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TransLink to become reality?

By queen
Monday, May 11th, 2009 at 4:24 pm in Misc. Transportation.

Bay Area commuters may soon be able to hop on BART in Pleasant Hill, jump aboard a Muni bus at the Embarcadero station, transfer to Caltrain and zoom to work in San Jose, all on the same prepaid card.

Well, maybe. BART announced Friday that the TransLink card passed lab and tests and is “expected” to be available to its riders by this summer. Up until now, only AC Transit, Golden Gate bus, Golden Gate ferry and Muni accepted the card.

This would seem to be great news – the most important component of Bay Area commuting finally becoming part of the TransLink network – but it could be a bit premature to start celebrating.

The project has suffered from delays since it first came under discussion in 1993. Back in early 2007, the revered founder of this blog, Erik Nelson, announced that the long-awaited TransLink card had finally made its debut in the Bay Area, on AC Transit and Golden Gate Transit.

The card was supposed to be available on all the Bay Area’s transit systems by 2001. Oakland resident Garlynn Woodsong gives an engaging account of why it has taken so long on his Underground Science blog.

Still, BART says the card should be available by this summer, which would presumably force them to make it happen by September. Well, readers, are you ready to run out and buy one of those green cards right away? If not, why not? And if you might be willing to share your thoughts with Reporter Janis Mara about the subject, her know either via a comment here or at She is writing a story about TransLink.

Photo: Metropolitan Transportation Commission.


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16 Responses to “TransLink to become reality?”

  1. jenn Says:

    I love my Translink card – I hate having to get a separate BART card. With Translink, if someone swipes my wallet (as has happened), I don’t lose $140 of recently received in the mail BART tickets on my way home – I can just cancel my Translink card and get a new one!

    Now if only they can do something to improve the squalid conditions and slowness of BART…

  2. Queen Says:

    That’s an excellent point, Jenn! Yet another reason the prepaid card is a good idea. Lovelovelove your blog, by the way. Any chance you’d be willing to be interviewed by our reporter Janis Mara for her article on TransLink? If you send along an e-mail address I’ll connect you, or e-mail her at

  3. Chris K. Says:

    I think translink is a waste of time and money! What good does it do? It doesn’t save riders any money! You get a bonus when you sign up, but then that’s it!

  4. Scott Mace Says:

    Distressing true (but so-far unpublicized) facts about Translink on BART:

    1. Translink cards will have a separate “e-wallet” for high-value BART purchases (the kind where you get a discount when you do it with EZ Rider or BART paper tickets). This separate “e-wallet” will contain value that can only be used on BART, not on other systems. Thus, if your BART e-wallet on Translink is chock-full of money, but your non-BART e-wallet on Translink is depleted, guess what, you have to put more money on your Translink card.

    2. Translink cards will not be able to be used to pay for BART parking. You’ll still need cash or a BART EZ-Rider card for that.

  5. Queen Says:

    Scott, I’m glad you shared the information about this weird BART e-wallet segregation. Sounds like something our reporter should look into for her story.

    Also, thanks to those TransLink users who e-mailed to be interviewed for the story.

  6. Chris K. Says:

    Another reason why Translink is flawed!

  7. Queen Says:

    More inconvenience for the BART rider!

  8. Chris K. Says:

    Yep. Here’s a low tech solution: Sell transit tokens valid on all systems in the Bay Area!

  9. Queen Says:

    That’s brilliant! Great idea. The Queen loves low-tech solutions. But it’s not totally low-tech cuz the cards would have to be accepted by BART’s gates, no?

  10. Chris K. Says:

    Just little coin-like things that you put into a slot. That’s what was first used in NYC.

  11. TransLink II: Don’t hold your breath - The Capricious Commuter - Getting around the Bay Area with Denis Cuff and the Queen of the Road Says:

    […] thanks to Scott Mace, who commented about BART’s e-wallet in the Queen’s initial TransLink post. Scott, seems like the dang e-wallet, which you pointed […]

  12. Steven L. Says:

    So would that mean all trips on all systems would be the exact same price? Wouldn’t that be a little silly?

  13. Chris K. Says:

    Not at all. For instance, BART may charge one token, while AC Transit might charge 3 for a ride. However, it would require BART to switch to a flat rate fare structure.

  14. Queen Says:

    Steven L., actually in a new TransLink-type system that just started up in Seattle and King County, the fares on all systems are the same or at least standardized to some extent, I believe.

    TransLink as it currently exists does charge the unique fees of AC Transit, Muni, Golden Gate buses and Golden Gate ferries, though I’m sure you both already know that.

  15. david vartanoff Says:

    the problem with translink, aside from massive expense and gross tardiness, is that it DOES NOT honor the discounts afforded by the various discount coupons from using connecting systems. So my card is in my pocket, but I rarely use it.

  16. Chris K. Says:

    AND Translink lies. They say you get big discounts when you use their card over regular fares.

    You sign up, and what do you get? A small bonus, but no discounts!

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