Follow the Clipper the Easy Bay and AC Transit

harris2's picture

Despite strong motivations for improving the problematic Clipper Cards, use of the technically flawed cards find their strongest users not in San Francisco, but through on the AC Transit system in the East Bay. Clipper Cards were used the most, about 44% of the total sold (around 182,000 cards distributed), were used on the AC Transit system (Alameda-Contra Transit District).

BART and MUNI together only accounted for under 30% of Clipper Cards usage, indicating that many San Franciscans are not using the Clipper Cards.

In a sense, should the Clipper Card system be moved exclusively to the Easy Bay and AC Transit systems, or should greater advertising and marketing try and force the Clipper Card system in San Francisco? It's worth reasoning that the Clipper Card's lack of use in San Francisco shows more wasted funds for bay area transportation, and whether the implementation of the Clipper Cards should now be focused outside the city. Obviously, the Clipper Card system is still an infant, but should an already bugged system be moved toward the strongest market? 

Read the article here


SophieT's picture

Clipper Card Implementation in SF--Publicity Problem

I find this article somewhat surprising. As someone who lives in the East Bay and takes AC transit daily and works in SF, I'm surprised by these findings. I have taken MUNI quite often recently and the annoying loud beeps of clipper cards are heard with much more frequency on MUNI than they are on AC transit.


Also, I think the problem with implementing the Clipper Card is not an abnormal thing that we are facing. It's pretty common for new technologies and innovative systems to need to work out kinks. The problem with Clipper Card use is not one of lack of necessity or of poor technology. The market is there. The investment is worth it.


At this point, the investments already made in the Clipper Card are sunk costs. And as every businessman knows, to get a return and to create a successful business (in this case, to create a useful technology for public transportation), first you need to invest. What I propose is that SF should invest in 2 things for the Clipper Card to become more mainstream and more widely used in SF:

1. Publicity--We need to educate the public about how to locate and buy Clipper Cards. We need to create ads and material that explains to the average Joe why the Clipper Card is a good investment and the right thing to use to pay for public transportation.

2. The Beep--This sound is frustrating to listen to and even my sound blocking head phones don't block it out. Though this is a very personal request, I know I am not the only person who feels this way.

Maria Balilo's picture

Ensure Clipper Card Efficiency First

Aggressive publicity is necessary, especially reaching out to non-English-speaking communities to explain the changes. Even I haven't heard of the clipper card until now. Efficiency must be prioritized too, ideally, before committing to a full-scale transition from muni passes to clipper cards.. I've read about a lot of complaints especially with card reader malfunctions and overcharges.

ConnorO'Gara's picture

Corrupt Clipper Card System


There are two key parts of the business that Clipper cards are involved in: 1) The Technology business which consists of implementing the hardware into the system. 2) The transaction business of processing payments.

I'm not going to go into a rant on my personal experience with Clipper & its system which have been very negative.  I also appreciate that we can expect some 'glitches' with any new system. However, there are some basic flaws in overall design which must be dealt with-

1) Why do consumers have to wait 3-5 business days for a credit card transaction to be processed?  This is an arcane practice that is bad business.  The whole point of using a credit or debit card is that it is an INSTANT TRANSACTION!  I don't buy clothes at the Gap and have to come back 3-5 days later to pick them up once the transaction is completed. It creates an unfair balance in the buyer/consumer relationship and can only be used in a monopolistic syestem.

2) Why can't Clipper correct billing errors?  I had a billing problem.  I called Clipper customer support.  They agreed with me that there was a problem, but told me there was nothing they could do.  The only thing they could do was submit a claim to Muni for reveiw.  Who thinks Muni will side with me and refund my money?

3) Why does a monthly Muni ticket have to start at the first of the month?  If this is all digital, who cares when the 30 days starts and ends?  You should be able to buy a 30-day ticket at any time.

4)  Who got paid off to approve the clipper system?  Its such a shabby system compared to say Metro Card in NY.  Why did the city buy into a bottom of the barrel system that everyone agrees is flawed?


alwaysthepickychick's picture

Clipper Card For Dummies

You have to HOLD your clipper card over the reader for about 2-3 seconds.  You can't "scan" your card by moving it past the reader, or it will not detect your card. 
You can pay monthly fees for unlimited rides on AC Transit and MUNI.  You can load cash on your card to cover incidental overages (i.e.  OX line on AC Transit, which is $2 more than regular AC Transit fare) If you pay for your monthly AC Transit adult fare $80 and you have cash loaded on your clipper card, the fare is reduced by $1.00.  If you don't have cash loaded on your card, even if you still pay the monthly $80 adult fare, you have to pay the extra $2.00 in cash.  It can also be used for single BART transactions.  The ferry?  I have no clue, who uses that except tourists?
BART can be set up to auto-deduct from your checking account.  Since there is no monthly fare for unlimited rides on BART, the amount varies. . This is the same as the old BART system.  There is a small discount, but it's minimal. 
It seems odd to me that a city with so many forms of public transportation that each one is independently run, rather than a common tranit authority, but that would make too much sense. 
The clipper card is convenient and easy, if you take the time to read the directions.  Novel idea, I know. 

Paid for by Phil Ting for Assembly 2012. FPPC ID# 1343137