Clipper Card Transition for Bay Area Transit is Now Official

Haggerty_small.jpgMTC Commission Chair Scott Haggerty announcing the launch of the Clipper Card. Photos: Matthew Roth.
The Metropolitan Transportation Commission, which sets the Bay Area's regional transportation and land use policies, officially announced the transition from the Translink card to the newly branded Clipper smart card for transit trips today. The new blue card with eight white triangles replaces the older design but functions the same, providing a convenient method to pay for transit trips on most Bay Area transit systems.

According to the MTC, the new branding was meant to evoke a more playful, less technocratic image, and the name Clipper was chosen as a throw-back to the clipper ships of yore. The press event was held beside the square-rigged Balclutha ship on Pier 45, not a true clipper, but a stately ship nonetheless.

MTC Commission Chair Scott Haggerty acknowledged the lengthy delay for rolling out the cards, more than 8 years in his estimation, but hailed them as a convenience that would encourage higher transit ridership.

"One of the things I've talked about as being a deterrent to riding transit is transit has to be convenient. I think now this little card clearly will make it convenient for taking transit," said Haggerty. "No longer will you have to shuffle through your pants trying to figure out if you have a BART card, AC Transit, Golden Gate Transit."

The public is growing more accustomed to using the smart cards for payment just as the new branding rolls out. Haggerty said there are currently 63,000 daily boardings using the Translink/Clipper cards across the Bay Area, up from 25,000 daily boardings one year ago. More than 100,000 people possess the smart cards, with many more expected as the publicity around them intensifies, and as more operators adopt them. SamTrans and the Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) are the two largest agencies yet to come online.

Celia Kupersmith, General Manager of the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District, said 65 percent of her ferry passengers and 30 percent of bus passengers already use Translink/Clipper. She and other speakers credited the MTC for enduring the long process to bring the smart card technology forward.

"[The MTC] had the tenacity, in spite of lots and lots of problems along the way, to stick with it. You stuck to the vision and you kept it going," she said.

Nat_and_bus.jpgSFMTA CEO Nat Ford in front of a special Clipper Muni bus.
Adrienne Tissier, the MTC's Vice Chair and a SamTrans board member, said SamTrans was installing the technology to read the cards in all its buses, though they won't be fully ready to accept them until the fall. Caltrain, which shares its executive director with SamTrans, already accepts the cards and sees 1,400 daily boardings, according to Tissier. Genentech also recently introduced it to over 2,000 employees.

Tissier struck a hopeful tone about the use of Clipper Cards, remarking of passengers, "Once they use it, they'll never lose it because they'll love how easy and efficient it is."

Of her agency, she said, "SamTrans is looking forward to being part of the Clipper Club."

BART Deputy General Manager Marcia deVaughn said 12,000 trips are taken each weekday on BART using smart cards and in a recent passenger survey 93 percent of users said they would recommend it to a friend. DeVaughn said BART was nearing completion on ticket vending machines that would dispense Clipper Cards and the agency was working with smart card vendor Cubic Transportation Systems on a Clipper parking option at BART parking lots.

Nat Ford, CEO of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA), said more than 20,000 passengers use Clipper daily on weekdays, and more would use it soon. Ford said his agency was installing 100 fare gates in the subway system that would read Clipper Cards, and more and more buses and light rail vehicles are being outfitted to accept them.

"This smart but simple card will make transit more attractive to all of our riders here in the Bay Area," said Ford. "There will be less standing in lines and we'll have a state-of-the-art fare collection system."

Clipper Cards can be obtained through,, numerous transit kiosks and ticket vending machines and through Walgreens and other participating stores.

"It's getting easier and easier to ride transit while I speak," said MTC's Haggery. "Just like back in the Gold Rush, Clipper is the fastest way to get around."

MTC_commishes.jpgMTC Commissioners Amy Worth and Sue Lempert show off the new card.