– SF adopts one-fare system, pay electronically

A publication of the Journalism Department, San Francisco State University
San Francisco
United States

by Shayla Durrett, staff writer

Bay Area residents will no longer have to search for change or transfers to board public transportation after TransLink is implemented in 2010.

TransLink is a new system that aims to make mass transit easier for the public by bringing all transit systems together under a one-fare system. It will allow transit riders to use one card for all public transportation in nine Bay Area counties.

“TransLink is intended to create a seamless transition from one mass transit system to another, so one can ride BART, then switch to MUNI without having to worry about searching for the correct change to board a bus,” said Luna Salaver, public information officer for BART.

The existing fast passes and transfers will become obsolete in fall 2010 as TransLink is integrated. Riders will be able to load fare money on their card.

Currently, there is a feature that allows Muni riders to include the $55 fast pass on their TransLink card. Fast pass users must still tag their card to the card reader, but money won’t be deducted. The TransLink fast pass recently started including San Francisco BART rides like the classic, paper version.

TransLink machines have been installed so that riders touch their card to the card reader. The correct fare is automatically deducted each time it’s scanned. Riders have a 90-minute transfer period if they need to change transportation.

The current fare payment system is dated and confusing to riders, said Randy Rentschler, spokesman for the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.

“Unfortunately, in the Bay Area we have multiple transit operators instead of one integrated system,” Rentschler said. “People don’t know how much a fare will be or how to pay. With TransLink riders will just know they can ride any transportation.”

Transit police will be equipped with card readers that can check the TransLink card and make sure the fare has been paid.

Trial use of TransLink started in 2002. Currently, there are about 11,000 trial participants using TransLink with a daily ridership of about 7,000, according to Kristen Holland, spokeswoman for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency.

“The polling data shows that 90 percent or more riders are satisfied with the use of TransLink,” Rentschler said.

TransLink is expected to speed up service and decrease waiting time for users.

“It seems more efficient to use one card for all transportation,” said SF State junior Katherine Lee. “Sometimes monthly Muni passes can be easily damaged.”

SFMTA will be installing 98 new TransLink-only fare gates and up to 40 vending machines in nine Muni stations using $11 million in federal stimulus funds.

“This project is a great example of the use of federal stimulus dollars to create jobs and to bring state-of-the-art technology to San Francisco,” Mayor Gavin Newsom wrote in a press release. “We need to reinvest in the infrastructure of the Muni system to fulfill the promise of our Transit First city.”

Installing and implementing TransLink has been a long process due to the diversity of public transportation systems, each of which uses a different form of payment and transfers.

“Switching to one universal medium is taking somewhat longer for us here in the Bay Area than other metropolitan areas, as this region has over two dozen systems that use various fare mediums,” Salaver said. “It’s a complicated endeavor.”

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