with Muni's historic streetcar equipment due to electrical power problems, and will spend the next few months investigating and finding a proper solution.
  • The "Phase II Clipper Contract Capital Costs" since the 2002-2003 fiscal year has totaled: $52,632,006 or basically 53 million dollars. Ka-ching!

The best news of all, the Clipper folks are suggesting a pass accumulator program:
The idea is, instead of making people pre-purchase passes, they ride their favorite transit agencies paying e-cash, and if they reach a designated daily, weekly, or monthly purchasing limit, the rest of the rides on the agency for the designated period is free. VTA plans to implement a day pass program using the accumulator system.

For example: Instead of buying a $60 Muni "M" pass, just ride Muni with e-cash and when the transactions total $60 within the designated month, the rest of the rides are FREE. That alone instills confidence in the public so they don't overspend, but also may attract more people to pay for their rides with the Clipper card.

Akit's take: It's a very good concept for individual transit agencies as a way to promote more people to stop paying with coins and bills and go with an electronic option that is quicker. There would be no more guesswork for passengers to consider if paying in cash is a better value than buying a pass. Transit agencies benefit with quicker boarding, reduced printing of transfers, reducing the need for staff to count and sort coins and bills, and reduced maintenance costs on coin/bill fareboxes. For Clipper, there would be no concerns of passengers having problems buying a pass, including myself since all transactions would be e-cash with a threshold limit.

But it does have a unique challenge... how about a regional pass using the accumulator system? If all transit agencies went on Clipper, would it even be possible to get all of the agencies of the consortium to say "yes?" How much would be the maximum limit? Would be it a day pass, weekly, or monthly? Lastly, how would each agency get their share of the money? A good example is BART Plus allows passengers to not just ride BART, but a ton of Bay Area transit agencies under an agreement that each agency gets their share of the money generated from the program.


khieng said...

I like what I'm seeing. If Clipper wants be a success story, they need to convince people that it's a convenience and that there's a real benefit. Expanding the number of AVM, customer service center, giving merchants "super" capabilities, and substituting most of their pass/ticket products with a e-cash accumulator program seem to be in a good direction. It's too bad it's taking them this long to get there with a lot of wasted dollars.

Thanks for keeping us informed of all this. Clipper should pay you. :)

Unknown said...

Thank you for being the "voice" for BART Plus ticket users. :)