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Monday, January 10, 2011

$1.5 Million More to be Spent on Clipper & Updates from the MTC

You'll hear it here first, because I'm the the person in the Bay Area reporting on the hottest Clipper card news coming fresh from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission's mouth.

In today's news, the MTC recently published their Operations Committee agenda and will be meeting this Friday, January 14th at 9:30AM.

As you may have been aware, the Operations Committee is the defacto Clipper Board of Directors after the TransLink/Clipper Board (high ranking managers of major transit agencies) was disbanded in July; but still, some money and key dates had to be tossed round with the MTC's approval, and the Operations Committee always handles it.

If you have been keeping watch on my blog, I've been telling you about key dates of the transition of Muni paper passes to Clipper. It seems Muni has been doing quite well as disabled and 40,000 "A" pass customers have done it very smoothly and has continuously campaigned for the remaining passes to transition in February and April; but it looks like the MTC published notes to delay (or what they call "revised") the implementation.
  • The current goal of transitioning paper "M" passes will remain the same; they will not be sold in paper form starting with the April pass. 50% of passengers already switched.
  • The "Y" and "S" pass is supposed to be transitioning starting with the February pass but the MTC is looking into delaying it until June.
  • The disabled monthly pass/sticker already transitioned to Clipper, but for some odd reason, the MTC wants to delay transition until March 31st.
Onto other key ticket/pass transition dates:
  • BART's high value tickets are slated to go Clipper only starting March 1st. However, there is discussion to delay it.
  • Senior and youth BART tickets are to transition starting May 1st, but once again, there is a discussion to also delay it.
  • Caltrain does not intend to delay transitioning 8-rides (end of January) and monthly passes (starting with March pass) and will stick to their schedule.
  • VTA will accept Clipper cards starting March 1st, just in time for Caltrain's mandatory pass transition.
Also attached to the agenda is the Executive Director's memorandum to the Operations Committee. Here's what Steve Heminger is suggesting to spend money on:
  • MTC wants to amend a contract to add $100,000 to a "Consultant Assistance Program" to do field inspections and project management support.
  • MTC also wants to spend $150,000 for a new contract on a different consultant program to "perform oversight, monitoring, and performance management functions related to the distribution/sales of Clipper cards and value."
  • $475,000 is slated to be spent on customer education for the delayed transition of remaining passes no later than June ($125,000), and to help subsidize (50% MTC & 50% SFMTA) Muni's cost to purchase their limited use tickets ($350,000).
  • $340,000 contract amendment with Booz Allen Hamilton Inc. to provide "continued assistance on SFMTA's Clipper related customer education and in-person outreach initiatives through FY 2010-11."
  • $450,000 "change order" (a what?) to Cubic Transportation Systems to implement a "day pass accumulator" program for VTA and AC Transit. VTA intends to use the program to give free rides to passengers who spends so much in e-cash fares in a 24-hour period, while AC Transit suggests to use it to replace transfers.
GRAND TOTAL of all new contracts, amendments, and change orders: $1,515,000 (or basically $1.5 million). Akit's opinion coming up...

In other Clipper news, the Executive Director also mentioned some other items:
  • The Operations Committee complained about the poor performance of Clipper on Muni vehicles. The report shows that performance ratings has dramatically improved since May 2010. The December statistics are by the Muni divisions with 100% on-board equipment availability for the electric trolley fleet at the Presidio division and the lowest at 92.5% at the Kirkland diesel bus fleet.
  • While Hemminger is pleased of the improvements, SFMTA is in the process of hiring extra maintenance staff to help maintain the Clipper equipment and the agency is learning lessons from Golden Gate Transit as they were the first agency to go full Clipper/TransLink on all vehicles.
  • The wireless network established at Muni bus and metro yards was not "optimal" to provide updates to all vehicles, and it's essential to give updates as people have purchased Clipper funds online and phone, and to update the hotlist of red flagged cards (e.g. lost card, theft, bad credit card, etc.). The contractor is working on fixing this.
  • The next big projects coming up for Clipper will be "Phase III" of the smaller transit operators joining the consortium, a "period pass accumulator," and being able to pay for parking at SFMTA owned lots.
  • In order for the MTC's investment in Clipper to be worth its money, the goal is for Clipper to have at least 20 million transactions in a month; as of December, Clipper is currently at 7 million.
It's time for Akit's opinion... (applause!)

Muni paper passes being possibly delayed:
I honestly believe this has to be one really stupid decision. Muni has been promoting the original deadline dates to transfer to Clipper on their bus advertising for the longest time. The disabled pass already transitioned, so why the hell delay something that has already been done? Also, the youth and senior passes is slated to go next month; a little late on the request, isn't it SFMTA? If you haven't requested your youth or senior Clipper card, do it NOW or you'll be like those idiot parents in the East Bay not signing up their kids in a timely manner.

$1.5 Million?
The MTC could save $125,000 by not spending it on customer education, if Muni and MTC rejects to delay the youth and senior passes. If Muni has to delay those passes until June, they will have to make new publications and ads about the changes, and will spend money printing new passes for the next six months.

The expenses on the pass accumulator program is worthwhile to make Clipper a more smart system, and to help subsidize Muni's expenses on the limited use tickets issued at their metro ticketing machines.

As for the consultant firms, I'm on the fence with that one. Do we really need to spend extra dough when you've already approved millions in the past for them to do the work needed to get Clipper running?

The other stuff...
It's good to hear of improvements to the card readers on Muni vehicles. It's really obvious that since 40,000 already transitioned from the "A" pass, readers have to be operational and functional all the time.

I appreciate the MTC's plan to get ready for the joining of smaller transit agencies to Clipper, and to be able to pay for parking in SF with the card.

Lastly, any word on Clipper cards able to add value at all BART stations? I know it's supposed to go hot by March, but there's no word in the agenda notes.


@makfan said...

Is the pass accumulator so that it will know that I have boarded VTA 3 times and should now have paid enough for a day pass?


Akit said...

That's right. It knows when you spent enough to earn a day pass.

ammon said...

And yet caltrain's clipper support doesn't do the same.