If you are a regular commuter of BART and use High Value Discount (HVD) tickets to save a little money on your trips, you are aware the classic magnetic strip tickets will be going away at the end of the year to be a Clipper only product.
But while you may think, "wow, Clipper will make it so easier!" Ha! Time for a reality check.
The old way to buy HVDs:
- Any BART ticket sales window at major stations. Accepts cash and commuter benefit checks.
- Vendors around the Bay Area, including some grocery stores. Accepts cash and sometimes commuter benefit checks.
- Mail-in tickets to BART sales office. Personal checks and commuter benefit checks accepted.
The Clipper way to buy HVDs:
- A Clipper card user must register their personal credit/debit card, or use a commuter benefit debit card. Once registered, the user must sign-up for autoload where the card will have $32 in HVD value, and when it dips below the $10 threshold, the card will be automatically replenished with $32 more HVD dollars.
For more information about the HVD transition, click here.
For some of you, this new method might be an okay option to charge your personal credit/debit card to automatically purchase HVD value for BART. But if you like buying your HVDs in cash, you'd be grumpy too.
For those who uses commuter benefits, your options are SEVERELY LIMITED. Here's how it sucks for all of us:
- Commuter benefit checks/vouchers cannot be claimed for HVDs.
- You must use a commuter benefit debit card. Some of you have told me your employer doesn't give you one, and you only get vouchers. Basically, you are screwed.
- You can only use autoload only. If you use a commuter debit card, you must be very strict on your BART spending, otherwise your card can get blocked if you don't have sufficient funds on your commuter debit card.
- If you still want to use vouchers or a debit card without the stupid rules about autoload, you can only claim them for e-cash (universal Clipper cash fund), but you will NOT receive the 6.25% HVD discount.
Now you know why this really sucks.
As a long time blogger writing about Clipper, I highly DO NOT recommend Clipper's autoload program. It has a bad reputation and if for some reason your card gets blocked (even by accident), your card is unusable for a number of days until the system can resolve it.
For me, I'm very uncomfortable about giving out my credit card number to Clipper. For the fellow wary folks out there, there needs to be better options for all of us to get BART HVDs on Clipper, regardless if you use commuter benefits or just like paying cash to your favorite grocery store for the magnetic stripe card. MTC has said in the past that making other options to obtain HVDs is cost prohibitive, but I think it's very necessary to gain the public's trust in the program.
Here's my recommendations BART, Clipper, and MTC should do to make it easier for all for this Clipper card transition:
- HVDs remain available with autoload.
- Passengers can purchase HVDs without the autoload commitment at any Clipper ticketing machine (including Muni metro's), BART ticketing machines, and all Clipper card vendors.
- Passengers have the right to purchase a single HVD with cash at any location selling Clipper.
- Passengers have the right to use their commuter benefit voucher to buy a HVD at Clipper vendors that are willing to accept them.
- Passengers have the right to use their commuter benefit card to purchase a HVD at any self-service Clipper card machine, Muni metro ticket machine, and any BART ticketing machine.
If BART is willing to accept this idea instead, I'd say, run with it:
- Since seniors, disabled, and youth card users automatically gets their discount without the need to have a separate BART pool of funding (they use their regular e-cash), why don't extend the idea to adult Clipper card users by giving every person using a Clipper card a 6.26% discount? By doing it this way, MTC, BART, and Clipper doesn't have to spend millions on reprogramming every single ticketing machine, vendor machine, and rewriting software; they just rewrite the BART fare table by subtracting 6.25%.
What's your opinion? Leave a comment.