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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Will Muni Paper Pass Vendors Convert to Clipper?

The October Muni "A" adult fast pass will be the last one issued in paper form, and starting in November, all "A" passes must be on Clipper. Starting next week, vendors will receive their last shipment of "A" passes to sell to customers several days before the new month.

This brings me to the question of the day: There are several dozen vendors around the city that sells the paper version of the "A" pass, but will they elect to sell Clipper media or will the SFMTA or Clipper even allow the paper pass vendor to get the specialized equipment?

A majority of the vendors around San Francisco that can conduct Clipper transactions are Walgreens locations. For paper passes, typically your nearby corner liquor store or your favorite grocery store may not be able to sell your favorite fast pass anymore.

If Muni or Clipper does not add more vendors at more convenient locations, will people panic that they can't get their pass? Like I mentioned earlier, online and phone ordering is a hassle with the annoying 72-hour waiting policy, this is why in-person vendors makes adding value and passes such a breeze.

One good example of a Muni pass vendor is my favorite senior services organization, Kimochi. Located in Japantown, they sell a lot of the senior passes at their nutrition [lunch] program, and it will definitely become more difficult coming in January when the paper pass is phased out for the blue card. Some of the big challenges includes helping the seniors apply for the senior version of the Clipper card, educating them on the rules and policies, and training the volunteers that collect the money for pass sales to be trained on the use of the equipment.

Sure, I think most adults are able to get prepared for the major Clipper transition, but I worry about the disabled, seniors and youth if they are ready for this big change. Disabled RTC cardholders are lucky, they already have pre-installed Clipper technology in their card, but seniors and youth needs to register for the card, in which the turnaround time could be a while with the influx of other applicants from AC Transit due to their pass transition for youth.

Time will tell folks. We'll see what happens.


Anonymous said...

Is SFMTA publishing these in English only? There is a lot of confusion from non-English speakers.

The lack of availability at their usual places of purchase does not help the situation either.

I was on the 38 a while back and a group of Chinese were confused because they thought monthly passes are going away completely and that there is no equivalent on Clipper. Also since no paper transfer is issued the same people thought that it will cost them $8 to go to Chinatown and back from Richmond.

Akit said...

Hmmmm... I thought they published some of the banner ads in the buses in other languages.

I'll admit, other than promoting it in English, there's some issues with not spreading the word in other languages.

Anonymous said...

I was a little surprised that Safeway doesn't have Clipper equipment for FastPass sales. Upon thinking about it a little more, I'm surprised Walgreens went for it. With paper Fast Passes, minimal training of staff is required. With the specialized Clipper equipment, presumably moderate to extensive training is required. Perhaps a fee or deposit for the equipment is also required. What was a simple transaction has turned more difficult and now requires a larger upfront cost in terms of employee training and possibly equipment. What is the incentive for a retail operation to provide Clipper services? The answer, in the past with respect to paper Fast Passes, has been foot traffic. However, the additional costs may now outweigh the benefits from added foot traffic.

Undoubtedly there are more tech savvy Clipper users that could handle these transactions on their own via a stand-alone ATM-type machine (like the ones that are installed at some Muni/BART stations but not accessible yet). Clipper should have rolled these out earlier so as to allow the public to become familiar with them.

Anonymous said...

Hey Akit -

How do folks load a disabled pass onto their Clipper card through 3rd party vendors such as Commuter Check Direct or Wageworks?

Akit said...

Great question!

First of all, the disabled pass user must have a RTC card in possession with Clipper or TransLink technology included. If not, the user must register in-person at their nearest RTC office (usually a transit agency office).

If the commuter benefits company is going to do automatic loading of a disabled pass to the RTC card, just give the benefits company a call or go online to submit your card's ID number.

If it's paper vouchers, go to a Walgreens or a participating transit agency's ticketing office to claim your pass to the RTC card.

If it's a debit card, use a Clipper add value machine at most downtown Muni metro stations or other locations like the Temporary Transbay Terminal or buy it online at ClipperCard.com

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your reply but it doesn't appear (at least through Commuter Check Direct) that you can load a disabled pass even with the RTC Clipper card. It only gives the option for Muni A, M or Senior passes. I've contacted both CCD and Clipper and have not been able to get an answer. They only give the option to jump through additional hoops by loading funds onto a Debit card and then going to a Clipper machine to load the disabled pass. Previously, you could just purchase the sticker through CCD and they would send it directly to you. But now they are saying that option is no longer available. Hope you can help. Thank you.

Akit said...

Hmmm, interesting problem. Depending on your preferences, a debit card works great, and vouchers does too. It depends on where you plan to purchase and load your pass.

Akit said...

I should add, CCD won't mail disabled stickers because ordering is now for the November cycle and October was the last month disabled stickers will be issued.

Anonymous said...

Just don't understand why disabled folks are made to jump though additional hoops (i.e. debit card, vouchers) when everyone else can just have their pass loaded automatically without any additional steps. Seems a bit unfair, don't you think?

Akit said...

It's something you should start advocating to Clipper and CCD management since it seems to be unfair that while other passes can do it, disabled customers can't.

Until it can be resolved, the interim will need to be a voucher or debit card.

Anonymous said...

I've tried advocating but have gotten nowhere. That's why I contacted you because I'm hoping you can get the word out to try to get folks to put pressure on them to change this. As far as I'm aware, this issue exists with Wageworks too. So it seems Clipper might be the problem here. I'm sure I can't be the only one who's miffed about this. Thanks again for your help!

Anonymous said...

Here's another complaint. You can only request ride history from Clipper twice per day per card. What's up with that?

Akit said...

That's a new policy for me. Anyway, why request more than one report in a single day?

Anonymous said...

I just loaded my Clipper Card with eCash for the first time. I've had it loaded with FastPass for a couple months. I wanted to see if my morning trip was properly credited. I checked at lunch and the ride history was not updated. I checked after work and the ride history was not updated. I checked when I arrived home and discovered this policy.

The time it takes for the ride history to be updated varies widely. Sometimes, it is less than an hour or two. On Friday, 8 or 9 hours passed and it still hadn't been updated.

BTW, the Clipper properly handled the transaction.

If you are a parent and want to monitor your child's movement via Clipper, multiple queries per day are preferred. More generally, if Clipper is going to provide users with this data, don't half-ass it with 1998 standards for internet querying.

Akit said...

Just like the 72 hour policy when it comes to adding value, tagging the card on a mobile vehicle will not instantly report it on the history report.

The reason is basic, the buses do not have instant connections to the Clipper network, they upload and download data ONLY when the bus enters the depot for the night.

Train stations can put info on the history report faster because they are hardwired into the network. Others take several hours.

Clipper is not a parental tracking device. If an operator inputs the wrong data into their console, it will show-up wrong on the report as well.

Akit said...

Also, here's a reference, the process is called store and forward and is used by many agencies in the world, including the Octopus card in Hong Kong:


Anonymous said...

"If an operator inputs the wrong data into their console, it will show-up wrong on the report as well."

I'm not sure what data you are referring to. The touch & go process should be free of operator inputted data.

Regardless, none of what has been written explains or rationalizes why riders can only query their ride history twice per day. As long as I'm bitching, the PDF reports are amateurish. It's a restrictive format by which to report data.

Akit said...

Golden Gate Transit operators are required to input their route number into the console since they operate on a zone system. AC Transit operators must also program their consoles to make sure if it's a transbay route or a local route, but can also switch a transbay route to local if the passenger is only taking a local trip.

Anyway, why the hell do you want to continuously check on a history report multiple times a day? Like I said, data does not get on that list the second you tag your damn card.

Discussion is over. You want to bitch some more? I can click the reject button at anytime.