Riding the bus just got easier (and cheaper)…

25 Sep

Any regular readers here probably know that I have a healthy obsession with public transit. Mostly with AC Transit (particularly rapid buses), but also with BART.

So I was one of the first people to sign up for the test run of the new Translink card, several months ago. The card looks like a credit card and allows riders to add value online, by phone or at the AC Transit office. And if you lose your card, you don’t lose any money. You can cancel your card and transfer the value.

Probably the greatest part is that eventually ALL Bay Area public transit systems will be linked to the card so avid public transit riders will only have to carry around one card (no more missing my BART train because I was trying to fit a crumpled bill into the machine!). BART, Muni, Caltrain, and all the rest are all supposed to sign on sometime in ’08.

An email from AC Transit yesterday alerted me to another perk of the card:

From October 1 through January 31, TransLink cardholders who ride on AC Transit will enjoy introductory discounts. You’ll save 25 cents off a single ride — each time you ride — or $5 off an adult local pass, or $10 off a 31-day transbay pass.

I have to admit that the beginning of the Translink test run was a bit bumpy. The machines often didn’t work. Then, once they started to work more frequently, the 1R was introduced (I can’t believe I used to live without a rapid bus!). But most of the fabulous 1R buses were not equipped with a Translink reader, and it took about a month until they were installed.

What’s so bad about that? Well, it could have worked out just fine if there had been some consistency, but this is a large bureaucracy I’m talking about. Some bus drivers would let me ride for free, even shooing me away if I tried to pay, while others would staunchly tell me I needed to pay – one even told me I could try waiting for the next bus if I didn’t have money to pay. And the friendly staff at the AC Transit office on Franklin told me that if the Translink machines didn’t work, I absolutely should not have to pay and any bus driver that told me otherwise was flat out wrong.

The Translink card finally passed the test faze and was released to the public last week, but the problems have not faded. Today, both of the buses I was on had out of service machines (maybe the whole system was down?). One bus driver made me pay, and the other gave me a strange look when I tried to pay.

Moral of my rambling story – get yourself a Translink card, but make sure you have a 10-ride pass or some cash on hand just in case. I’m sure it will work out eventually, and if nothing else, the discount makes it worth it.

3 Responses to “Riding the bus just got easier (and cheaper)…”

  1. dto510 September 27, 2007 at 3:46 pm #

    Thanks for sharing your experience with the TransLink pass. I’m glad the 1R is so great!

  2. Eric September 28, 2007 at 7:30 am #

    I *cannot wait* until Translink is rolled out so that it is compatible with every Bay Area transit agency. That said, having watched on in frustration while there are more delays and excuses… year, after year, after year… Translink is definitely one of those things that I have filed away under “I’ll believe it when the card is in my hand and I’ve used it a few times.” 🙂

    I’m glad you’re enjoying the 1R service. I’m in SF so I haven’t gotten a chance to try it yet, but that is going to be possibly my very first priority next time I’m in Oakland.

  3. vsmoothe September 28, 2007 at 11:16 am #

    I’ve had a lot of problems using my TransLink card as well. I hope they smooth out the kinks. It will be a wonderful asset once it’s working.

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