I thought I'd crack the numbers and find out if buying a Muni "M" pass is actually worth the value.
Based on my usage for February, I haven't used my Clipper card enough times to make up the value of the "M" pass at $60. I'm not keeping up with my New Year's resolution of taking Muni more often than driving to work.
I should have just added the $60 spent on a pass and converted it to no expiration e-cash for flexibility.
But while it sounds like an easy choice, there's a lot of pros and cons between buying a Muni pass vs. paying rides with Clipper e-cash:
- Muni passes are only valid for the specified month for unlimited rides, Clipper e-cash doesn't expire but is limited to a number of rides until the card can be replenished.
- Muni passes are only valid on Muni (BART for "A" pass), Clipper e-cash is flexible and can be used for any participating transit agency.
- Muni passes are also good for unlimited Cable Car rides, Clipper e-cash is not accepted and if it was, it would be pretty costly as it's $5 for a ride.
With e-cash, sure, I'd save money if I spend less than $60 a month on bus rides, but I'd have to be careful to keep an eye on how much time is left on my Muni e-transfer on my Clipper card. Paper transfers are easy to tell when it expires and when you should buy a new one, but Clipper only tells you the expiration when you tag your card to a reader. Since you just can't magically pay for a fresh e-transfer until the current one expires, some may not keep track unless if they are using a stopwatch and able to re-tag their card once the e-transfer expires.
Muni says the transfer must be valid for the journey, but how do they handle that for Clipper cards if an inspector scans a card 91+ minutes after the first scan that issued the e-transfer?
For many people who just pay with e-cash and primarily uses it to go from home to their job (and vice versa), it would not be an issue since it definitely takes less than 90 minutes to get to your final location and the ride back home would be hours after the e-transfer expired.
The e-transfer issue is more towards those who rides leisurely on the weekends. Other agencies doesn't have this problem as they either don't have inspectors, doesn't issue e-transfers, or requires card to be tagged-off. Is there a way Muni can modify their policy to instill confidence in their passengers to ride with e-cash and not get hit with a citation?
My suggestion is for Muni to give a "last ride" when if the e-transfer is less than 30 minutes from expiration, the passenger is given a 30 minute window to complete the trip. This would help close the gap, but not completely as some journeys on Muni can take more than 30 minutes, for example, riding end to end on the 38-Geary.
- 9:00AM: I board first vehicle and pay $2 in e-cash, and issued an e-transfer to expire at 10:30AM.
- 10:29AM: I use e-transfer and no e-cash deducted, and Clipper gives me a temporary transfer guaranteeing me a 30 minute protective window set to expire at 10:59AM.
- 10:45AM: Fare inspectors check my card, and even though my initial transfer expired 15 minutes ago, I can still ride due to the 30 minute policy.