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Thursday, January 6, 2011

Clipper on Muni Cable Cars - It Can be Improved

One of the items I forgot to add to my Clipper wish list is regarding acceptance on SF's famed Cable Cars. For nearly ten months, Clipper cards have been accepted on Muni's famous Cable Cars, but not without a few bumps in the road...
  1. For at least four months since late March 2010, conductors have been poorly trained in using the handheld readers and/or refusing to carry or use the equipment. While I did address these problems two weeks after the first day of usage, it wasn't until the Chronicle published a "City Insider" article and the agency promised to retrain their staff.
  2. Due to a massive glitch in an update TransLink (previous name of Clipper) provided, I was hassled by a Cable Car conductor and led me to go back to paper passes.
  3. For the last couple of months, I've gone back to my Clipper card with my "M" pass loaded and it's been working fine, for the exception of a few Cable Car conductors just saying it's okay without even scanning it.
But the one real awkward issue with Clipper and Cable Cars is only monthly Muni e-passes are accepted; e-cash is not accepted as payment.

This should be a goal for Muni and Clipper by finding a way to accept e-cash as payment for those occasional passengers that doesn't need a monthly pass. In one view, it's an easy way for conductors to handle less cash by deducting funds, but this may also promote more heavy usage thereby forcing conductors to work more with the portable reader than just taking $5 bills and issuing a paper receipt.


Anonymous said...

I ride the cable cars almost every day and use my clipper card. For the most part, it seems to work well, but there are a few hiccups that need to be worked out.

The first one is that the hand held readers seem to be "read only" and cannot write any new data to the card, hence why they can't deduct cash payments or update new monthly passes. This should be addressed and the readers should function the same way as the readers on the buses and at fare gates.

The second issue is related to the first one, and its that at the beginning of the month, the hand held readers cannot autoload a new monthly pass onto the card. This must be done by tagging the card to a bus or metro reader (the TVM's don't seem to add the new pass).

This can cause some headaches with the conductors during the first four days of the month. They always have to be reminded that even if the reader says the pass expired on the 31st of the previous month, its still valid through the 3rd. They also have to be reminded that the new passes will not autoload until the 4th. (this goes for everyone on muni with an autoload pass- the screen doesn't say "autoload new pass" until the 4th because the old one is valid through the 3rd.

The way to solve all of this is to give the handheld readers the full read/write functionality as the ones on buses and at faregates.

Anonymous said...

My gripe is that the cable cars requires you to hand them your bare card when they can just do what the fare inspectors do and just put the scanner over your card in it's holder to read it which means less wear/tear on the cardholder and the card.