If you ride Caltrain and depend on the 8-ride tickets or monthly passes, you could be in a shock during the months of February and March as the paper version will not be sold. But have no fear, Clipper is here! Okay, maybe a little fear or a lot.
- Starting February 1st, Caltrain will stop selling the paper version of the 8-ride tickets, but those who have their paper version can use them until they expire. The standard 60 day expiration policy still applies when fully transferred to Clipper.
- Clipper card machines to purchase new cards and adding value are not at all stations. To make matters worse, passengers must buy their 8-rides at retail locations, automated machines at places like SF Muni metro stations, or online (with standard 3-day waiting period). Read more about how to add value. Until Caltrain can find a way to allow Clipper purchasing at their stations, you should make preparations now.
- The card must be tagged-on at your starting station and tagged-off at your ending station. This means, if you have a zone one to zone two 8-ride, you tag on in zone one, and tag-off at zone two.
- There must be at least a minimum $2.50 on the Clipper card at all times when using Caltrain. Used to be $1.25, but fare increase for 2011 has changed it.
- You can have up to 24 rides stored on the card. When it drops down to at least 16 rides, you can purchase another 8-ride.
- You can purchase multiple 8-ride tickets for multiple areas. For example, I can load a zone 1 to 2, and zone 1 to 3 on a single card; but be aware of the 24-ride limit.
- Unfortunately, you cannot do zone upgrades, unlike the paper system. If you ride beyond your designated zone, you will be charged the e-cash fare; the system will not deduct one ride and the upgrade fee. Also, since there is a tag-out procedure, you can't buy a paper zone upgrade ticket to cover your butt.
- You can tag-off at the same reader you tagged-on and get a full refund within 15 minutes (perfect when there's a train delay or incident). If tagged-off beyond 15 minutes, passengers get charged a one zone e-cash fare (or one ride if their 8-ride ticket covers just that one zone only).
- It is unclear if someone has a three or more zone 8-ride and tag-off midway. Will it deduct e-cash or just deduct a ride?
- Starting with the March pass, all monthly passes will be on a Clipper card only basis. If you have two or more zone purchased, you can ride VTA and Samtrans free (local fare credit) by tagging card to bus/light rail platform reader. VTA will be active in February, just in time for Caltrain's transition.
- Unlike being able to purchase paper passes at station machines, there is no way to purchase a Clipper e-pass at your station machines. Look for retailers or enroll in autoload.
- The card must have at least $2.50 minimum e-cash value at ALL TIMES when tagging-on Caltrain.
- You can mix a monthly pass with an 8-zone ticket on a single card.
- On your first ride for the new month, you must tag-on and tag-off for your pass to be active.
- Once you do your first ride, you don't have to tag-on and off for the entire remainder of the month. The conductor will scan your card and will tell him/her what zones you are covered.
- Optional: You can tag-on and off, but only do it within your designated start & end zones.
- Zone upgrades are available, but you must buy a paper zone upgrade and show it to the conductor when he/she scans your card.
Akit's Point of View
I totally support a transition away from paper passes and 8-ride tickets, but the changes in policy makes it a total mess. Why didn't Clipper try their best to exactly mimic policies set forth just like the paper versions? Here's my list of arguments to this being a terrible transition:
- Ticketing machines can't handle Clipper monthly pass or 8-ride transactions. Very few vendors in San Mateo and Santa Clara county contracted to handle Clipper loading.
- Zone upgrades banned on 8-rides for Clipper.
- Still have to purchase a paper zone upgrade for a monthly pass.
- System unable to charge an automatic zone upgrade fee when a monthly pass or 8-ride is present and the passenger tags on and off.
- Unclear policy regarding what would happen if a 8-ride passenger exits at a zone less than what's designated.
- For e-cash only passengers, there is no day pass option; only paper will exist. Ride three times, get charged three one-way fares.
- If a monthly pass passenger has to tag-on their pass at the first day of travel for the new month, but decides to cut their ride short (e.g. take BART at Millbrae), one may be charged full one-way fare instead of pass.
- Why not just enforce a policy of tagging-on and off every single time? By allowing automatic charging of zone upgrade fees and handling appropriate charges for taking less of a ride than the designated zones purchased, it makes it easy.
If you don't know what the heck Clipper is, I wrote a great guide giving you all the info you will ever need.