Tag Archives: Translink

BART Translink FAIL

14 Aug

I left work a bit early today to go to the airport. I admit that I was cutting it a bit close, but I thought I could make it to BART. And I should have, but the Translink readers at the 14th Street entrance to 12th Street were all not working.

I didn’t have a paper ticket and couldn’t buy one on time so I asked an agent if any of the readers were working. Nonchalantly, he told me I’d need to go to the other end of the station.

Look, I understand they’re still in test mode, but it seems that at all the central Oakland stations, readers only work at one entrance.

Oh well, I guess this won’t matter for a little while starting Monday, but unless BART wants Translink to fail, they need to fix this problem.

Oakland Updates: Translink, Sweeeeet Oakland, Bike Access, National Night Out, Council Catch Up & Scraper Bikes

7 Aug

Just a reminder that tonight is the East Bay Express Best of the East Bay Party at the Oakland Museum of California from 5pm-midnight. You really should stop by for at least a little while. It’s free, should be a lot of fun, and will probably be the last time you see the museum before it closes for renovations on August 23rd. And now onto the updates.

Using Translink on BART: On Tuesday, I wrote about BART finally implementing Translink, and on Wednesday evening, I got to try it out myself (yay!). But I must admit that I was a bit confused about where to swipe my card. I was looking for something labeled “EZ Rider” since I knew Translink would use the same reader, but there was nothing like that. I did figure it out, but others I know just gave up. Luckily, the Translink Facebook page posted a photo of where and how to swipe the card:

Translink on BART

New blog joins the blogoaksphere: Sweeeeet Oakland launched late last month and “will be focused around political, food, and event happenings as well as generally cool things to check out in and around Oakland California.” Graham Patterson, the author, moved here just 6 months ago so it should be interesting to follow his explorations of his newish home.

Don’t try biking to the Lake Merritt Boathouse: You might have heard that there was a ribbon cutting ceremony yesterday at the Lake Merritt Boathouse. If you drive, there’s plenty of parking for you there. But if you bike, according to dto510, there’s absolutely no bike parking. Hopefully that will get fixed, especially since, as WOBO reports, new bike lanes were completed this week on Lakeside Drive.

Video from National Night Out: There was lots of talk about National Night Out leading up to Tuesday night, but I haven’t heard too much about how it went. Myrtle Street Review videotaped their block party in West Oakland. Looks like it was a fun night:

Catching up on old Council Meetings: Miss the Council during their recess? Well, there’s no need to since you can catch up on past meetings via videos online. Maybe the pro-parking protests could go back and watch all the meetings they missed out on in which the parking changes were discussed in great detail. Another way to catch up is via Oakland North’s “live” (well, it was live) coverage of the budget council meeting on July 28th. The coverage is good, but my favorite part is the caption of their picture of Sanjiv Handa: “Sanjiv Handa addressing council members. As usual.”

Scraper bike photos: Also from Oakland North is a great set of photos from the “Healin’ from Killin’” bike ride for peace. Here’s a sample, but head over to Oakland North for the rest.

Scraper Bikes 1

Scraper Bikes 2

After years of delay, BART finally allowing riders to use Translink

4 Aug

More than two years after AC Transit implemented and more than 6 months after Muni came on board, BART finally started allowing its riders to use Translink yesterday. Of course, it’s BART, so they’re calling this a “limited rollout” for BART EZ Rider users, but if you already have a Translink card, you can use it immediately! (The only thing that really makes this rollout limited is how they’re advertising it and that you should be prepared to buy a regular BART card if their Translink readers aren’t working.)

I could not be much more excited about this (well, maybe I’d be more excited if this happened a year ago), and it comes at perfect timing since I just used the last few dollars on my BART card. This means no more missing trains because I’m fumbling to find dollars (which happened to me this past weekend). This means it will be easier for everyone to switch between AC Transit, BART, and Muni. Yes, you will now be able to carry around just one transit card for these agencies. And my guess is that now that BART finally joined the program, transit agencies around the Bay will be quick to jump on board.

Like I said, the BART press release is promoting this rollout as limited. They mention that current Translink users can use the cards on BART and that anyone can purchase a Translink card. You can do so online, at the AC Transit offices downtown, at any Walgreens, and at many other stores throughout the Bay Area.

If you don’t have one yet, go get one now. Better yet, get one for yourself and a friend or two (I’ve given a couple loaded cards to friends as birthday presents). Let’s prove James Fang, the BART director who’s obsessed with being able to use cell phones as fare payment, wrong in the statements he made just a few months ago:

“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.”

The only disaster about Translink is that it took BART two years to join AC Transit in this successful program. But now the wait is over. So go ahead and enjoy transit, free from multiple transit cards and fumbling for change.

Previous posts on Translink:

BART Director James Fang again chooses bling over cheaper & more sensible technology

18 May

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.

Translink finally implemented on Muni & BART

25 Mar

Nearly a year ago, I wrote about the delay of implementing Translink on BART, Muni, and Caltrain:

Back in October, I noticed a Translink reader on a Muni bus so I naively thought it wouldn’t be long before I could forget about the change and get rid of my BART card. But, I guess I shouldn’t have been so optimistic. The Chronicle reported today that the estimated implementation date of Translink on Muni and Caltrain has been moved back to July 15 and BART won’t come on board until September 25.

Yes, Muni and Caltrian were supposed to be on Board in July of 2008, and BART was supposed to join the system in September. Obviously, it’s taken a bit longer than that.

But I’m happy to report that Muni’s Translink testing is well under way, and they should be offering Translink to all Muni riders very soon. And as the Chronicle reported earlier this week, BART finally plans to offer Translink in June.

If you haven’t used Translink yet, I highly recommend getting  a card – you can get one online, at the AC Transit office, or at any Walgreens. It makes life so much easier, whether you’re a sporadic bus rider or a frequent bus rider. Also, as I mentioned in my posts on the 51 line, your usage of Translink will make everyone’s ride faster.

And now that Muni and BART will be on board, Translink will finally be the regional transit card it was always meant to be. No more fumbling with change on the bus. No more searching for your crumpled up BART card, only to find it’s been demagnatized.

Unfortunately, I can’t leave this post on a happy note. I’m not sure what took so long for Muni to implement, but BART really has no excuse. As AC Transit was testing Translink two years ago, BART decided to implement its own card with the same technology, the EZ Rider card. They went ahead and installed the card readers at BART stations that could have read Translink cards, but instead read their own cards that could not be used on other transit systems.

This is really just another example of BART being difficult and not cooperating with other transit agencies. There’s so much more to the story of BART being a bad transit neighbor, and dto510 covered this in depth last week:

BART’s per-rider public subsidy (at an average of $6.14) is more than twice that of AC Transit ($2.78), neatly intersecting (PDF) with the fact that its ridership is twice as white as AC Transit’s (43% to 21%). Its subsidized parking lots in the suburbs encourage driving and transfer additional funds to the suburbs at the expense of the inner cities. Most galling, fares from the outer suburbs don’t come close to covering the operating costs of those train lines, while intra-city fares in Oakland are actually more than the operating cost of a trip from, say, Fruitvale to the DTO. This means that every trip within Oakland is subsidizing a trip from the outer suburbs. Both the structure and the operation of BART is subsidizing suburbanites at the expense of the central cities, and its low-cost parking has been shown to encourage more driving.

Now go read the full post, and BART’s hesitance to participate in Translink might make more sense.

Public Hearing Tomorrow: AC Transit to Raise Fares

20 May

I recognize that it’s likely a done deal that AC Transit will raise bus fares, but I still think it makes sense to attend the public hearing tomorrow to let the directors know how this will hurt bus riders.

I’ve unfortunately not had time to look at the proposals until today so I’ve only briefly reviewed them. Turns out that there are four similar but slightly different proposals that staff have submitted to the AC Transit Board of Directors. All four raise one-time bus fares to $2.00, but they differ in how they effect youth passes and transfers. If you’re a bus rider, I recommend checking out the table on AC Transit’s site that lays out pretty clearly the different proposals.

Surprisingly to me, proposals three and four actually include some price reductions for transfers. Under proposal three, transfers would be free for 1.5 hours for one use! Under proposal four, cash transfers would cost $0.25 but transfers with Translink would be free for 2 hours for UNLIMITED uses! Though I only use transfers once or twice a week, I know that many bus riders (especially those without cars) depend on transfers and many gripe about having to pay full fare for a second transfer. So the fourth proposal would be especially helpful to those riders. Also, I think if transfers were free, I and many others would consider the bus more often as a means of transit for errands, instead of borrowing a car.

I’ll be attending the hearing tomorrow to speak out against any fare increase but also to speak in support to the transfer fare reductions if regular fare increases must be instituted.

Join me:

Wednesday, May 21st @ 4:00 pm (until at least 7:00 pm)
Oakland City Council Chambers, 1 Frank H. Ogawa Plaza
(Right off the 12th Street BART stop and accessible by many major bus lines.)

I’ll provide some more analysis on the various proposals later in the week (including how this fits into broader transit issues) and a recap of the hearing, but until then, if you’re really interested, check out the AC Transit staff memo (PDF) on the fare increase proposals.

Translink Implementation Delayed for BART, Muni, Caltrain

18 Apr

While I’ve been enjoying using my Translink card on AC Transit for nearly a year now – and especially since it’s started saving me money – I was really looking forward to using it on BART and Muni. It’s frustrating to have to carry around a Translink card, a BART card, and change for Muni. Sometimes, I just end up walking in San Francisco because I don’t have the right change for Muni.

Back in October, I noticed a Translink reader on a Muni bus so I naively thought it wouldn’t be long before I could forget about the change and get rid of my BART card. But, I guess I shouldn’t have been so optimistic. The Chronicle reported today that the estimated implementation date of Translink on Muni and Caltrain has been moved back to July 15 and BART won’t come on board until September 25. And it gets worse:

But because of continued problems with software developed by an outside contractor, even those dates might get pushed back, MTC officials warned.

“The finish line keeps getting pushed back. We’re not happy,” said MTC executive director Steve Heminger.

I’m not happy either. Oh well, at least I can still enjoy using Translink in the East Bay.

Riding the bus just got even cheaper…

1 Apr

Back in September, I wrote about the Translink card, which is essentially a debit card that can be used on AC Transit buses and soon will work on BART, Muni, and every other Bay Area transit agency.

At the time, they were offering a limited time discount of 25 cents per ride to entice bus riders to get the card. That discounted ended in January, but I guess they’re looking to entice more riders to make the switch so they’re offering an even bigger discount. Translink riders will save 50 cents per local ride or $10 for a 31 day pass!

Fifty cents might not sound like a lot, but it adds up if you ride the bus daily. And with gas prices continuing to rise, it makes riding the bus a whole lot cheaper than driving. It also brings back a bit of nostalgia for me, since when I moved to the East Bay in 2000, bus rides cost $1.25.

If you don’t have one yet, go grab a Translink card from their website or from one of their many outlets throughout the County.

Rear Boarding on AC Transit Buses?!?!

11 Mar

As I got off the 1R today on my way to work, I noticed that Translink card readers had been installed on all of the rear doors of the bus! The rear readers weren’t in service yet, and I can’t find information about this change anywhere on AC Transit’s or Translink’s sites, but I can’t imagine they’re just there for show.

Translink’s already made my life easier (and my life will be even easier when BART and Muni start excepting the cards), but this would be a huge improvement. One of the major hurdles in keeping rapid buses running on time is slow boarding. Of course, we’ll need BRT to eliminate the other major consistency hurdle – traffic – but this is a great step in the right direction.

So I’m hoping that the Translink readers I saw were not just a fluke, and I’m going to keep my eyes peeled to see if I can spot more of them. Has anyone else heard about this or seen the rear door machines?

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.