It's that time in the month again to buy those transit passes, from the Muni Fast Pass to that Caltrain monthly pass. For those who commutes on a regular basis, you already know the savings you get by riding literally every single day round-trip.
But how about those occasional passengers who frequently either just make it over the savings barrier or comes out in a loss? I have that issue myself, I commute half-time on Muni while the other half is spent driving (usually to get groceries and grab dinner after work). Crunching the numbers shows that I hardly ever make the savings barrier, and the only times I do so is if I take the Cable Cars a few times during the month.
For those who don't ride enough to make-up the value of a pass, it's simply just paying cash for their transit rides.
Could the future of the Clipper card involve the idea of a "pass accumulator" program? I mentioned this before from reviewing meeting notes posted online from the MTC that the consortium wants to consider this type of idea.
Here's how a "pass accumulator" works:
- The passenger uses their e-cash purse, just like paying dollar bills and coins for a single ride.
- When the e-cash transactions reaches a certain threshold within a specified period (e.g. calendar month), future rides is not deducted from the e-cash purse (free ride), thereby the passenger 'earned' the pass.
- Once the specified period ends, the system starts all over again.
There are some pros and cons to the pass accumulator. Many of the pros are for the consumer while the cons are all from the transit agencies.
- Passengers do not have to pre-purchase passes anymore, they just add e-cash as needed.
- Passengers don't have to think if a buying a pass is worth the value or not.
- Mid to light use passengers will prefer to pay in Clipper e-cash funds because they know they can't spend more than a certain amount within a certain period.
- Faster boarding of vehicles because more are using the Clipper card than paying cash (as per #3). This also means a faster ride.
- Less usage of the cash/change fareboxes means less maintenance on the equipment and less people needed to count cash and change (savings for transit agency).
- Transit agencies could argue that they make more money off those passengers who buy passes and do not make-up for its value.
- Unions can argue that their farebox maintenance and cash counting jobs will disappear because of the dominance of electronic transactions.
- Not all transit agencies will cooperate, mainly because they don't sell passes (Golden Gate Transit & Ferry and BART) or their passes are incompatible with the concept (AC Transit's 31 day pass).
What's your view about pass accumulation? Do you think this can work?