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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

MTC and Clipper Keeps Quiet About $2 Monthly Fee for Commuter Benefit Users

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission has been an advocate for Clipper card users to end the annoying $2 monthly fee for commuter benefit users who requests for direct monthly loading of passes, e-cash, and ridebooks (not vouchers and debit cards).

This $2 has been going on for many months with no news, but the MTC and Clipper folks have very quietly posted an update on April 11th about the situation.

Since the MTC and Clipper wants to be sneaky and not grab the attention of the public and mass media, I'm going to bang on the pots and pans to tell you what's going on.

The $2 monthly fee was imposed by Clipper (not MTC) to all commuter benefit companies if customers requested to the benefit company to have their pass, e-cash, or ridebooks loaded directly to their card, thereby there is no need for a plastic debit card or paper vouchers. It was up to the benefit companies if they wanted to absorb the costs or pass on the $2 to the customers.

The MTC (via Clipper's website) has quietly informed the public of an update, the policy WON'T CHANGE. That's right, the fee will still exist; this means, for some people, you may have an automatic $2 fee imposed against your commuter benefit account.

The alternatives to not being charged the fee is simple: Request a paper voucher that is valid at many in-person Clipper add value locations, or request a special debit card which is good at all Clipper automated machines, transit agency ticketing offices, ClipperCard.com, and Clipper's customer service centers at Embarcadero BART/Muni station and Bay Crossings at the Ferry Building.

For those who uses Clipper's own commuter benefits program, known as "Clipper Direct," they will not impose the $2 monthly fee.


Akit's Opinion:

I thought the MTC was on our side (the card users) to kill off this incredibly stupid monthly fee. The most convenient way to have passes, e-cash, and ridebooks loaded to our Clipper card accounts from commuter benefit agencies, is now the most annoying way to do it because it now costs us $24 a year.

Okay, fine, we'll use the paper vouchers and debit cards to get around it (for free)... but that's not eco friendly. Paper vouchers costs money to produce by killing trees, and the labor it takes to cut the checks, stuff them, and pay for postage to mail it to customers. Debit cards are a little more eco friendly as they only send one card that's good for many years, but it's just another piece of plastic to carry around.

How low can the MTC go? Makes me sick.


thielges said...

Ugh. Clipper has the promise of lowering transportation costs by eliminating disposable tickets and minimizing inter-agency friction. Here we have a case where new inefficiencies are created between agencies which increases costs.

I hope this is just growing pains and the $2 fee goes away. MTC should require that the agencies creating the friction swallow the fee themselves. That will motivate them to fix their own problems. Foisting the cost to the consumer just allows the agencies to operate open-loop by dodging the feedback that would drive optimization of their operations.

Maybe that's what is occurring here. Has the $2 increased fee made it back to any end consumers yet?

Margeaux Bucher said...

Oh jeez!

This is just part of a growing trend to fleece people via little convenience fees.

Remember when online transactions were all new? When, say, you could start to buy concert tickets online?...it was cheaper to sell that way than to pay a real person to man the ticket booth. Same at the movies. So they save on labor, but like typical greedy-guts they go ahead and CHARGE people for efficiency and for saving them overhead. It is so sad.

Don't even get me started on the environmental implications...this is just so irresponsible...

Great blog, BTW!

Susan said...

So what would be the most effective way for more of us to bang on pots & pans & raise a lot of noise to get the MTC to change this position, and NOT charge us the $2? With potential muni "strike" stuff coming up, seems like the MTC wouldn't want all of us monthly, guaranteed fare payers to get too upset!

Anonymous said...

If, as you say, it was Clipper and not MTC who is imposing the fee, then MTC may not have the ability to stop it?

K-Bob said...

Well, this sounds like a great local interest story for a TV station or newspaper; hopefully one of them will jump on it.

There is no way it costs even $0.20 per month for Clipper to load this data and process the benefits.

I got the email from FlexCommute this morning about this. They're switching everyone to paper CommuterChecks. Apparently so is WageWorks. So we'll just all go to Walgreens to redeem them.

The dumbest thing is that this will probably end up costing Clipper more than if they had just left things the way they used to be. Everyone will switch to paper CommuterChecks and redeem them at Walgreens. My guess is that Clipper has to pay a fee to Walgreens for these transactions, or a percentage of the redemption. So Clipper won't get the $2, and they'll have to pay Walgreens. How dumb is that?