It was a delightful spring afternoon yesterday as attendees gathered for an informal Muni crawl, organized on Facebook and intended to build community and awareness. The event attracted RSVPs from 38 proud Translink users — or “Trannies,” if you will — all of whom were eager to publicly exhibit their new equipment. The event was a huge success, with everyone’s Translink passes allowing them to do just that: pass.

The Translink program is finally coming to fruition, after two decades and many tens of millions of dollars. Riders can load up the flashy green cards with cash before riding, and then fob on and off of transit vehicles just like many of us have been doing at work for years. And according to the ALCU, the cards also allow transit agencies to pass along riders’ itineraries to law enforcement agencies, which should help them finally capture the notoriously transit-dependent Hamburglar.

Translink is up and running on AC Transit and Golden Gate Transit, and is now spreading to its next agency: Muni, which recently posted helpful signs reading “Translink is not yet ready for use.”

Of those 37 online RSVPs for Sunday’s crawl, only seven people were capable of making the leap to meatspace; and so it was that a rag-tag sausagefest assembled at the Ferry Building Sunday afternoon to hop onto an F-line car. The loud beeps of the Tranlink transponders raised a few eyebrows, and the driver looked perplexed, but the machinery all behaved as designed. Over the next hour and a half, the group transitioned away from F, taking a 21, then an L, then a 5, a 38, a 49 and finally a K, concluding the voyage at Orphan Andy’s in the Castro.

“I feel like that was a success,” said unofficial leader Mike over buffalo wings. There wasn’t a single glitch over the course of the crawl, with Translink checkins totalling nearly 50. Outside of the crawl, Mike estimated that the system worked about 90% of the time for him, and co-Trannies Matthew and Kenny agreed. Also present were famous muckraker Akit (here’s his piece on the event), as well as consultants and transit enthusiasts Anthony and Trevor. A delightful time was had by all.

Ready to become a Translink user yourself? It’s a simple operation: you can order a card right now from Translink for $5, or if you’re willing to wait a bit longer, you can order one from Muni for free. (We requested on from Muni two weeks ago — still waiting.) The real test of the system will come when it integrates with BART’s already-successful smart-card program, which many observers expect to happen within our lifetimes. Something to look forward to!

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