Today is Clipper's first anniversary on the BART system. Let's pop a cork of champagne in celebration!
A Little History
During TransLink's pilot program (almost ten years ago), BART only accepted it at very limited stations, including all downtown SF stations, and select stations in the East Bay. Once the pilot ended, BART's participation ended and it wasn't until several years later that the ball started rolling on TransLink's return to BART.
Before BART allowed Clipper (TransLink) cards to be used on a full-time basis in 2009, the two organizations were fighting it out. Before Clipper was managed by Cubic, it was owned by ERG. On the other side, BART's fare gates was purchased from its rival company, Cubic. ERG and Cubic was battling it out to see if the Clipper/TL technology can work on the Cubic gates. Instead, BART does a big about face with the EZ Rider card (a Cubic piece of technology) and James Fang's stupid adventure with cell phone payment (that ultimately failed and wasted $350,000).
It wasn't until ERG gave-up and sold their contract for Clipper/TL to Cubic that the ball started rolling. It took a while, but Cubic was able to make the ERG cards work on the BART gates.
The Big Day
On August 3, 2009, BART formally welcomed the Clipper (TransLink) card on a "limited" basis for its customers, but did allow anyone with a card, regardless of participation in the trial w/BART or not, to use it.
Eleven days after the first day of usage, I produced a short video on my blog showing how it works. The video was so successful that the Clipper folks on Facebook was referring people to my video.
For its first year, the program has been quite successful. Reliability with the system was quite good, and recent survey results showed that 88% likes the card, and over 90% would recommend it to a friend. Cubic also made improvements on their card readers on the BART gates by installing an improved card reader that can scan faster; when combined with the new software updates, the card readers are even quicker to read for quicker entry.
Still, BART can improve just a little bit more with the Clipper card:
- One issue is the high value tickets. Clipper only allows the high value tickets to be purchased using the autoload program; there is no option to go to an automated machine or a vendor to buy one.
- The BART ticketing machines are not able to add value to Clipper cards, but the Clipper board says they should be ready by next year to do it. Once BART gets their machines working, there will be tons of more places to easily add value w/out scouring for a Walgreens.