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Thursday, June 17, 2010

Folks, Don't Swipe Your Clipper Card

OK class, here's today's lesson: Do not swipe your Clipper card.

Why not?
The system and hardware was never made to be "swiped." Many people complain the card readers or the cards itself are broken when you get the red light with three beeping tones telling you to try again. I'll just say it this way, it's your own fault (I can see grins on your faces).

Yes, I'll say it again, it's your own fault if you cannot use the card properly. Don't put the blame on Clipper. Stop thinking of the card like your credit card where you have to swipe the card's magnetic stripe to the reader to let it identify your card number.

How do I properly tag my card?
It's quite simple, and once you get the hang of it, it's a breeze. Just hold your card to the reader sensor and hold it steady. Once the reader gives the green light and single beep, just proceed on through. If you get the green and yellow lights with two beeps, it's OK to board, but remember to replenish the card's e-cash value. The entire process takes one second or less.

Become a 'pro' at it! You don't have to stop your stride, especially if you don't care what the reader's screen says; when boarding, stick your arm forward towards the reader, hold the card at the reader while continuing to walk or climb stairs, get confirmation, and remove card from reader.

Since the previous generation of cards (TransLink) has been upgraded to quicker responding Clipper cards, the procedure for properly tagging the card has not changed.

Ways you will fail and cause embarrassment with passengers staring at you (assuming you have a valid pass or enough e-cash):
  1. Swiping the card.
  2. Moving the card around the sensor while it's scanning.
  3. Quickly tapping the card.
  4. Removing the card prior to the reader giving the one beep and green light confirmation.
Class dismissed! Your homework, use your card, or grab a free one at a retailer, website, or calling them.

Update: I should have mentioned about BART gates as they operate differently. The process is, place the card at the sensor, do not move the card, and once the gate opens, remove the card from the sensor. If the gate is still open when attempting to tag, only enter the gate once the screen says "OK" as it indicates a successful transaction.

Update #2: The new Muni gates are similar to BART as well, but the sensor area is a round circle to the right side of the gate and above the paper pass swipe reader. Hold the card steady and only remove the card once the gate opens. When exiting, just walk towards the gate and it will open automatically (no tagging card).

Update #3: Keep all other RFID cards away from your Clipper card when it's being scanned at a gate, platform reader, or vehicle. Your card might not be read (signal is scrambled) or you may cause the card reader to panic.


sfsmskater said...

Thanks. I just got my Clipper card. SFMTA customer service office didn't have any cards. I had to go to 5 different Walgreens before finding one. As a first time user,your info has been invaluable.

Akit said...

It's my pleasure. Sorry to hear you had to run around to find a place that had it available.

eggowong said...

I've seen many many people do exactly what you SPECIFICALLY said not do. It's often quite hilarious when the reader does the triple beep and the rider is left wondering what they did wrong.

I picked up a Clipper card earlier this afternoon to give my TransLink and EZ Rider cards some company. After reading your posts, I'm eager to test out the Clipper as you mention the tag time is faster than the TransLink card.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much! Oh my god!

I used my Clipper Card for the first time on Muni this morning, and I was totally one of those embarrassed people holding up the line wondering what the hell was wrong with the reader! Especially, because it reads so much easier at the Bart stations. I think what I was doing wrong was not holding it steady and waiting for the beep. I just kept doing a touch-and-go movement.
Anyway, I am eager to do it the correct way and I feel a bit more confident using it now. Thanks!

Akit said...

Thanks for the compliment! Always happy to help.

Chris said...

LOL. Reading the comments, is just as funny as actually watching it.

I keep mine in my wallet and just put my wallet on the reader till it beeps. (This works on any reader MUNI, AC Transit, BART, Golden Gate Ferry, etc)

Anonymous said...

I'm a monthly fast pass holder until next month when I'll be forced to switch to clipper. If I load my clipper card with the monthly fare, compared to paying as I go, must I still tag the card each time I board? If so, can you tell me why? And if I don't, yet still pay the monthly fare, what repercussions do I face? I'm still a paying customer.

What's so hard about tagging? Nothing but it's seems like an unnecessary bottleneck when dozens of riders are trying to jam through a 3-foot entrance. Ever ride the 30 Stockton?

Akit said...

For fast pass, yes, you need to tag your card every single time you board a Muni vehicle or enter a metro station.

It's necessary because the bus driver must verify every passenger that enter his/her door has paid their fare, or entered with a pass or transfer.

At the metro stations with gates, you have no choice but to tag your card.

Failure to tag with a monthly pass is a gray zone. It's better do be safe and do it.

Anonymous said...

So the driver is expected to compare the number of 'tags' to the number of bodies in the vehicle?

Are fare inspectors the only ones still responsible for issuing tickets? If so, they're still going to need to swipe everyone's card to confirm the last time they tagged in.

I've never skirted paying a fare - that's not the reason for my questions. It just seems like all this does is add process, without any major benefit to fast pass riders or fare inspectors. Today I can simply flash my paper pass (which shows that I'm paid for the entire month at a glance), taking up a fraction of the fare inspector's time.

Akit said...

You are not getting the point. Every passenger that enters a vehicle with a Clipper card must tag their card at the reader REGARDLESS if they are paying with e-cash or have a valid pass. No bus driver will let anyone through without demonstrating they have a valid fare by tapping their card, paying cash at the fare box, or showing a transfer.

Anonymous said...

What about light rail platforms above ground, where riders can board through any door - not just the front, which passes the driver? Or the 30 Stockton, where little old ladies flood through the back door? Are you telling me that (a) someone will monitor those entrances, or (b) will everyone be forced to use the front door, thus passing a driver.

Do you get my point?

Akit said...

If you are boarding a metro train on the surface, board any door and tag the card to the reader.

As for the old folks on the 30 Stockton, they know they are breaking the law and will eventually get caught. That means, you shouldn't do it.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate you taking the time to reply, but I don't think you're getting my point.

The old folks on the 30 aren't breaking the law. They are paying customers, most with a Senior Fast Pass. They are simply expediting the boarding process by boarding in both the front & back doors (bus drivers permit this by opening the back door). If you made them all funnel through the front door, it would increase the boarding time by at least double. My main beef with them is that they often try to board the back before allowing people to exit.

So I board the back door of a metro - what's the point of tagging? Does it save the city money by eliminating the need for a fare inspector? no. Does it help w/ Muni's analytics (measuring ridership, etc.) ? Perhaps, but there's other ways of doing this. Does it create a bottleneck? You bet.

My point is simple. I dont think monthly fares should have to tag. We're paying customers. Let us board without having to wait behind the tourist learning how to tag, and let us get out of the way of people boarding behind us. From what I can tell, it has no bearing on the enforcement of the law. Fare inspectors on the metro will still need to scan a card to see the balance.

Akit said...

Point taken. I'm only interpreting what the rules are.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Anon above that it's more of a why the rule that doesn't make any sense than what the rule says.
It's a waste of time to try to interpret the rule just for the sake of rule.

Anonymous said...

I noticed the impact of this tag-required procedure today. At rush hour, the Metro cards fill up. With the current paper pass, one can enter the available space next to the middle door and just stand there - especially if you're getting off in a stop or two. With the Clipper and tag requirement, one has to push through the standing-room-only crowd to the other side of the train in order to tag (the reader isn't on the same side as the open doors when the train is at a platform).

It's a hassle for the tagger and for everybody standing around them. And believe me, when you enter the middle or rear door of a standing-room-only Metro car, the driver has no clue you exist, not to mention whether you've tagged successfully - even more so when you enter the second car of a two-car train. If you've paid for a monthly pass, it seems pointless.

I guess this is yet another way Nathaniel Ford earns his $300K+?

mjp said...

On my card, the chip inside the card is in the same place as the point of the largest trianlge in the design, near where it reads "Clipper". I find it useful to touch that bit to the reader, and it works every time.