"Akit is the man. He knows Clipper." (spenta)
"It’s a fantastic blog for any San Franciscan."
"Your blog is always on point, and well researched!" (Nina Decker)
"Everyone's favorite volunteer public policy consultant..." (Eve Batey, SF Appeal)
"You are doing a great job keeping on top of Translink stuff. Keep up the good work!"
(Greg Dewar, N Judah Chronicles)
"...I don't even bother subscribing anywhere else for my local public transportation info. You have it all..."
(Empowered Follower)
"If anyone at City Hall wants to make public transit better for all San Franciscans, it would be wise to follow Akit religiously...
or, better yet, give him a job."
(Brock Keeling, SFist)

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Simple Tips on Taking Public Transit to Giants World Series Parade

This Wednesday at 11AM is going to be a great day for San Francisco when everyone is getting Halloween candy and watching the San Francisco Giants at the World Series ticker tape parade.

If you plan to go to the parade, are you prepared to take public transportation?  Taking your car into downtown SF is going to be the worst idea ever with traffic, tons of people, and limited parking.

Public transit is your BEST option!  At the 2010 World Series parade, tons of people took Muni, BART, Caltrain, and the ferries to get to the city to watch our team celebrate, now it's 2012 and tens of thousands of fans will flood the city again.

Being prepared is the best way to make it through public transportation.  Here's my simple tips on how be ready:
  1. If you ride BART, buy your round-trip BART ticket TODAY.  Do it on Wednesday and wait in a long line for a ticket.  By having a ticket ready for entry, you can get through the gates quicker.
  2. If you ride Golden Gate Ferry, you can also purchase your round-trip ferry fare early by visiting one of the Golden Gate ticket machines at the terminals.
  3. For other transit agencies that utilizes cash fares, make sure you carry enough dollar bills and coins to cover your rides.  Nobody likes people who holds up a bus when they are digging for that remaining quarter in their pocket.
  4. If you really need a seat on BART, you may want to take a train going the opposite direction and board the train deeper in their system, such as Richmond station.
  5. Parking at stations can be a problem on Wednesday.  Some parking lots allows you to reserve a space, so do your research and be ready.  Many BART stations with parking allows you to pre-pay for parking and you get a reserved parking space.  I suggest you do it.
  6. As always, my best tip of all, GET A CLIPPER CARD.  Clipper cards are valid on all the major transit agencies going to San Francisco.  While there's a $3 new card acquisition fee, that will pay off when you don't have to suffer waiting in a ticket machine line; it's like the express pass to getting on that boat, bus, or train.
Clipper, the express pass to skipping waiting in line for tickets.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Opinion: It's Time to Simplify the Clipper Card

One of the big problems with Clipper cards is that all the rules regarding the use of paper passes, transfers, and particular rules for the paper fare medias was transferred to exactly mimic onto Clipper cards. For many of us long time Bay Area residents, we all know about the 3-day grace period with Muni passes, or the 25 cent fee to transfer one time onto AC Transit...

But to tell you the truth, it's way too complicated. Think about it this way, Clipper's programming rules are so complex when someone tags their card, it needs to know if the person rode the same agency recently (e-transfer), rode a partner transit agency (inter agency e-transfer), has a valid pass, has a ride ticket book, or just has e-cash. Clipper had to grandfather all the old rules on the books for decades and now we're paying the price.

Clipper's plan for the smaller agencies (5% of all Bay Area transit ridership) will be to simplify the rules because they've admitted in writing that they made a big fat mistake with grandfathering the old rules and resulted in taking too many years to establish Clipper on all the major agencies.

Here's examples of the complex rules on fare products:
  1. Transfers within a same agency: Muni is 90 minutes with unlimited transfers. AC Transit is 25 cent fee upon boarding second bus, must be within 90 minutes of boarding first bus, and only one transfer ride allowed as third ride would be full fare. Golden Gate Transit/Ferry, automatic calculation upon tag-on and tag-off. Samtrans and VTA requires a day pass to be purchased.  All other agencies: No transfer policy.
  2. Passes: Muni is monthly with 3-day grace period and various types to also cover local BART service. AC Transit is 31 day pass. Caltrain is monthly pass with two zones or more gives free rides on Samtrans and VTA. VTA and Samtrans has monthly pass with no grace period. Some agencies don't offer passes (e.g. BART and Golden Gate) doesn't offer passes.

The miracle solution would just be one fare can get you everywhere and all transit agencies are combined into one agency, but that's a far fetched dream, yet, would be easy to run Clipper.

Why not just simplify the operating rules for Clipper? My proposal to be used on all agencies:
  1. E-cash payment of fares: Stays the same.
  2. Ride books/10-Rides/8-Rides/High Value Discount Tickets: Eliminated in favor of a across the board discount for paying in e-cash.
  3. Transfers within same agency: Passengers get e-transfer valid for 90 minutes for no fee and good for as many transfers within the window of time. Not necessary on BART and Caltrain because transferring is just waiting on same train platform/station.
  4. Passes: No pre-purchasing of passes needed, all passengers pays rides with e-cash and "earns" their pass when reaching a certain e-cash threshold within that monthly period (a.k.a. pass accumulator).
  5. Inter-agency transfers: Transferring to any neighbor agency is automatic 25 or 50 cent discount.
  6. Inter-agency passes (e.g. Caltrain 2+ zone monthly pass): Old agreements honored.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Loose Pocket Change? Feed it to Your Clipper Card

BART Ticketing Machine with Clipper card add value option

Pocket change, the worst enemy of my pockets. It’s heavy and just sits in a jar at my home all day long while it gets bigger and bigger.

Ever had one of those times where you wanted to just get rid of your pocket change, but tired of packing your own coin rolls or going to a local supermarket to use one of those change sorting machines where you pay ten cents for every dollar?

Well, here’s the easiest way to dump your change with no surcharge, it’s for paying your public transportation. No, I’m not encouraging you to dump tons of nickels into a bus farebox, that just holds up the bus and you get that awkward stare from fellow passengers. Just feed it to your Clipper card's e-cash purse.

There’s one easy way to do this, just go to any BART station’s ticketing machine. The nice part about BART ticketing machines and Clipper is you can put as little as five cents onto the card and up to 30 coins per transaction. Once you put in 30 coins, the machine locks out additional coins, and you just confirm the value and tag the card to update the balance for instant use. If you have more coins, just do the transaction again.

Some of you may be asking, can I do this at a Muni metro or Golden Gate Ferry ticketing machine? You can, but the software will first ask you what specific amount you wish to input into the machine before you are allowed to feed coins. Always select the lowest amount because the machine will lock you out at the 30th coin, but you can still feed bills into the machine to fill in the gap. Be warned, the machine will only give a maximum of $4.95 in change if you overpay, so have dollar bills handy, and not a $20.

There is one big weakness for both of these options: They won’t take pennies.  Why not add more e-cash to your Clipper card and get rid of most of your pocket change?

Monday, October 1, 2012

Creative Ways to Flout SF's 10 Cent Shopping Checkout Bag Law

Safeway Parking Lot - Shopping Carts in ADA SpaceAs I feel the 10 cent retail checkout bag is totally evil and it gained some notoriety on SFist, I was thinking of ways that storekeepers and citizens can give the finger to the city by beating the law their own way.

If you recall the so-called "Happy Meal Toy Ban" that's being enforced by the city, the law stated that a toy cannot be given to free for kids meals if it doesn't meet strict nutritional requirements.  The fast food establishments decided to say "shove it [up your ass]" to the city government by still giving out the toys, with a small ten cent charge for the toy when a meal is purchased.  Basically, the law was practically useless.

When I wrote the blog entry about the toy ban, I said that charging the toy item as a separate fee is very legal.  If the city said no hash browns could be given for free in your meal, the store just reduces the meal by a dollar, and charges a side hash brown as a separate item for a dollar, therefore the cost difference is the same and the law is useless.

Disclaimer: I'm not a lawyer and will not be held legally responsible if you get you caught by city officials.  You are responsible for your own actions.  Consult with legal council before you take-on any of the "suggestions" I've provided.

Store owners - How to flout SF's 10 cent bag law or flick-off the city government:
  1. If you have the work force, go into the store parking lots and give away free grocery bags as a "random prize" for being a loyal customer.
  2. If you go to fairs, they always have those spin wheels for people to win little prizes like flashlights; that's all perfectly legal, so why not just spin the wheel at a grocery store and every space is a prize of a free shopping bag?
  3. Instead of recycling those boxes you dump out after shipments, why not give customers a free box?  It's not a bag, it's a box!
  4. Give out coupons to your customers or use a store loyalty card: Ten cents off your grocery bill for every visit at the register (just don't mention the word "bag" on the promo). 
  5. Encourage people to recycle their cans: Install a recycling machine, for every two cans, you get a paper bag.
  6. Have a non-employee or a homeless dude stand outside the store and sell bags for a nickel, or install an old newspaper machine and sell them for a nickel.
  7. Make the 10 cent fee a "feel good" proposition: Every bag we sell goes to raising enough money to get the ban the 10 cent law on the ballot.  Or if you want to get cute: Get a bag, we'll donate 10 cents to AIDS research (bring your own bag, and you don't like AIDS research?)
  8. Open a Speakeasy on shopping bags, gotta know the secret knock at the customer service counter and they'll sneak a bag from under the counter.
  9. During the holidays, do "free gift wrapping" but it also comes with a bow that doubles as a handle.
  10. For large items, just get those adhesive stick-on handles.  Makes carrying items easier and there's no 10 cent fee.
  11. Give out a punch card (or use one of those punch-card phone apps): For every ten bags you purchase, you get $1 store credit.

Why SF continues to suck, and why I patronize Daly City.
Daly City, I still love your free bags.

Citizens: How to make the 10 cent bag law a big joke:
  1. Go shop on state or federal property and don't pay the fee (I'm buying my postcards at Hyde Street Pier, National Park Service property).  Just like the fois gras ban was limited to state law, people could go to Native American reservations and federal property for their fix as it's legal.
  2. Go shop outside of city/county lines.  Mayor Ed Lee will wonder why there's a drop in local sales tax money.
  3. Pay the cashier exact change for the products, but charge the 10 cents on your credit card.
  4. Bring a garbage bag to the check-out line.  Don't worry, it's a Hefty!
  5. As per Twitter user WagonMoster: "I have closet full of plastic shopping bags, I'm now going to use those when I shop, just so I can get dirty looks.
  6. Buy dirty videos and magazines, but refuse to pay for the bag.  Carry them around with you while you get stared upon for being a pervert, but explain to people that you refuse to pay the 10 cent bag fee, and maybe get some pity while they give you a newspaper to wrap that stuff up.