Monday, March 15, 2010

VTA app, Highway 17 Express fare increase and more


These days, portable electronics like iPhones and iPods are common and very popular among transit riders. Not only we get to enjoy the music, we also get to watch downloaded TV shows or play games, all while we are on transit. The open application platform for iPhone and iPod Touch have spawned many transit related applications. Many of them target large transit systems like the New York Subway. A few also target BART and Caltrain.

Finally there's an app for local transit in Silicon Valley, the home of Apple, Google, and many other companies. The San Jose Transit application was created by Vashishtha Jogi, a graduate student in software engineering at San Jose State University. The program allows the users to browse all VTA bus and light rail schedules and spot the next scheduled trip. The program can also show the departure times for a selected route at a particular time point (which is something also posted at certain bus stops).

This application is a good alternative to carrying stacks of paper schedule, and it is more convenient than calling VTA for times. While other online tools like Google Transit and 511 are available, they all require users to type in the origin and destination each time and therefore are inconvenient for long time transit riders, who usually know the system better than any automated trip planners.

This program works offline, which is useful for iPod Touch (basically an iPhone without the phone and AT&T service charge) owners in areas without a wifi connection.

The application costs 99 cents at the iTunes site. The author said that he will update the program for the upcoming schedule changes. Lets hope this program will get improved and have additional features added overtime.

Highway 17 Express fare increase

Santa Cruz Metro has scheduled a public hearing on a proposed fare increase for the Highway 17 Express route. While the detail has yet to be known, one of the reasons for increasing the fare is to maintain an "optimal" farebox recovery ratio. [update: Santa Cruz Sentinel reported that Santa Cruz Metro plans to raise fares by 25%. One way from $4 to $5, and monthly pass from $90 to $113. However, the agency doesn't seem to be in any financial danger that poses immediate risk to the service.]

Highway 17 Express fares have not changed since 2004, when it was combined with the Amtrak Thruway service. However this route continues to generate a much higher farebox recovery ratio than most transit routes.

Hearing date and location: Santa Cruz City Council Chambers, 809 Center Street, Santa Cruz, at 9:00 a.m. on Friday, March 26, 2010


VTA is currently installing Translink/Clipper readers on its buses (as shown in the picture, which is located next to the farebox under the black plastic wrap. A VTA Watch reader has reported that he saw an unwrap reader installed and appeared operational, but didn't want to test it to see whether the reader was actually working.


arcady said...

Tranlink update: many buses have the readers now, I've even seem them on some Community Buses, and they all seem to be wrapped (but possibly working anyway). I have, however, seen unwrapped readers on some 2xxx-series buses, specifically on routes 25 and 60. The readers say "ADULT FARE $2.00", so it does look like they're functional. In conversations with the drivers, they have said that they have yet to receive the Translink training, but that they'd probably accept a Translink fare anyway.

Anonymous said...

I really hope that the HWY 17 fares aren't raised. I've always been under the impression that there is indeed a high farebox recovery ratio-as just about anyone who has taken the 17 knows from personal experience, the drivers are pretty aggressive about enforcing the fare. Its been a while since I've taken SCMTD buses regularly, but everyone knows that on VTA buses, drivers quite often let people on board without fare/less than the full amount.

arcady said...

Speaking of Translink and the Highway 17 Express, it is my impression that the latter will not be accepting the former for valid fare payment, as it's a service operated by Santa Cruz Metro, which is not part of the Translink agreement. This will have some repercussions as the Highway 17 Express currently accepts VTA day passes and Caltrain monthly passes for discounts off the fare, which would become a problem for any passengers who have those in the form of a Translink card. It would be an even bigger problem if Caltrain or VTA decide to switch to exclusive use of Translink as a replacement for paper passes.

accountablevta said...

The day pass would probably continue if VTA installs new fareboxes. A lot of new fareboxes these days can print day passes.

The problem already exist now with some AC Transit passes on Translink not usable on VTA and SamTrans. I think that there's some kind of arrangement but I can't recall what it is.

arcady said...

I hope you're right about the day pass, but I've seen it done the other way as well. The MTA in LA switched to smartcard-only day passes when they finally got their system going (but their cards only cost $2, not $5).

Anonymous said...

The readers are working their way north... I saw one on coach 2012 and one on one of the 10xx series serving line 40. The readers were covered in black plastic, but three illuminated buttons (yellow, orange, red I believe) were clearly visible through the plastic.

Jonathan said...

@Arcady: Caltrain is going to replace its monthly & 8-ride paper tickets with Translink fares. This is indicated on their green Translink flyer onboard trains.

There are still many issues with the way Translink is structured and configured. For instance, most of the boxes are not on a batter backup, so if the power goes out Yu can't tag your fare. I'm going to contact VTA to seenif they want any Translink Customers to perform usability tests on Translink readers installed on VTA.