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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Clipper Card's Next Stop: East Bay Commuter Ferry Boats

AT&T Park - Ferry Boat waiting for dock space

My prediction came true just yesterday when the MTC released word about their next steps to extend Clipper. Clipper will now expand to the WETA (Water Emergency Transportation Authority) ferry boat services by installing the technology at their five ferry boat terminals/docks for the routes they operate.

The five terminals are:
  1. Oakland - Jack London Square
  2. Alameda
  3. Harbor Bay
  4. San Francisco's Ferry Building
  5. San Francisco's Pier 41
The ferry services:
  1. Oakland/Alameda Ferry
  2. Harbor Bay Ferry
  3. Oakland/South SF Ferry (new service in 2012)
WETA is going to pay $625K and with the new South San Francisco ferry service coming soon, that made the MTC's Operations Committee jump them forward to be first in line for Clipper installation. It may be possible that Clipper could also be done on the Vallejo BayLink ferry, but at this point WETA is not under control of that service until negotiations are completed.

When this project is completed, Clipper will be on nearly all commuter ferry boat services; Golden Gate Ferry, which is not under WETA, has been a member and participant in the Clipper consortium ever since the pilot program a decade ago.

Akit's Opinion
Going with WETA is a very good choice and would be my prime choice for next installation. Their funding dedication towards installation is a big push, and since MTC and Cubic doesn't have enough Clipper readers to install on huge bus fleets, they can take advantage of the ones they have in stock to be at the WETA ferry docks (compare 100 card readers for buses vs. ten card readers for all WETA ferry terminals).

By completing WETA, it will now be available on almost all publicly owned commuter ferry services. But it still leaves out these commuter ferry services:
  • Vallejo is left out until negotiations are completed.
  • Commuter services for the Tiburon and Sausalito ferries by Blue & Gold Fleet are private operations. It is unclear if they will join the Clipper consortium because Clipper is a public program with only public agencies participating, and how will the MTC work out a public-private partnership, especially if tax dollars will pay for private operations or not.
By having Clipper on more ferry routes, it leaves open questions about add value machines and the transfer of "legacy" products to Clipper. Clipper's add value machines are very expensive, unless if they use the old ones they yanked out of all the Muni metro stations (this was prior to the new Muni metro gates and ticketing machines), but I know for sure that some of those ones from Muni are going to three Caltrain stations.

Clipper is more than likely to carry over the legacy paper fare products the agencies are currently using, such as multi ride tickets, passes, and inter-agency transfer agreements (e.g. free ride on Muni), but with Clipper's system so complex with so many operating rules, a simplified fare structure like Golden Gate's automatic discount for e-cash Clipper users would work best.

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