Today’s Headlines

  • Final Masonic Avenue Redesign Study Released by Planning Department (BIKE NOPA)
  • Peninsula Officials Push for Higher Tolls on Dumbarton, San Mateo Bridges (Mercury News)
  • Transportation Officials, Electeds, Riders Meet for “Save Our Caltrain” Summit (Patch)
  • SF Examiner: “Muni Assigns Little Blame to Its Drivers in Collisions”
  • Central Subway Construction Activity to Begin on Stockton Today (Central Subway Blog)
  • Planning Commissioner Sugaya Apologizes for Tenderloin Comment (City Insider)
  • New Study Shows How Suburbs Can Pollute More than Cities (Infrastructurist)
  • LA Times: “Jerry Brown Facing Tricky Environmental and Energy Issues”
  • Streetscape Changes Coming to Railroad Square, Downtown Santa Rosa (Press Democrat)
  • Nick Kristof Seems to Think America’s Traffic Death Epidemic Has Been Cured (NYT via Sblog NY)

More headlines at Streetsblog Capitol Hill

  • thielges

    Not in the news but important to Caltrain riders : Tomorrow February 1 a ticketing change starts that is a de facto unannounced fare increase. Paper 8-ride tickets will be discontinued and all 8-ride users must switch to Clipper. Though this change sounds innocuous, it increases the for cost 8-ride users while also becoming harder to use. 8-riders might want to stock up on a paper ticket or two to forestall the pain and expense.

    The fare increase comes in the form of discontinuing the zone upgrade for 8-ride. With paper tickets 8-ride holders occasionally traveling outside of their zones had the option to purchase a zone upgrade. With the current Clipper implementation impossible to combine 8-ride + zone upgrade. The alternative is to buy single ride tickets at higher cost. That’s a stealth fare increase.

    Then there’s a new problem that 8-riders will encounter. If you forget to tag off you’re charged the maximum fare. Though it is not that hard to remember to tag off but we’re human and make mistakes. Eventually you will buy that ticket to Gilroy. So figure out your “space factor” and add a few tickets to Gilroy to your annual commute costs. Clipper no longer takes mercy on the absent minded and won’t refund for honest mistakes. Unlike BART, it is pretty easy to exit a Caltrain station without passing a Clipper kiosk to tag off. Single ride holders are exposed to the same problem but at least they have the option of a paper ticket which ensures that overpaying for a ride is impossible.

    But higher cost isn’t all that will be bestowed on 8-riders. You’ll also need to jump through more hoops to obtain a valid ticket. Paper 8-rides could be bought from the vending machine at the station, a process that took less than a minute. What could be easier ? Certainly not Clipper. If you can use the internet to load 8-passes on your card then it isn’t too bad though you’ll face almost week long delays between visiting the website and when your card becomes usable, so plan far in advance. Those who can’t use the internet to load value will find that they need to schedule a lot of time seeking out a retail vendor with the competence and functioning equipment to load Clipper cards. This is especially bad in the south bay where Clipper retailers are sparse and nowhere near the Caltrain stations. Just getting to a Walgreens takes time and then once you’re there you may or may not succeed in loading Clipper. If you fail then it’s another 5+ mile journey to another Walgreens to try again. Cross your fingers.

    There are other deficiencies of Clipper vs. paper tickets. This transition wasn’t fully thought through.

    The irony is that this change impacts Caltrain users who are required to use Clipper the most. Monthly pass holders need only tag once a month. Single ride and day pass riders have the option of the paper ticket. Caltrain has offered no reason for burdening their 8-ride users so significantly. There’s no reason why Clipper cannot support 8-ride + zone upgrade as well as fix the other issues. The current Clipper implementation is deeply flawed. Until Clipper can be fixed, restoring paper 8-ride ticket sales can remove the problems. That could be done simply by reverting to the former version of the software in the ticket machines.

    For more info on this insane unnecessary change, check out Akit’s excellent summary :

  • clipper on caltrain

    Side note: Monthly passes using Clipper also do not allow for zone upgrades, I am regularly charged the full single ride ticket price. Ex:

    I have a zones 1 – 2 monthly pass, I sometimes have to venture into zone 3. I am always charged $4.50, the price of a 2 zone one-way pass, not $2 for a zone upgrade.

    But really the biggest crime is the lack (and poor placement) of Clipper readers at the stations. Regularly they are shoved into a corner or behind an obstruction of some kind. Just another example of those making decisions not actually being users of the transit they are supposedly serving.

  • thielges

    clipper on caltrain – I was not aware of that limitation. I thought that aside from the first day that monthly pass holders don’t need to tag on and off. So you could just buy a paper zone upgrade and present that and your clipper card to the conductor. If you don’t tag on then there’s no chance you can be overcharged.

  • Morton


    It’s been a while since I took CalTrain but, the last time I did, I thought it was a relative bargain – 6 bucks or so to get from SF to SJ.

    With all CalTrain’s financial problems, could the problem be that it’s just too cheap? After all, BART from downtown SF to SFO airport is over 8 bucks now, and it’s only one third of the distance to SJ.

  • JD

    Yes, the Clipper card is a bit of a disaster so far in terms of improving the customer experience, especially with Caltrain. Long-term, it’s a good idea, but they are doing a poor job of rolling it out.

    I agree that one of the main problems is that if you forget to tag off you are charged the outrageous full fare ($12.50 one way). That is BS because Caltrain is not a controlled-access system like, for example, Bart, where you have to go through turnstiles to get in and out of the platform and therefore it is impossible to forget to tag on/off. But with Caltrain, it’s very easy to forget, especially with the poor placement of the Clipper machines.

    Further, monthly pass holders are especially vulnerable to this ridiculous overcharge because they only have to tag on/off 1 out of 30 times (the first day of the month) and so are not used to it. That means it is *really* easy to forget on the first day. I don’t even understand why monthly ticket holders need to even tag on/off the first day at all. When I buy a monthly for, say, zones 1 and 3, it should automatically activate for those zones at midnight of the first day of the month and de-activate at midnight of the last day of the month. Having to tag on/off to supposedly “tell” it where I am going it completely redundant since I already told it when I bought the monthly pass and had it loaded!

    And yes, it is a complete scam that you can’t do zone upgrades with the Clipper card. They need to fix that, and I would love to see journalists raise this issue (and the other Clipper card problems).

    What they really need are:

    1) Clipper card readers ON the train.
    2) An easy way to figure out you’re balance. Right now, the machines only tag you on/off … there needs to be a way just to check your balance without tagging on/off.

  • clipper on caltrain

    Don’t engage Morton (on any thread would be advisable), he only is looking to derail any and all serious discussion.

    theigles, while I agree that your plan is correct, the question is WHY should I have to do that? Shouldn’t Clipper calculate the best deal for the traveler? Isn’t the point of Clipper to streamline the transit process? Or is the purpose to maximize profits and increase dis-functionality? I’d say the latter is happening much more than the former, especially on Caltrain.

    JD is onto something with the Monthly ticket as well. I have forgotten several times, and only by the good will of the conductors and months building rapport with them that I avoided a ticket. It’d be like taking a paper monthly and forcing the holder to put it into an 8-ride stamp machine the first of every month. That just don’t make sense, the ticket says the zones on it.

  • thielges

    Morton – Caltrain’s financial problems are a separate issue and not a good excuse to arbitrarily raise fares for one segment of customers. Actually this bungled rollout might discourage riders and contribute to the financial problems.

    JD – I agree with your observations. I think that the “once a month” tag requirement is driven because the Clipper hardware needs some way to load the monthly pass record onto the Clipper card. My understanding is that chip in the card actually stores e-cash, 8-ride tickets, and monthly passes. So you need to make a digital link between your card and the rest of the system to update the data on the card. That’s different from credit and ATM cards which always need to validate transactions with the central bank database where the real financial info is stored.

  • thielges

    clipper on caltrain – oops, too late on that Morton exchange.

    I agree with your suggestion that Clipper ought to be able to calculate the best fare and have thought through this zone upgrade issue as well. You should be able to load the electronic equivalent of zone upgrades to clipper and then at tag-off time it should be pretty straightforward to compare the different ways that the ride could be covered and select the least expensive combination. Even better would be if Clipper could automatically buy zone upgrades from your e-cash pool when appropriate.

    I doubt that Caltrain or Clipper is intentionally trying to stick their riders with extra costs. More likely the transition just wasn’t completely thought through (though I’ve raised these issues with both Caltrain already). I doubt that anyone involved in the changes uses 8-rides and would have first-hand experience with what problems have been created.

  • clipper on caltrain

    thiegles, I believe you are correct, but ignorance as to the intimate details of the system you are charged with running is no excuse (not saying that was what you were getting at).

    I also agree that the clipper card needs to download the information to the card itself for the monthly passes, but then that should be achieved through a “tag on” only. Or maybe the hand held reader could transmit that information, but I have a feeling it isn’t connected (via wifi or 3G or something) to any sort of system, it acts independently and only reads the information stored on the card.

    A bit left field, but any time the clipper is used it should be updated with the most recent account info, so – I buy the next month’s monthly Caltrain pass on the 20th, then on the 25th I use BART or Muni and tag my clipper card, now that monthly Caltrain pass is loaded onto my card and I no longer have to worry about tagging on/off the first day of the next month. Considering they can’t figure out zone up grades and 8-rides, that might be asking way too much.

    There just seems to be a million ways to do it better than they are currently running the system. Like I said before, it appears the chefs have never tried the food they are serving.

  • Morton


    I agree. But I think this anomaly is further evidence that their pricing structure and practices might be part of the problem.


    If you can’t refute me, then cheap personla attacks aren’t likely to make your case any better. Please refrain. Thanks, I appreicate it.

  • More subtle issues with 8 rides here…

    8 ride/Monthly Pass transition issue

    Bart – you are looking at this problem backwards. Instead of trying to optimize how the electronic fare collection system can best match the paper implementation, Caltrain should be exploiting the electronic system for a brand new fare system.

    Why are there “8 rides”? There used to be “10 rides”. They switched to 8 because it made the punching of tickets on the validators easier. Really the number is arbitrary, but you need to pick a number to sell on one piece of paper. With no piece of paper, why bother? Instead you can just charge a cash fare, and give volume discounts as a month progresses, going to “free” in the limit when you’ve hit the amount for a “pass”.

    Why are there “Zones”? Zones worked well for a paper based system – going back to when conductors and ticket salesmen punched paper tickets and had to manually sell them – on board the train! There are ~30 stations, having unique fares for each combination would be intractable. But note that on BART that’s exactly how it works – because they have computers calculating fares! Clipper, combined with ticket machines for single ride tickets enable exact distance based fares.

    I can ride from SF To Redwood City for $4.50. 30 miles. Or I can ride from San Bruno to Millbrae – TWO MILES – for the same $4.50. Hazard a guess as to how many people take the train rfom San Bruno to Millbrae?

  • good luck on the 30/45/8x

    I think this is the blog post you meant to link to.

    Hey, riders of the 30/45/8x from North Beach/Chinatown south to Market – GOOD LUCK! All hell is about to break lose in Union Square and your commute just got about 5-10 min longer thanks to the mighty Central Subway and Rose Pak. Oh, you haven’t heard about this? Too bad, progress is here to save you (well, not you the transit rider, but you the car driver who likes to use the Stockton tunnel).

  • thielges

    John – I’ve seen your proposal for embracing electronic ticketing before and I agree with you. It would be great and I think even better would be to really integrate different modes of travel, bringing in multiple transfers to the zone based system. This is what other transit authorities have done with the technology behind Clipper.

    Consider a commute from San Jose to an office on Middlefield Rd. in Menlo Park. Caltrain would provide the core backbone of this ride but you need to get to and from the Caltrain stations. It costs $2-4 for the VTA ticket(s) to get to the Caltrain station, $4.50 for SJ-MP, and another $2 for Samtrans to reach the office. So that’s $4.50 for a quick 20 mile trip on Caltrain plus almost the same for the “last mile” connections on the bus. All this with the associated hassles of buying three tickets for three systems. Instead this should be a simple zone based Clipper fare. It would attract more riders to fill the empty seats on VTA and Samtrans buses. I suspect that many riders taking a similar journey drive to Caltrain instead because the bus is a hassle and relatively costly. (and for similar reasons, this is why the bikes-on-board program is immensely popular)

    I hope a truly integrated zone based system is where Clipper ultimately takes us though that’s a long way off. The technology to implement this zone based system is mostly already here and installed. The hard part will be to get the different transit orgs to cooperate.

    Until then we should stick with the old school paper ticket system rather than taking half baked steps towards Clipper that reduce service and raise costs.

  • If they “moved fast” – they could simply deprecate the San Bruno station rather than rebuilding it. Board the BART at San Bruno with your clipper card, timed transfer at Millbrae onto a Caltrain and on to the Peninsula, saving the millions being spent to erect a temporary station and then an elevated station at San Bruno, to service 370 riders per day, whom live within 1 mile of a BART station and 2 miles of another Caltrain station (speaking of which, Southbound Caltrain passengers from San Bruno are notorious for driving to Millbrae not only for the bullet trains, but also to cross the zone and save $2).

  • Alex

    JD: You tag on/off the readers on GGT buses. I believe GPS is used to determine how much to charge based on where you tag off. Controlled access or no, I don’t see why it’s so difficult to tag off.

  • @Alex – yet many riders are forgetting. Guess you’re just smarter than those silly caltrain riders.

  • clipper on caltrain

    Alex, getting off a bus is still controlled access, only two doors and both probably have clipper readers.

    Have you been on Caltrain and tried to find a Clipper reader when you get off? It’s hard when you remember, it is nearly impossible if you forget. It’s not like you’ll run into one after you get off the train. Give it a go this weekend, before they take away weekend service. Pick a station at random try to locate the Clipper readers. Then think to yourself how difficult it would be when you are on your way to work, a million things on your mind, and your regular route off the train and onto your destination isn’t anywhere close to the readers.

  • At the Millbrae BART station, on the Northbound platform, the majority of riders exiting Caltrain will be transfering to BART. In order to do so, you need to walk to the Clipper readers, which are 30 yards away from the BART fare gates, and tag off, before then walking to the BART fare gates to enter BART. Aside from the fact that a tag on of BART at Millbrae should automatically tag you off Caltrain, they should add readers near the gates (and the stairs – people leaving the station have the same problem). Personally, I have a bike and the bike cars are aligned to the BART gates, so I have to run down the platform with bike, counter-flow to people going to the gates, to tag off and then run back.

    I emailed Caltrain. Here was their response.

    Dear Mr. Murphy,

    Thank you for your comments concerning the placement of the Clipper Card readers on the northbound platform at the Millbrae station. As you may already know, this station is a BART facility and due to wiring issues, etc. Clipper was not able to put a reader closer to the entrance to the BART platform.

    We regret the inconvenience this causes. Caltrain patrons may want to board a Caltrain car that will stop in front of the card readers, which will eliminate the need to walk back an forth to tag off.


    Astrid Lindell
    Customer Service Representative 2

  • 0101

    Dear Mr. Murphy,

    Tough shit, deal with it.


    Astrid Lindell
    Customer Service Representative 2

  • 0101

    or at least that’s what I took from it

  • Morton


    I’m wondering how many whiney letters “Astrid” has to deal with every day. And whether she is paid in a manner that would encourage her to care.

    30 yards is about 100 feet. The average ambulant male can cover that distance in about 30 seconds. (4mph = 20,000 feet per hour, or 166 feet per minute or 3 feet per second).

    So Mr. Murphy gets delayed by a maximum of one minute, round trip. How long does he wait for a train, on average?

  • thielges

    Well when you look at it as a one person making a single daily detour, one minute seems trivial. But multiply that by the number of daily riders transferring between BART and Caltrain daily. Then multiply by the number of days this configuration will be in place. That’s a lot of minutes, hours, days, weeks. If the Clipper terminal can be moved to a better place with less effort then it is worth doing rather than inconveniencing thousands of transfers.

    From the customer service rep’s reply you can tell that the core issue is that BART engineers and Caltrain engineers don’t truly cooperate on issues as basic as station wiring. Why not just create a solar powered wireless Clipper terminal : problem solved, bureaucracy evaded.

  • JD

    Alex: as I mentioned, you can’t compare Caltrain to a controlled-access system like Muni or Bart. You literally can’t get off or on those systems without walking by a reader (and on Bart, or subways in most cities, you *must* use the reader to get in and out of the system).

    Caltrain is entirely different because you can easily enter and exit the train without seeing a reader. Further, the real problem with Clipper on Caltrain isn’t the single ride since, if you are a single-time rider, you’ll usually remember to tag on/off because you have to do it every time you ride.

    The problem is with monthly users who only have to tag on/off the *first* ride of the month. If I have a monthly pass and ride the train 20 days a month, which is 40 one-way rides, that means I don’t swipe 39 of 40 times. Not only do I not swipe, I don’t even think about it since I don’t have to. Don’t you see how easy it is to forget? And as someone else pointed out, maybe you can remember sometimes, but as I witnessed yesterday (the first day of the month) where probably a half dozen people in my car alone forgot to swipe, it’s obviously a big problem. People forget; it’s not that they are bad people, it’s just human nature, and you can’t punish people for that (by designing a system that punishes you for forgetting like the Caltrain monthly pass on Clipper does).

    And now they are no longer being lenient with refunding the extra charge. I feel like that should be illegal. I paid for a monthly and now they are trying to double-charge me. And worse, double-charge me for a much longer ride than I took. That is BS. The point is, even though it wasn’t activated, I *have* a monthly pass for the month. Sure, the letter of the rule is that you need to tag on/off, but the *intent* is that you pay for your ride. And monthly pass holders already do that. You can’t double-charge them.

    Further, I think it should be illegal to even try and assume you took the longest ride possible. That’s crap. The conductors are there to verify the validity of your ticket; it’s not supposed to be some automated system that tries to figure out who should be fined. For example, I could buy a monthly from zone 1 to 3 but then ride to zone 4 one-day. And does Caltrain automatically fine you for that? No. The way it works is the conductor checks your ticket and sees your out of your zone, and if you are, then they can fine you.

    Finally, this would easily be solved by putting card readers on the train (like Muni). That way, on that first ride of the month when the conductor comes to check my ticket and I go, “Oh shit, I totally forgot to tag on”, I can just tell him and run over and tag it. And it shouldn’t matter what zone the train is currently in: the tagging should just activate the chip on the card (as others pointed out is how it works). The card already has the zone info saved on it. And if the system is really so convoluted that I really have to both tag on/off in the appropriate zones, then they need to offer an interactive reader where I can tell it what zones I want to tag on/off at. But that would be just silly, as I hope the system isn’t that convoluted.

    Since monthly riders make up the bulk of Caltrain’s ridership, these are the people Caltrain should be doing the most to please and encourage to continue to ride. The way the current Clipper card system works for monthly riders is not doing this.

  • JD


    I agree with you about 8-rides. They should go back to the 10-ride. Hell, since the paper puncher isn’t even involved, why limit it at that? Why not give people more options, like a 15- or 20-ride as well? Each one should give a better discount. You can’t continue that ad infinitum as you don’t want to exceed the monthly limit (approximately 40 rides). But a 20-ride would be nice. They would need to make the expiration 6 months or 1 year instead of the current 2 months though. Actually, I think they should do that even with the current 8-ride. It seems like it should be illegal to even have an expiration: I paid for a ride, why is it all the sudden invalid after 2 months? In fact, CA has a law against that regarding gift certificates

    Seems like the same logic could apply to public transit “gift certificates”.

    Regarding the whole zone system, you bring up some good points. However, I like the zone system because it offers flexibility. For example, I often board at either 22nd or 4th & King in the city, and I switch it up between MV, San Antonio, Palo Alto, and even Cal Ave down south. I use the train for more than just commuting since I often go to activities or dinner after lunch and ride my bike there, so I board at different stations. For 8-rides of monthlies, this presents a massive headache. Sure, if you happen to go between the two stops that cross over a zone boundary, you get screwed. But in reality, very few people make this trip since why would you commute on the train a few miles unless you live and are going to a place *right* on the tracks? I think the zone system works very well for most people.

  • “Finally, this would easily be solved by putting card readers on the train (like Muni). That way, on that first ride of the month when the conductor comes to check my ticket and I go, “Oh shit, I totally forgot to tag on”, I can just tell him and run over and tag it.”

    Non-starter. Everyone would “forget” to tag on until the conductor came by. And yes, if you can make it across a zone boundary, someone buying a one-way ticket gets a discount. If you have a 8 ride for Zone 1-3, it’s still cheaper to buy a Zone 2-3 one way ticket. It would be a nightmare. Not an issue on GGT where the Driver is always watching the box.

    “However, I like the zone system because it offers flexibility.”

    No problem. We can have 27 zones. Works for BART. Go to Cal Ave instead of Palo Alto? OK then, it costs you an extra 20 cents. Having a graduated distance based fare system is as flexible as it gets.

  • thielges

    Placing Clipper validators on-board is a fine idea. In fact that was how the system worked with paper tickets when platform validators were broken. You were required to find a conductor ASAP and have them manually validate your ticket before you took a seat. And on-board validation is the norm in numerous European transit systems.

    It still won’t completely eliminate the “space out penalty” caused by forgetting to tag off, but at least you’ve got another opportunity to do it right.

    The best way to eliminate the “forgotten tag off space out penalty” is to allow riders to specify their intended destination at tag-on time. Then a “no tag off” situation is treated similarly except instead of being charged the fare to Gilroy, you’re charged the fare to your intended destination. Akit mentioned that the original Translink terminals had the ability for user input so this solution is within the realm of Clipper technology. People using this capability to cheat the system by selecting an intended journey shorter than their actual journey risk being fined if caught. This model worked fine for decades of old fashioned paper ticketing. There’s no reason to forfeit a valuable capability (i.e. limiting the fare you’re charged to your actual journey) just because a new technology was adopted. We can have the best of both worlds.

  • @thielges – Conductor checks your ticket? OK, now tag off. Sweet. Discount!

    There is risk of being checked again, but on the whole this will make the conductors life worse by more than it makes the user’s life easier. I predict that over time we’ll become like the Eloi and never forget to tag off, especially once the paper tickets are gone and more people are tagging off to set the example. But it would be nice to get some more readers, and have them place them better.

    The problem with user input into the Clipper readers is that it would produce lines at the readers, at boarding time, when riders are antsy to not miss their train.

  • JD

    I wrote: “Finally, this would easily be solved by putting card readers on the train (like Muni). That way, on that first ride of the month when the conductor comes to check my ticket and I go, “Oh shit, I totally forgot to tag on”, I can just tell him and run over and tag it.”

    To which John Murphy wrote: “Non-starter. Everyone would “forget” to tag on until the conductor came by. And yes, if you can make it across a zone boundary, someone buying a one-way ticket gets a discount. If you have a 8 ride for Zone 1-3, it’s still cheaper to buy a Zone 2-3 one way ticket. It would be a nightmare. Not an issue on GGT where the Driver is always watching the box.”

    If you have a *monthly* (which is what I’m talking about here) and there’s a reader on the train and you forgot to tag on and the conductor comes by and you go “oh shit” and go to tag on, it still only activates it for the zones you bought it for. It doesn’t matter where you tag on. The conductor will just check you right after you tag on on the train, and if you’re out of your zone, they’ve got you still. The point is just to let the chip on the card know to activate it. That’s the advantage of having a reader on the train.

    But I hear what you’re saying about single rides. People could certainly take advantage of it. But every transit system has that issue to deal with. Evidence seems to indicate it’s not a big problem on Caltrain though. And the way you deal with it is more frequent checks and big fines. You get a big fine once (and eventually you’ll get caught if you do it regularly and the conductors increase their checks), you won’t do it again.

    By the way, regarding the fact that the chip is on the card and hence you have to activate your monthly by tagging it somewhere, how about this: the conductors little device that reads the card can also activate a monthly pass. Seems like that would be easy enough. And if that can’t be done, then at least you should be able to tag on anywhere on that first ride and not worry about tagging off. I think Clipper/Caltrain did really not think this through well enough. Sad, because I was on a focus group for Clipper (then TransLink) and the whole thing was about the damn name! They were more concerned with the name than getting user feedback about how the actual system works. Hell, if they just read this website they could learn a lot!

    I wrote: “However, I like the zone system because it offers flexibility.”

    To which John Murphy wrote: “No problem. We can have 27 zones. Works for BART. Go to Cal Ave instead of Palo Alto? OK then, it costs you an extra 20 cents. Having a graduated distance based fare system is as flexible as it gets.”

    It works for Bart because there are no monthly passes. So let’s say I have a monthly from SF to California Ave, but then I decide to get on at PA instead of Cal Ave (which is very common because the bullet doesn’t stop at Cal Ave). Do I swipe my card at Cal Ave and have it figure out the difference and charge it? What a mess. And if so, then what is the point of the monthly if I’m always having to do this? Further, do I get a credit when I travel less distance than the monthly is worth? That would only be fair, but it turns into a nightmare of bookkeeping. You can’t compare this to a system like Bart which doesn’t offer monthly passes.

    But you’re right, you could have 27 zones. Or you could have 5 zones, or 10 zones, or whatever. It’s a trade-off, and you have to decide on something between 1 and 27. Maybe they could add a few more zones and make it 6 or 7, but overall, I think it works with Caltrain. I’m just saying that there is a benefit to having the zones include multiple stations rather than each zone being only one station, especially since how they are laid out works pretty well, e.g., if you normally use Cal Ave, Palo Alto is very nearby and it is quite common to go there since the bullet doesn’t stop at Cal Ave.

  • thielges

    John – I didn’t think about that early tag-off after the audit scenario. I’d probably make a bad fare cheat 🙂 . So maybe onboard validators are only good for tag-on. I still think that destination preselection is a good idea. I doubt that it would clog up boarding any more than the existing ticket machines do. Not everyone will want or need to select their destination in advance. Just the space cadets.

    JD – I think that when you contact a Clipper terminal to upload fare products like a monthly pass, it transacts with the central database to move the certificates from the DB server and onto the clipper card. This isn’t just a matter of flipping a bit on the Clipper card or there would be black market hackers offering this service. The handheld units that conductors carry may not have a link to the DB server to properly transfer certificates.

    You’re right about the asymmetrical tag-on/off pattern throwing off monthly pass holders. Most people will adjust and get better though perfection isn’t realistic. It would be nice if there were a cheap personal computer Clipper terminal so you could buy your tickets and possess them immediately. That’s something we take for granted with paper tickets. Clipper users need to take two actions instead of one, doubling the chance of a mistake. Then consider the near week long delay between purchase and when you can acquire the ticket. Why does Clipper require us to wait a week ? Shouldn’t electronic transfer be nearly instantaneous ? You can buy a pint of maple syrup and have it delivered to your home direct from Maine faster than Clipper can upload passes from the internet to your card.