Wednesday, February 16, 2011

VTA accepts Clipper

VTA today formally accepts Clipper for payment.

Some Clipper tips:
E-cash and monthly passes can be loaded onto Clipper cards. With e-cash you pay one way fares. There's no day pass option at this point. If you want to ride light rail or the bus all day you should buy the light rail excursion pass or day pass with cash.

Transfer privileges automatically apply when transferring to VTA from AC Transit, BART, Caltrain, or SamTrans. There's no transfer privileges with Highway 17 Express or MST if you pay with Clipper.

To ride the bus you basically place the card on top of the blue logo on the Clipper reader. The reader is located in front of the bus to the right of the fare box.

To ride light rail you place the card on top of the blue logo on the Clipper reader at the light rail station. Once your card is approved (green light), you can ride light rail for the next 2 hours.

If you transfer between light rail you don't need to "tag" your card again. If you do so you will pay another fare, even if you have paid for light rail less than 2 hours ago.

The Clipper readers at light rail stations are generally located next to the ticket machines. That means that they are located on the platform at street level stops, and located at the station entrances for Hwy 87 stations. Some ticket machines will not have the Clipper reader next to them.

At the downtown San Jose light rail stops, only one Clipper reader is available on each street for each station. The reader is located at the front end of the station (north end on 1st St, south end on 2nd St) between the raised platform and the ticket machine.

What is not clear at this point is whether you must tag (that means if you don't you get a citation) before you board the light rail if your card has a monthly pass. The FAQs on VTA and Clipper sites say that you need to. On the other hand, you don't need to do that on Caltrain. Because of the number and placement of the Clipper readers at the light rail stations, having tag on every time with a monthly pass is a problem. If you ride, say the 82 to the light rail station on 2nd Street and the light rail pulls in, you won't have time to walk to the front of the front car to tag the card and get on.

The Clipper readers for light rail and Caltrain all look the same, which can be confusing at some intermodal stations especially San Jose Diridon. At that station, Clipper for light rail is located on the light rail platforms only. Readers located anywhere else (inside tunnel, inside station building) at that station are for Caltrain only. At Tamien, light rail readers are located next to VTA machines. Caltrain reader is located next to the Caltrain machines.

You need a youth or senior Clipper card to pay for any youth or senior fare. Standard cards are restricted to pay for adult fares only. Getting one of these cards is not convenient, you basically need to bring a proof of eligibility to a VTA office and apply in person, and wait to receive the card in the mail.

If you have a RTC Discount Card, which is necessary to buy a VTA senior/disabled monthly sticker, you already have a senior/disabled Clipper card. You can call Clipper 877-878-8883 to activate the Clipper account and start loading money or pass. The older RTC card with Translink logo also works on Clipper (Translink and Clipper is basically the same, just a change in name).

If you choose to pay online you may need to wait 5 days for you new purchase to be loaded. If you pay at the VTA office or Walgreens your card is loaded immediately. The reason for the delay is that, unlike credit cards, the reader does not immediately link to the network to validate your card. The readers get your payment information only by downloading at the end of each day through a wireless network at the bus yards. Once your card is validated then you're good for subsequent transactions.


arcady said...

Is there any word of a mandatory switch to Clipper coming anytime soon? I imagine that they'll give people a few months to get used to it, but the MTC has been pretty eager to get everyone switched over to the new scheme as quickly as possible, at which point all the problems you mention become unavoidable.

Anonymous said...

If you ride, say the 82 to the light rail station on 2nd Street and the light rail pulls in, you won't have time to walk to the front of the front car to tag the card and get on.

Well, isn't the problem here that the VTA can't get its transfers right? Bus to bus, bus to light rail, light rail to light rail, Caltrain to light rail-in many cases you're dealing with less than 5 minutes available for transferring even when you are on time, and that simply doesn't work.

arcady said...

One problem I've noticed with the new system is that on buses, the Clipper reader is right next to the farebox, which slows down boarding. Typically, there are two boarding streams: those with cash, who stand in front of the farebox fumbling with their cash, while those with passes flash them to the driver as they walk by. With the current location of the Clipper reader on most buses, people with passes on Clipper will have to wait for those paying with cash, rather than bypassing them. The artics have the reader on the left, which alleviates the problem somewhat, but using the reader still takes longer than just flashing a pass to the driver.