It looks like Clipper is becoming a big hit with word going around that many retailers and even the SFMTA customer service office ran out of the fare cards. It's a normal expectation for many places to run out upon its debut or a big change in policy, similar to the Washington D.C.'s regional card known as the SmarTrip, ran short when certain agencies changed their policies requiring the card vs. a paper ticket or paying cash for parking.
Last minute update: Clipper cards to be distributed TODAY (4/18/10) at Powell station from 4-7PM.
With this surge of popularity and the fear of transit paper passes being kicked to the curb, I know the folks at the MTC and Clipper are working their butts off on projects to make the experience better. One big project I've mentioned before is modifying BART's ticketing machines to also add value to Clipper cards, and that is 43 new locations (in other words, hundreds of automated machines). While there is no set date, it is expected this or next year.
Since the folks at MTC, Clipper, and Swirl Integrated Marketing reads my blog, here's some great ideas to help improve the Clipper card experience:
- We could use more add value locations in areas near major transfer points and bus terminal stops. For example, 33rd and Geary in San Francisco is a transfer hub for Muni's 1, 1AX, 18, 38, 38AX, and 38L. A perfect retailer to do the add value would be Quickly on the southwest corner, or the coffee shop on the northwest corner. SF State could really use some add value machines since much of the campus population uses transit.
- The Muni metro platform at AT&T Park would be a great location to install card readers at the platform entrances to make it easier for ballgame fans heading home to tag their card instead of begging people to move away from the reader on a sardine packed train.
- "Clipper only" express gates would be great for certain BART stations to help speed passengers in and out of the station.
- Can the BART gates make a pleasant confirmation tone sound that the card was accepted? View this video of a fare gate in Japan that gives a confirmation tone.
- The BART gates have an interesting problem. If a cardholder tags their card and it's rejected, the card reader is deactivated for about five seconds before the green light is re-lit and returns to 'ready' status. The card sensor also is temporarily turned-off in the event a paper ticket passenger has insufficient value on their ticket; I've had this happen where the person in front of me with a rejected paper ticket had to move away from the gate, but I could not tag until that green light turned back on.
- This might be a long shot, but worth a shot: Hong Kong made different variations of their Octopus card for their customers, like a key chain size one, watches, and even wristbands for kids. Is it possible for Clipper customers to get more unique items than just the standard card, even if they are willing to pay more for it?
- Is it possible for the readers to also accept fare payment through those credit/debit cards with the RFID feature (e.g. MasterCard PayPass)?
- In order for the program to be successful, the card readers must be installed on all vehicles; with regards to this, why do some of the F-Market streetcars don't accept Clipper? The PCC and Milan (a high majority of the fleet) accepts the card, but the rare cars that usually only run along the Embarcadero like the boat car, "desire," and Melbourne don't have the equipment.