Saturday, March 19, 2011

Public Transportation in Crisis_Save the Paper FastPass and Don't Trust Clipper!

The following is an excerpt of a letter that I wrote to the S.F. Board of Supervisors, the City Attorney, and even Governor Brown. I have gotten a response from my supervisor, who put me in contact with someone from teh SFMTA, but I have yet to receive a follow-up response after my initial contact with the SFMTA.


As a native San Franciscan who has relied on public transportation for the near entirety of my life, I am writing to inform you that the push into the Clipper system and the elimination of the paper Fast Pass has more than a few serious flaws.

1. Eliminating the paper FastPass would be wasteful, useless, and discriminatory. The paper Fast Pass is the sign of a responsible rider. You show the driver, it is the proof of purchase, and it allows smooth transfers. They are durable if you keep them in a safe place, reduce delays when boarding vehicles, and require no financial accountability from a central company. They are already designed to slide through the new gate “readers” and so there is no need to remove them from the market.

2. Clipper creates noise pollution. For a small City who tries to pride itself on being “green” and accessible, the chip activated by the Clipper card readers are a menace to those who rely on Muni every day. Not only do we have to sit there and listen to people beep themselves in like items at a grocery store, but also the machines are too sensitive and often require patrons to try again. It’s bad enough the streetcars were designed to host a screeching siren sound when the doors can’t close on time, but now patrons are being subjected to aggressive and headache-inducing beeps for every person who enters a Muni vehicle. This does not promote a healthy lifestyle and makes taking the bus even more taxing than it already is. Although I don’t use my Clipper card anymore, I have been carrying it with my FastPass… and it’s quite disturbing that I can set off the card reader from my pocket.

3. Clipper makes travel by Muni LESS efficient. Long lines at machines downtown create a hassle for patrons. (Not to mention that you can’t just add $1, but you can add $2 or $5.) Furthermore, since trains and busses often only run at long intervals, it makes it harder to catch the train on time because you have to stand in line at the machine. Why not just load a month’s worth of credit onto your Clipper card? Read on…

4. Clipper creates paper waste. I know it sounds ironic – how could a reloadable plastic card create paper waste? Well, the answer is that the thick-coated one-way and round trip passes sold out of the machines are more wasteful than the original paper transfers; and because people do not trust the Clipper accounting system, almost everyone prints a receipt for each purchase.

5. Clipper accounting system is unreliable and untrustworthy. In my personal experience, a receipt does little good, as Clipper was unable to access my records for a cash fare purchase I made that was never credited to my account. I called three times and was finally asked to fax my receipt to them, as if having a card number and receipt in my possession was insufficient. They were unwilling to refund me for the cost of the fax, so I declined to follow through. Since then, I have not used Clipper at all. Why would I give my financial information – in the form of a credit or debit card – to a company that cannot look up a simple receipt number in its own system? I barely trust Muni as is, let alone an outsider company like Clipper who has botched up an already weakened transportation system.

6. Clipper gates can be hazardous. The fact that people are now being subjected to Sensors at the abdominal level is alarming enough, but I have been crushed by rapidly closing doors. Luckily, I’m a young, healthy person…but it was painful. Now, imagine an elderly person who moves slowly. They could be seriously injured. This would not only be a terrible ordeal for them, but also has the potential to cost the City if they were to sue the MTA or the City itself.

Pirate Radio_A New Incarnation

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