So you might have thought that BART directors couldn’t shock me anymore. After approving the half billion airport connector blingfrastructure that robs funds from BART operations and capital projects, they couldn’t do anything worse, right?
Today, Matier and Ross wrote the most maddening piece about BART Vice President James Fang’s ridiculous proposal to use cell phones to pay for fares. The price tag for studying this technology? $350,000!
Greg Dewar did an excellent job picking this proposal apart:
It should be noted that yes, you can use cell phones in Europe and Asia to make purchases of all sorts. Cell phones in Europe can be used with vending machines to buy sodas, and Japanese cell phones can show television broadcasts and so on. There’s just one problem – not one US cell carrier currently supports any “pay by cell” techonlogy, nor do any other transit agencies, any vending machine companies and so on. So Mr. Fang is either a liar or a fool when he somehow suggests that magically, within a couple of years, the US will be falling in line with European or Asian standards for cell phones amongst all its cell phone carriers.
So ok, BART is sinking hundreds of thousands of dollars into a pie in the sky project. That doesn’t surprise me in the least. What really irked me was Fang’s statements about Translink:
“I think (the phone technology) is a very good thing for the district,” he told us before heading off to Europe. “And when our project hits, I guess it will show TransLink was a disaster.
“And remember – I told you so.”
WTF? TransLink hasn’t yet been implemented on BART, and Fang is already calling it a failure, even though it’s been incredibly successful on both AC Transit and Muni. Again, Greg Dewar says it best:
The TransLink system, which cost a ton of money and allows for more efficient fare collection with BART, MUNI, AC Transit, and Golden Gate Transit, is FINALLY almost ready to go. MUNI passengers are already finding that using a TransLink pass is easier, and it’s expected to help all beleaguered transit systems with money issues. And yet Mr. Fang insists on spending scarce taxpayer dollars to go on junkets and insist on repeating his campaign gimmicks – on our dime. Worse, he’s actively undermining a significant regional project the public seems to like for no other reason than his own personal political gain.
If you haven’t yet, go get yourself a TransLink card and let’s prove to Director Fang how terribly wrong he is. Oh, and San Franciscans, please start looking for someone to run against him in 2010 – I’d happily volunteer on that campaign.