While I love to report about the notes posted on MTC's Operations Committee (the de facto Clipper card board), I should warn you now, there won't be much new material.
The Operations Committee will be meeting this Friday, April 8, 2011 at 10:15AM. (See agenda) Clipper will be discussed in calendar items (item 2, part "D") regarding contract actions. Normally these 'contract actions' is an opportunity for the MTC to modify or establish contracts with the goal of using or increase funding based on the needs of the Clipper card program. The committee uses this opportunity to address MTC staff and Clipper representatives about the program, and the agenda items posted online (see here) also gives helpful info to the public.
- As of April 1st, all existing paper 8-ride tickets for Caltrain has expired and now operates on Clipper only. This is for any passenger who purchased their paper 8-ride on the very last day prior to being sold on Clipper cards only.
- Clipper staff are been doing heavy outreach to all Caltrain passenger stations, and have been on all rush hour evening trains on March 29th to answer questions about the switch.
- Muni has recently switched from the paper "M" Muni only pass to Clipper only.
- BART's activation of their ticketing machines for Clipper e-cash purchases is currently at 30 stations (as of April 1st). BART will be activating functionality on the last 14 stations this month.
- Golden Gate Ferry completed installation of Clipper purchasing machines at their ferry terminals in February, and will begin patron operations in April.
- The committee approved $750K for upgrading VTA's existing ticketing machines to be able to also add Clipper value, however the planned cost for Cubic to handle the work has come way under budget. Due to the reduced budget cost, the entire build will now cost $500K, and they will vote on shifting the extra $250K to the "VTA Funding Agreement."
- The committee is to receive a proposal to amend a contract for the Bay Crossings booth at the Ferry Building. If you remember in my prior blog posts, the Bay Crossings vendor is one of only two in-person customer service centers for Clipper cards. The plan is to increase the existing contact to $167,000 in order to extend Clipper services at that location to June 30, 2012. The original contact was approved for $64,500, but in order to sustain continued services, the proposal is to increase it by $102,500 (thereby equaling $167,000).
Akit's Opinion and Analysis
After spending a four day weekend riding Muni to see old friends and get lunch, it seems things are going okay with the big switch for all Muni "M" pass users to Clipper only. There's only been a few occasions where rookie users didn't know how to properly tag their card, and that's going to be expected this week as the 3-day grace period has officially ended. This switch also means their favorite pass vendor, whether it be a corner liquor store, discount housewares shop, or their donut shop won't be able to handle Clipper transactions. It's a change for many, but realize that if you take transit and pass by a nearby authorized Clipper vendor, just take ten minutes of your busy life and hop-off the vehicle and go purchase it.
Clipper on Caltrain will always be the nagging problem for the program. It's not an easy to use system as Clipper is required to mimic existing pass and ticketing policies from Caltrain (with a few modifications, such as tag-on and off). With so much complexity, there is a need for the program to simplify, such as following the model used by Golden Gate Transit & Ferry where they eliminated all ticket books (they never sold passes) and just gave all passengers an across the board ride discount equal to the discount given from the ticket books.
While I'm on the topic of transit payments, when will Clipper consider the pass accumulator program and a regional pass? A pass accumulator is a system where a passenger pays for their rides with a specific agency with e-cash, and when it reaches a certain threshold, the rest of the rides for that specified period is free. A regional pass is similar to BART Plus where a rider has the ability to ride unlimited rides on multiple agencies for one flat price. While these are two separate ideas, the ultimate dream for all Bay Area transit riders would be a program where if you spend so much in a specified period on ANY participating agency, the rest of the rides on all agencies are free. The MTC has talked about this before, but have been quiet about it. Plans are in the works to simplify the fare structure for all transit agencies using Clipper.
If you ever wondered about where all this money comes from to fund Clipper and its services, one primary source comes from the "Regional Measure 2" funds us voters approved back in 2004. The funding comes from the additional dollar all drivers must pay to cross all Bay Area bridges (except Golden Gate Bridge) and is used to fund transportation projects with the goal to reduce congestion and to improve existing toll facilities (read more). Other funding comes from the state and federal levels.