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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

It is Inexcusable to Take a Bike on an Escalator

I don't care about how much hate mail I'm going to get for this one today, I'm going to make it very clear...

There is no excuse or "good reason" why you should take a bicycle on any escalator, including ones at BART stations. While I'm at it, I'm going to also include baby strollers too.

You can blab all you want saying that BART is not bike friendly or the BART police and station agents are acting like assholes. Every time I ride a BART escalator and notice a bicyclist holding their bike in front of me, I either have to wait until that moron clears or I keep my distance in case the jackass screws up and it flies down the stairwell. It's just like not wearing a bike helmet and using front and rear lights, you are setting yourself up for a vacation at the morgue or the trauma center at SF General.

It's already common sense wheelchair users should never use an escalator for any particular reason. At BART stations, there's always an elevator or some ADA accessible way to get from the parking garage, the entry gates, and train platform.

So if common sense logic works correctly, if you have any type of big wheels, you should not be using the escalators in the first place. Would you be on roller skates or a Segway and ride an escalator?

Sure, it makes it look easy to get up and down that big set of stairs by simply holding your bike on a moving escalator, but let's see what bad scenarios might happen:
  1. As a courtesy, transit station escalators have a basic rule, standees on the right side, and those wanting to pass stay on the left. Bicycles block the entire width of the escalator and makes passing impossible or dangerous.
  2. If the bicycle gets wedged in between the width of the escalator (front tire gets wedged on one side while the back tire is on the other), that blocks the entire path of the moving escalator and there could be a large collision of passengers until, hopefully, a passenger on the bottom of the escalator can hit the emergency stop button in time.
  3. Normally, elderly people would ride the escalator if they can safely enter and exit, but using it means they don't have to exert as much energy than using the stairs. If the elderly person is standing behind the bike passenger, if the bike rider loses control of the bicycle and falls down the escalator stairs, well, the elderly person is likely going to be seriously hurt. But it doesn't have to be an elderly person, it could be any person of any age.
In my opinion, there is no "safe" reason why a bike or any large object should be riding an escalator. Those who do it set themselves up for a civil lawsuit and may be subject to a citation; or if someone gets killed or injured, possible criminal charges (e.g. negligence). People must be responsible for the safe operation of their bicycles, baby strollers, wheelchairs, everything else in between. If I drove a car irresponsibly and hit a person, I'd be blogging in prison.

What are the best ways to get from one level to the other with a bike or other wheeled object? Use an elevator or stairs.

Update 12/28: Some typos pointed out by others; they have been corrected. Kudos to them.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Attention Young and Old People of SF: Register for a Clipper Card Now!

Transition from Paper Pass to Farecard
If you are 17 or younger, or 65 and older and don't have a specialized Clipper card, now is a good time to start applying for it in preparation of Muni's transition of paper passes for these two groups.

Muni intends to transition all "Y" (youth) and "S" (senior) passes starting February 2011. This means, the last paper passes for these two groups will be issued for the month of January.

Unlike the adult Clipper cards, youth and senior Clipper cards are specially encoded to assure eligible people receives the proper discount as certain agencies have different definitions of what constitutes a discount, and to prevent fraudulent usage of the cards by adults. Here's a few examples:
  • When it comes to specially encoded Clipper cards... BART has a different policy for youth (red) magnetic paper tickets. The age limit is 12 years. Once that person becomes 13 years old, they must use a blue adult ticket or the special orange ticket which has severe restrictions on use and limited to some school institutions. When using a Clipper card, a youth card registered to a 10 year old will be eligible for discounts on BART and Muni (Muni's is 4-17 years old), but a 15 year old will be charged the full adult fare for BART and will get the youth fare for Muni.
  • To prevent fraud, Clipper simply cannot issue youth and senior cards to the general public in vending machines or in-person vendors. It would be easy for adults to cheat the transit systems unless a fare inspector with a card verification reader can find out. It's like the RTC disabled discount card, nobody can get their hands on it unless they provide written verification of a disability and file an application.
Why am I giving an early warning? I'm going to bet a bunch of you young kids and seniors will get lazy and won't register for a card until the last few days in January. History repeats itself, again and again. Take a look at these last two Clipper transitions gone sour by lazy idiots:
Please take my warning seriously, REGISTER NOW. As my former supervisor said to me: early = on-time, on-time = late, and late = you are screwed.

How can you register for a youth card?
But... if you need a youth card with AC Transit youth pass privileges, you must register this way:
  • The youth must be present at the AC Transit ticketing sales office at 1600 Franklin Street (Oakland), and must complete an application and show proof of age.
  • The youth will have their photograph taken and a youth Clipper card will arrive in the mail with their photograph attached to it.
  • There is no way around this policy. If a youth Clipper card application is received by any other agency than AC Transit, vendors and automated machines won't sell the youth passes for AC. But youth Clipper cards issued by other agencies will honor the youth e-cash fare on AC Transit.
Seniors, here's how you can apply for a Clipper card:
  • Complete the application form and bring it with proof of age to the Van Ness and Market SFMTA Customer Service office.
  • If you cannot make it to the SFMTA office, you can drop it off at these senior services centers, but be warned, these locations will only accept them on certain days and hours. Click here for alternate locations.
  • Once the application is received, the card will be mailed to the specified address listed on the application.

FYI: Since Muni is planning to open their new sales booth at Geary and Masonic starting December 27th, they may also accept youth and senior applications. This has not been confirmed; but if there's a SFMTA spokesperson who wants to answer this question, please leave a comment.

Monday, December 20, 2010

$829,000 for Two Muni Sales Booths? I Thought the Agency was Broke

On Thursday, December 16th, the SFMTA's public relations department published a press release mentioning about opening a new "customer service" location where the public can purchase various Muni fare media and handle Clipper card transactions, and replacing the existing sales booth at the Powell cable car turnaround.

Total cost of the new booths: $829,000, and all paid for by grants. Ouch, $414,500 per booth? What is Muni smoking now?

Other than replacing the booth at the Cable Car turnaround, a new booth will be established at Geary and Presidio, home to the Presidio Yard where the trolley buses are stored and serviced.

But why a new booth? For you long time San Franciscans out there, you've always known the Muni 2nd floor revenue office at Geary & Presidio was also the sales office to purchase all the Muni pass media. The old location closed when they moved all pass sales to their new office at Van Ness and Market.

But, who even likes going to the SFMTA office down at Van Ness? Since April 1st, Muni has been tacking on a $3 surcharge at that location. Nobody is that dumb to pay that kind of price when vendors like supermarkets don't charge such a stupid fee (except those "My Transit Plus" booths like at Embarcadero station loves charging 85 cents for using a debit card).

So why spend $400,000 on a booth when the SFMTA can simply restore the old sales location or refurbish an office space in their facility on Geary? Does the booth also include a gold toilet? If Muni wanted a new booth, they could spend at least 75% less and still get the safety and security it requires.

The new booth opens on December 27th. I wonder if anyone is even going to notice it or just how soon will the agency also tack a $3 surcharge just for using it.

Money down the toilet. That's the Muni way for ya.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Did Muni & Clipper Screw-Up the "Sunday FunDay" Pass Promotion?

If you are one of the thousands of Muni passengers taking advantage of the "Sunday FunDay" pass program during the month of December and used a Clipper card, you could have been cheated out of more than just the initial $2 all-day fare.

Since I'm keeping watch of the tweets coming fresh from the bakery oven, I'm noticing some passengers getting charged a second or third time for using their Clipper card on Muni during their "Sunday FunDay" promotion period.

Twitter user: "verbalcupcake" said:
"Clipper Card fail: I haven't gotten the promised all-day SF transfer Muni assured us Clipper would calculate on Dec. Sundays. Lame."

The policy for cash (non-Clipper card) paying customers is to pay $2 and get an all-day paper transfer from the operator. The transfer is then valid for the entire day without the need to pay an additional fare, unlike on non-FunDay promotion days when transfers expire in 90 minutes. It's a pretty simple promotion for those customers.


But the promotion is not going so well for Clipper card e-cash and Limited Use Ticket (metro vending machine) purchases...

Muni's website says to all Clipper and LUT customers:
(See Muni's Sunday promo info from their website by clicking here)
Your first Sunday FunDay trip
During the Sunday FunDay promotion, tap your card or ticket to the Clipper reader upon your initial boarding or subway entry to receive your Sunday FunDay all-day transfer.
OK, that sounds fine. I just tag my card on the first vehicle or metro gate. Let's see what else they say:
Second and subsequent vehicles
After your first Sunday "tap," present your card or ticket to the bus operator or station agent to gain access to Muni.

Important: Do not tap your card or ticket again as re-tapping will deduct another fare payment from your fare media. Refunds will not be made for subsequent deductions.
Uh, what? Another PR fail? Like this one, and how about this one?

Am I understanding this correctly? Muni is asking Clipper card and LUT customers to visually show their card/ticket to the operator or agent to gain access to the vehicle? Are you telling me all Clipper e-cash and LUT transactions only issued a 90-minute e-transfer?

As a veteran user of the Clipper card program, that has to be the worst and most incredibly stupid policy I've ever heard of.

As most users of Clipper cards know:
Muni operators instructs all passengers to tag their Clipper card upon boarding the vehicle. There's no excuses or skipping that step on any day, including this Sunday "FunDay" promotion. How in the world is a Muni operator or station agent going to magically identify who did pay $2 on their initial ride of the day vs. those who are just cheating the system of $2 when Muni's "FunDay" website instructs them to "present your card or ticket" to the operator or station agent?

How about all those Muni metro patrons who enters the underground stations and use Clipper or LUT? They only get the standard 90 minute transfer, and once the 90 minutes expires, they have to pay another $2 (Clipper e-cash) or deduct a second single ride (LUT) from their card when entering the metro system after the first use. Don't forget, some stations don't have a second station agent to buzz you into the system, and they are not psychics who can identify who has an all-day pass or not.

This is one big incredible failure. What was Muni and Clipper thinking (or possibly drinking and smoking) when they created this promotion?

If Muni and Clipper did this correctly, the Clipper card and LUTs should have their e-transfer expiration at 11:59PM so all passengers can continue to tag their card on their second, third, etc. vehicle/metro gate without being charged full fare.

DING! There goes the common sense bell.

"Sunday FunDay," what an insult to the public.

I demand Muni and Clipper to issue apologies and refunds to all passengers who was charged more than $2 during the "Sunday FunDay" promotion. If you are with me, drop a comment saying so.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Reckless Driving at Ocean Beach Parking Lot

When I have to drive my car to work, I normally drive downhill going past the historic Cliff House and along Great Highway (southbound), and always pass by the large parking lots for the people wanting to enjoy the beach. The segment I am talking about today is the Ocean Beach/Great Highway parking lot nearest to Balboa & Great Highway.

One of the issues I regularly see is when drivers decide to skip the stop sign at Balboa by taking the turn-off before Balboa to enter the parking lot, drive straight through at full speed (speed limit on Great Highway is 35) and take the parking lot exit that continues along southbound Great Highway (basically, taking an illegal shortcut).

If you remember your driver's education, driving in a parking lot is limited to 10 MPH (please correct me if I'm wrong) and that's because of many people walking around the lot loading and unloading their cars, and the risk of vehicles slowly backing out of their space.

By speeding in a parking lot, and using it as a shortcut to avoid skipping the stop sign at Balboa, it could be considered reckless driving as defined by the California Vehicle code, section 23103(b):
"(b) A person who drives a vehicle in an offstreet parking facility, as defined in subdivision (c) of Section 12500, in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property is guilty of reckless driving."
Something needs to be done to stop people from taking this shortcut, and the possible risk of a person getting hit and killed or getting into a car wreck. Since the lot seriously needs new parking stall stripes, can they also install some speed bumps?

To make it visually understanding of what I'm talking about, I've used Google's street view to help me out:

View Larger Map
This is the entrance to the parking lot if a driver is going southbound and just recently passed the Cliff House. I see drivers decide to cut through the parking lot at this point to avoid the stop sign at Balboa (below).

View Larger Map
This is the stop sign location at Balboa & Great Highway. Since there is nothing ordering drivers to stop if they drive in the parking lot, they just go full speed just to save themselves a few seconds.

View Larger Map
The blue car in the middle is yielding to approaching traffic. Many who decide to shortcut just bolts right through if there's light traffic and gets away with it.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Clipper on SamTrans Delayed - MTC Didn't Care to Notify Public

Amid much hype on my blog and Clipper's twitter account, Clipper cards was supposed to be accepted on SamTrans starting December 15th (Wednesday), however the debut will be delayed.

Maybe I should rephrase that... there was not much word spread around about the delay. SamTrans and Clipper's website did not mention anything about a planned date for debut, nor announce a delay. Even the MTC's public relations or media office didn't publish a press release or even link a news article about the delay.

You'll hear it now because I like banging on pots and pans to get attention:
The new debut date for Clipper on SamTrans will be Wednesday, December 22nd.

The only news coverage of the delay came from the San Mateo County Times; the article mentions there was some "software issues" discovered on Monday, December 13th that caused the debut to be delayed a week. Most of the rest of the article sounded like a promotional advertisement for Clipper.

Akit's Opinion:
I'm a little frustrated by all of this. Clipper makes one real big announcement of the launch of the blue card on SamTrans, but nobody tells the public there's been a delay? One newspaper, just one newspaper tells the public in one little sentence about the delay.

It's even worse when the Metropolitan Transportation Commission kept their mouth shut about the delay by not notifying the public. Once Clipper opened their mouth (okay, tweeted it), MTC is responsible for notifying the general public of a delay. With my increasing readership of my blog telling them of the December 15th debut, I wonder how many people tried to use their Clipper card on SamTrans that day and was told it was not ready?

I'm also not happy SamTrans and Clipper also kept their mouth shut. Not even one little blurb on their websites saying the launch would be held off for a week.

And what's up with this software problem? SamTrans and Clipper had months to tinker with the software and make sure all the equipment is ready for use for the public.


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Muni Paper Transfers versus Clipper e-Transfers: What is Better?

One frequent complaint I notice on my Twitter feed is about the 90-minute transfer policy on Clipper cards and it being so strict versus paper transfers that can have an expiration that wildly varies, and in some cases at least two hours.

Let's do a comparison of the two transfers.

Muni Paper Transfers:
  1. Issued at time of purchase, that is, if the passenger takes one.
  2. Easy to show to fare inspector.
  3. Expiration time may vary. Muni policy requires 90 minutes, but some drivers do not change the time too often, so they put extra time. Some may get two hours, while if a driver forgets to fix the time, a passenger may get a short expiration.
  4. Easy to identify when it expires based on the time the transfer was cut.
  5. If done using Muni, can give transfer to another passenger to use.
  6. "Late night" transfers can be issued starting at 8:30PM and expires at 5AM the next day.
  7. Mass printing of transfers for drivers every single day, causes littering (especially at terminal stops).
Clipper e-Transfers:
  1. Automatically issued on first tag on reader. No need to ask driver for one.
  2. Fare inspectors must use their card reader to verify validity (non-expiration).
  3. Strict 90 minute time limit. No more, no less.
  4. Not easy to identify when it expires. Only will show expiration time when tagged on their first transfer to another vehicle or station. Since Muni metro's "Proof of Payment" policy requires a transfer to be valid, it's hard to track when it will expire and a new fare must be paid. Passengers will need to use a stopwatch or keep an eye on what time it would expire. Clipper did admit there was a glitch causing some vehicles internal clocks to not be synced with all others.
  5. If done using Muni, can't give away e-transfer on Clipper card with another passenger. But can if it's the last ride on a Limited Use Ticket.
  6. No "late night" e-transfers issued. Muni rejected this at a past Clipper/TransLink board meeting.
  7. No paper waste and littering.
Each option has their own strengths and weaknesses. I would take a paper transfer because I may get more time and can easily identify when it expires, but a Clipper card's e-transfer lets me automatically get a transfer and there's less littering on our streets. I live not too far from a bus terminal stop and I always see tons of transfer stubs all around the ground, even when there's a garbage can just feet away.

If I ran Muni...
I'd extend Clipper e-transfers to two hours because there's no simple way to identify when the e-transfer expires. Paper transfers would still be issued for people who pay with cold hard cash, as there's no way to fairly enforce the "Proof of Payment" system without some kind of fare receipt.

Monday, December 13, 2010

What's Inside a Muni Limited Use (Clipper) Ticket?

SF Citizen did a great bit after I gave the blogger some advice on how to get the guts out of a plastic Clipper card. All he did was drop the card in acetone and the plastic disintegrated over time. In the end, the only thing remaining was a small bit of copper wire and a chip.

It made me think, how about I perform an autopsy on one of those Muni Limited Tickets made of paper? One person was able to take a photo showing the guts underneath the paper, but I wanted to see the insides for myself.

Here's what I started with:
Muni Limited Use Ticket

I found this leftover card on Monday with no value and decided to simply soak it in a glass of water. In a matter of minutes, the water penetrated the paper layers and I started peeling it off little by little. The way it was constructed is a sturdy piece of paper on both sides, and sandwiched in between is the RFID technology.

Here's what it looks like after peeling off the layers and rinsing it clean:
Inside a Muni Limited use Ticket

The RFID layer contains a ribbon surrounding the edge. This is what is known as the "antenna" as it makes communication contact with the Clipper readers. The chip is the little black dot in the upper right hand quadrant and contains the memory that holds it's serial number, card expiration, and all transactions. The antenna is connected to the chip so it can read and write information.

There's a reason why Muni can't recycle these, it's because the RFID layer is not recyclable.

Since I did wash off the paper layers and bent it a few times, I likely destroyed the card for future use. But it was a cool experiment!

Time to Switch from Muni Monthly Passes to 31-Day Passes?

As the months fly by the seat of our pants, and youth & senior paper passes will be eliminated in February 2011 (last paper pass issued in January) in favor of Clipper e-passes, maybe it's time for Muni to consider changing the way it sells passes.

When I say: "changing the way it sells passes," I don't mean to have the prices radically change or make it too complex; my idea is simple: switch from a monthly pass system to a 31-day pass system.

Wouldn't it be nice to purchase a 31-day Muni pass effective the first day you activate it instead of buying just before the new month comes around? Or for those who are forgetful, how about loading up to two or three 31-day Muni passes on your card for back to back coverage?

Sounds great... but how can Muni change? Take a look at these examples of agencies using the 30 or 31-day system:
  • AC Transit used to have flash passes on a monthly basis (the ones you visually show to the driver), but with the replacement to magnetic stripe passes to stop fraud, the agency changed from a monthly pass basis to a 31-day pass. Passengers would purchase the ticket at a vendor, and once inserted into the reader on the bus, the pass is immediately activated for use. The big advantage is a passenger could activate their pass at anytime, no matter if it's the first of the month, mid-month, or end of the month. Since AC Transit is converting all passes to Clipper, they have maintained the same policy with 31-day passes as people would purchase it onto their card, and their first use will activate the 31-day clock.
  • New York City's subway system sells various unlimited use MetroCards, from one day to 30 days. With the use of a simple tracking system, passengers can buy their passes at anytime instead of lining up at a ticketing machine or vendor days before the new month and hoping the monthly pass is still in stock.
Muni does have something like a 31-day pass where it's valid for first use at anytime, it's known as the Muni passport. Many visitors purchase the one, three, or seven day pass and is activated when the user scratches off the month and date of first use. If I understand correctly, Muni may also consider converting the paper passports to Clipper cards (or possibly Limited Use Tickets).

Here's my suggestions and ideas for Muni to convert from a monthly pass system to 31-day:
  • 31-day passes can be purchased at anytime. This reduces the demand on in-person vendors by not having a swarm a week before the new pass is due (monthly system). It would also benefit the automated machines by allowing passengers to purchase the passes at anytime.
  • It's perfect when you have friends or guests in the city that's staying for a long period, and especially when they visit mid-month.
  • Allow Clipper card users to hold more than one 31-day pass at a time. This gives coverage after the initial 31-day pass expires. This may be a requirement as commuter benefit programs that automatically load Clipper passes only disburse them on a monthly basis.
  • There would be no 3-day grace period, otherwise it would be called a 34-day pass.
  • The pass prices would remain the same. No more complaining that February has only 28 (less days of unlimited rides) days while October has 31 days.
  • A 31-day pass would be beneficial to college students because the first day of classes for Fall and Spring doesn't start until mid or late of the respective month. They don't need a January pass they won't use for about the first 20 days.
  • If a passenger has a damaged, lost, or stolen Clipper card, the 31-day pass can be freezed until the new card arrives and the remaining days will be reactivated when tagged on a Muni reader. Some have complained that a lost, damaged, or stolen card can take longer than promised, thereby their monthly pass can't be carried over the extra days it took to issue a new card.
I also think Clipper machines at Muni metro stations should also sell day passes and multi-day passes. Visitors and locals alike not needing a full 31-day pass can get something smaller and fits their budget. Not a lot of vendors around the city sells the paper scratch-off passports, so adding more places to buy would help.

Lastly, an alternative to the 31-day passes would be the pass accumulator program. It's basically a policy where if you use so much e-cash in a day, multiple days (e.g. one week), or month, the rest of the rides on the transit agency would be free; it's simplified because there is no need to purchase monthly or 31-day passes. Explanation of the pass accumulator program here.

What's your thoughts on my proposal on the 31-day, day, and weekly passes? How about the pass accumulator program? Leave it in the comments.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Opinion: Things are Going Better for Clipper

Many of you rely on Akit's Complaint Department to provide you the latest information about Clipper and those times when things can go sour. Thank you for taking time out of your day to read my blog.

I think to myself about how much the mass media has been going into chaos about the news pieces such as the youth in Alameda County not getting their Clipper cards due to the mandatory AC Transit pass transition, the new Muni gates giving "free" access with the wave of the hand, and cheating BART with just $2.

For once, I can say, most of the problems just went away or was resolved, and things seem to be calming down.
  • The AC Transit pass transition went bonkers because parents were too lazy to drag their kids to one of the many sign-up events held by AC Transit, and AC Transit has been telling parents for over a year to bring their child(ren) to the sign-up events to get prepared for the transition. To those parents, here's what I say: "Excuses, excuses. A bunch of bullshit."
  • The Muni gate controversy was a totally worthless story as the old gates was easy to evade, it's called the emergency swing gate; I haven't witnessed anyone trying to cheat the system on my weekend rides on the metro, and I believe Cubic Transportation Systems made a software patch to resolve the issue. Now, most people are used to the new gates (courtesy of my video? Just to make you aware, I revised and reposted it, that's why the view numbers are low).
  • The $2 BART rip-off rides was more of a total joke when BART Board members learned that very few have taken advantage of it. At least KPIX admitted on live TV the station's management debated if it's morally appropriate to report on how to cheat the system.
Even there was a sense of fear in the air with Muni's transition of 40,000 "A" fast passes being moved to Clipper in November, but that went very smoothly and even better than I expected. I thought the December pass would be a big problem, but it seems our savvy citizens have learned where or how to purchase their December pass since paper pass only vendors can't sell Clipper related media.

But still, some small issues came up in the last 30 days...

Occasionally, I notice on Clipper's Facebook page and checking on my Twitter account of people who complain about the little things regarding the program, and there are some who are having trouble getting a refund or totally blows a relatively small problem out of proportion. After all, it's normal; if you have thousands of people using a program, you'd always expect a very small group of those who have an issue. Heck, I work for the state government, you'd always expect that a few citizens will go nuts while the other 99% are A-OK.

For now, the folks at MTC, Clipper, and Cubic can breathe a sigh of relief and look forward to Samtrans joining on December 15th and VTA in February. For me, I'm focusing on the holiday season and having fun with my new cardholder.

For any of you readers who have questions about Clipper, ask me! Just leave it in the comments and I'll get back to you quickly.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Clipper Updates: VTA Ready in February & BART Parking Now Available

There are two big announcements for the expansion of the Clipper card program:

VTA will be joining the Clipper family in February, but there will be some limitations on their first phase of public usage:
  • VTA will accept Clipper e-cash for single rides only. There will be no e-cash pass accumulator (if you tag your card multiple times, you'll earn a day pass). If you need a day pass, pay for one with cash to the driver or use a light rail ticketing machine.
  • Only monthly VTA passes will be sold (adult, express, senior, youth, & disabled). No day passes and annual passes.
  • If you pay e-cash to use light rail, you will have two hours to complete your journey. Tag your card at the platform stop reader, as there will not be one on the train.
  • In-person locations to add Clipper e-cash or passes are very limited. Review this map to find your nearest location; otherwise, consider adding value via phone or online. MTC and Clipper intends to add more places to add value through upgraded light rail ticketing machines.
  • Inter agency transfers will be honored. If you have a two or more zone Caltrain pass on Clipper, VTA will give you a local fare credit. If you transfer from AC Transit, BART, or Samtrans (monthly passes only), you will also get a local transfer credit within their time limitations (listed here). If you are going to ride a VTA express bus, you must have $2 in e-cash on your card to pay your express bus upgrade ($2 local fare credit paid w/inter agency transfer & $2 express upgrade fee charged to e-cash).
Translink Card - BART

BART Parking is now available on Clipper too!
Due to the transition of EZ Rider, the folks at Cubic was able to find a way to transition EZ Rider to Clipper; but even if you don't have EZ Rider for parking, you can sign-up your Clipper card for BART parking.
  1. To register for BART parking, go to the EZ Rider website.
  2. Select the appropriate option, if you are transitioning EZ Rider card parking to Clipper, or you don't have EZ Rider and you want it on your Clipper account.
  3. You will need to input a credit or debit card to get enrolled.
  4. You will be charged a $2 hang tag fee on your credit/debit card. The tag you place on your rear view mirror is mailed to you a few days later.
  5. Select your preferred station location and BART will determine how much to initially pre-fund your account. This is charged to your credit/debit card.
  6. Once everything is setup and you get your hang tag, park at a BART station, tag your Clipper card inside the station, and you are good to go. Your Clipper card account is linked with your unique hang tag ID#, so don't lose the tag or use a different Clipper card.
Lastly, I've updated the Muni gates tutorial video with footage of how to tag your Clipper card on the gates. Enjoy!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Clipper Card Reader Meltdowns - Still Not Resolved

I would believe by now, Clipper should have resolved the card reader meltdowns on buses and trains (especially Muni), but it seems it hasn't been resolved. If you don't know what I'm talking about, click here for my first story posted on October 13, 2010.

Fortunately, a Clipper representative wrote a comment on my blog explaining why the readers are beeping like hell (more than one RFID card was read at once) and said it should be resolved in November with a software update.

Um... OK, it's now December and where's this software update? On Sunday, I boarded a M-Ocean View train going inbound and had to get off at the next stop because the beeping was was totally annoying. Luckily for me, a K-Ingleside train was right behind.

Want to see the annoyance in action? Here's one of many clips available on YouTube:

There are also a few people who are complaining on Twitter about it too: Tweet #1 and tweet #2.

Come on Clipper, you can get this annoying problem resolved. Look what the ORCA card organization did, they fixed their readers to say "one card at a time please" which means that the user who used the card reader had more than one RFID card present during the scan. See photo below from Flickr user: Atomic Taco:
ORCA: One card at a time, please

A broken card reader means lost revenue for Muni, puts passengers at risk of receiving a "fare evasion" citation from fare inspectors, and also means a free ride too.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Akit Returns to his Drug of Choice: Muni Pass on Clipper Card

The rumors are true (huh? What rumors?), I have returned to loading my Muni monthly pass to my Clipper card.

I reported in late April I decided to switch from an e-pass to a paper pass because of the technical problems lingering with TransLink (former name of Clipper), including a bad experience on the Cable Cars.

The reason why I switched back from a paper pass to an e-pass is because of another unfortunate situation, Commuter Check. They have been mailing me my paper pass for six months, and it went mostly well, except for my November pass. A new policy is if a person wants to have more than one fare media mailed to them, they are mailed in their own envelope. For me, I asked for a paper pass and a voucher for the remaining balance, and they sent me two envelopes. For the November pass period, I got my pass in the mail on the very last day of the previous month, which really made me feel uncomfortable.

I switched back to Clipper because I asked Commuter Check to send my funding to my commuter benefits debit card and no fear of a delay in the mail since funds are electronically added 10 days before the new month. Now I have the flexibility to purchase a monthly pass, or move the funds to Clipper e-cash in case I feel I can't make-up the $60 value of the Muni e-pass.

Another reason for the switch, since Muni's "A" pass users switched just a month ago, Muni really had to keep a good eye on the Clipper machinery used on all buses, trains, and metro stations because they knew that a broken system could mean losing thousands of dollars. I've noticed the reliability of Clipper drastically improving and it factored in my decision.

Some other Clipper thoughts:
  • It would be nice if Muni installed some more Clipper card/Muni ticketing machines at Powell station's main gates (west gates). They only have three machines and there's always a line of 5-10 deep for each machine.
  • Can BART ticketing machines be ready to add Clipper value sooner? EZ Rider's transition is going to be huge, and there's not many add value locations nearby BART stations (except downtown SF).
  • Can the face of the Clipper card be a little more scratch resistant? Even a small fingernail scratch ruins the shiny card.
Lastly... this is my 500th blog post! I can't believe I've lasted this long.