The new TransLink cards are here!
Much like Steve Martin’s refrain from “The Jerk,” this event is somewhat anticlimactic.
To quote Tommy, who announced this in a comment on my last TransLink entry,
Woohoo! My wife is a Cal student so it’s basically useless for her as she gets free AC Transit rides anyway. I probably won’t load mine up until BART, Muni, and Caltrain come online so I can do the Albany to Mountain View commute without having to fiddle with three different fare systems.
What? BART isn’t part of a universal fare system? Muni isn’t? I can forgive the omission of Caltrain, but it’s an unfortunate fact of TransLink that it doesn’t include the spine of the entire Bay Area’s public transit system.
No, this “pre-launch,” as it’s called, is only for AC Transit and Golden Gate Transit, so maybe, Tommy, it’ll be perfect for the Albany-to-Petaluma commute. In fact, I’d like to hear from Marin-to-Alameda County commuters. I know one, but I don’t think he has time to take the bus from San Anselmo to the Transbay Terminal and switch to an outbound AC Transit Bus.
Still, my mind is open, so lay it on me, Marin commuters. What does TransLink mean to you?
So why is BART, with electronic smart-card readers on its faregates, not part of this show?
The answer, from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission’s John Goodwin, is, “BART is a part of this.”
“Somebody had to go first, so AC and Golden Gate are going first.”
So I returned to my original question: Why isn’t BART a part of this?
Well, there’s the issue with BART faregates, which are built by a company that was competing with Motorola for the Translink contract with the MTC. Right now, they’re adjusting them to work with TransLink.
“The biggest bump along the road is not the BART faregates but the fact that there are two dozen different transit agencies and the software has to be written to accommodate all of those fare structures,” Goodwin explained.
The second bump is doing something that other universal fare systems, like the much-touted one in Hong Kong, don’t have. That’s allowing the TransLink card to absorb different agencies’ monthly and other multiple-ride passes, Goodwin said.
When will BART and Muni be joining? No one knows for sure at this point. But they, along with Caltrain, are next in line.
The reason AC Transit was in the first group is fairly easy: It serves a lot of people. Golden Gate was also a good fit, if not with AC Transit, but with TransLink. When TransLink had its first trial run in 2002, GG got a lot of riders to use the cards for its ferries in particular.
And by the way, Muni Metro trains also have left-over TransLink capability and so they will help provide some synergy for the couple thousand users who will get their cards this week.
As long as you don’t mind them sucking money out of your bank account and reporting your movements to the CIA (just kidding — or am I?), you’re good to go.
*Thanks to Tommy for the headline. I really loved his parting remark, but I don’t want to do a Joe Biden.