We’ve gotten a lot of questions about TransLink’s rollout on BART, and articles talking about e-purses and float just seem to confuse folks more. Well, hell, that’s what we’re here for. Let us get to the bottom of some of these for you.

Float? E-Purse? What. Will I have to do something weird to get BART-usable money onto my TransLink card?

Here’s our solution: let’s form a club, we’ll call it the IllumiBARTi. Let’s all keep an eye on those TransLink transponders at the fare gates, and as soon as we see one in use, let us know and we’ll tell the world.BART spokesperson Linton Johnson tells us, “no.” He says “As far as I know, a Translink customer loads up her/his card with money and the fare gets deducted from that balance – regardless of which transit agency they use.”

OK, so the “as far as I know” part scares us a little, but let’s chalk that up to spokespersonspeak. So the money you put on your TransLink card works universally, you will not have to dedicate specific funds for specific agencies. Whew.

Speaking of TransLink on BART, when is that going to happen?

Johnson says “It could take up to a year before we do a full fledge launch to
everybody.”

This is not a terribly satisfying answer, sooooo

But what about that “soft launch” when the TransLink transponders will be activated in BART stations? When is that, and can any TransLink Card holder take advantage of the TL system then?

Yes, Johnson says, technically anybody with a TL card can use TL once the faregates are set up to accept the cards. Ok, now we’re getting somewhere. But of course there’s a “but.”

“However, we are not going to make a big deal about the fact that anyone can use it. In fact, we aren’t really giving out the time and date to anyone about when our soft launch will be. The only people who will know are our preselected EZ Rider users. Once that’s done (could be up to a year) then we will have our full fledge launch, which will inform everyone in the public about the fact that they can use TL on BART.”

OK, this is not a terribly satisfying answer. So, here’s our solution: let’s form a club, we’ll call it the IllumiBARTi. Let’s all keep an eye on those TransLink transponders at the fare gates, and as soon as we see one in use, let us know and we’ll tell the world. Deal? Deal.

Got other questions? Leave them in the comments, or send them our way.
Photo illustration: Matt Baume

the author

Eve Batey is the editor and publisher of the San Francisco Appeal. She used to be the San Francisco Chronicle's Deputy Managing Editor for Online, and started at the Chronicle as their blogging and interactive editor. Before that, she was a co-founding writer and the lead editor of SFist. She's been in the city since 1997, presently living in the Outer Sunset with her husband, cat, and dog. You can reach Eve at eve@sfappeal.com.

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  • Greg Dewar

    BART needs to get its story straight and get its act together. This foot dragging has gone on long enough. The joke in all of this of course is that Puget Sound area’s ORCA card (made by the SAME PEOPLE WHO MAKE TRANSLINK) is up and running across over 4 counties, several transit agencies and so on.

    It’s hard to look at this and wonder what is wrong with BART. We know that Director James Fang is a moron, and has been actively using BART funds to undermine the system for his own ends, but surely that kind of FAIL is not part of the can-do spirit BART usually has. WTF, BART?

  • Greg Dewar

    BART needs to get its story straight and get its act together. This foot dragging has gone on long enough. The joke in all of this of course is that Puget Sound area’s ORCA card (made by the SAME PEOPLE WHO MAKE TRANSLINK) is up and running across over 4 counties, several transit agencies and so on.

    It’s hard to look at this and wonder what is wrong with BART. We know that Director James Fang is a moron, and has been actively using BART funds to undermine the system for his own ends, but surely that kind of FAIL is not part of the can-do spirit BART usually has. WTF, BART?

  • Eve Batey

    ORCA is an incredibly rad name for a transit card. Is there a whale on it?

  • Eve Batey

    ORCA is an incredibly rad name for a transit card. Is there a whale on it?

  • Rita

    I promise to try my Translink card every day on BART and report when it starts working!

  • Rita

    I promise to try my Translink card every day on BART and report when it starts working!

  • Eve Batey

    illumiBARTi club member number 3! (Matty is #1, I am #2).

  • Eve Batey

    illumiBARTi club member number 3! (Matty is #1, I am #2).

  • Akit

    BART’s IQ keeps going lower and lower. Not releasing the test date will make the public more determined to try their cards every single day until they do.

    It doesn’t make any sense. Anyone can get a Translink card, and anyone can use the systems that are participating. Muni is considered only “testing” but allows ALL cardholders to use the program, regardless if you registered to be a volunteer for Muni.

    In BART’s situation, it will be the same. Once Translink is turned-on, any cardholder can use BART.

    Theoretically, once Translink is turned-on for a particular agency, it’s basically fully ready to go.

  • Akit

    BART’s IQ keeps going lower and lower. Not releasing the test date will make the public more determined to try their cards every single day until they do.

    It doesn’t make any sense. Anyone can get a Translink card, and anyone can use the systems that are participating. Muni is considered only “testing” but allows ALL cardholders to use the program, regardless if you registered to be a volunteer for Muni.

    In BART’s situation, it will be the same. Once Translink is turned-on, any cardholder can use BART.

    Theoretically, once Translink is turned-on for a particular agency, it’s basically fully ready to go.

  • Akit

    I had to read the article again…

    The official response from Translink about BART is that there will be a separate e-cash purse that is specifically made for people who want to take advantage of the high value tickets, but it’s not fully clear if all BART passengers who use Translink must get high value tickets or can have the “universal” cash purse to ride. I’m just a casual passenger of BART and high value tickets are not much of a value for me.

    I’m not sure if Johnson didn’t really know about the e-purses or is telling the whole truth, but the facts are here:
    https://www.translink.org/TranslinkWeb/pressRoom.do

  • Akit

    I had to read the article again…

    The official response from Translink about BART is that there will be a separate e-cash purse that is specifically made for people who want to take advantage of the high value tickets, but it’s not fully clear if all BART passengers who use Translink must get high value tickets or can have the “universal” cash purse to ride. I’m just a casual passenger of BART and high value tickets are not much of a value for me.

    I’m not sure if Johnson didn’t really know about the e-purses or is telling the whole truth, but the facts are here:
    https://www.translink.org/TranslinkWeb/pressRoom.do

  • cv

    It’s a stylized rendition, but basically the answer is yes.

    http://www.orcacard.com/ERG-Seattle/common/images/orca-card.png

  • cv

    It’s a stylized rendition, but basically the answer is yes.

    http://www.orcacard.com/ERG-Seattle/common/images/orca-card.png

  • Matt Baume

    FACT: Orcas are dolphins, not whales. FACT.

  • Matt Baume

    FACT: Orcas are dolphins, not whales. FACT.

  • Eve Batey

    Matty, please remind me to make an addendum to the Comment Policy that anyone who correctly corrects me is fucking banned.

  • Eve Batey

    Matty, please remind me to make an addendum to the Comment Policy that anyone who correctly corrects me is fucking banned.

  • TransLinkInsider

    Once BART begins accepting TransLink, any TransLink cardholder with e-cash value on his/her card can ride BART and pay with e-cash. (BART receives money from the regional “Float Account” as the cardholder takes rides; this is the same arrangement as any participating transit system.)

    In addition, a cardholder who sets up the Autoload feature may load the TransLink equivalent of a BART High Value Discount ticket onto the card (e.g., pay $45 for $48 in BART value). When a cardholder loads a BART High Value Discount ticket, the value is good only on BART. The High Value Discount ticket is available only to cardholders who set up Autoload, which means its impossible to run out of the High Value Discount ticket value (unless the Autoload is canceled). (BART receives all funds resulting from the load of the BART High Value Discount ticket immediately.)

    Where a customer has both e-cash and the High Value Discount ticket and the customer rides BART, the system will charge the BART High Value Discount ticket, because the system is designed to always charge the customer the lowest fare for which the customer qualifies.

    It’s not simple, but it’s the implementation that BART required. Once customers figure it out, it will become habit, but there will be problems as customers figure it out.

    Thanks for your interest in TransLink.

  • TransLinkInsider

    Once BART begins accepting TransLink, any TransLink cardholder with e-cash value on his/her card can ride BART and pay with e-cash. (BART receives money from the regional “Float Account” as the cardholder takes rides; this is the same arrangement as any participating transit system.)

    In addition, a cardholder who sets up the Autoload feature may load the TransLink equivalent of a BART High Value Discount ticket onto the card (e.g., pay $45 for $48 in BART value). When a cardholder loads a BART High Value Discount ticket, the value is good only on BART. The High Value Discount ticket is available only to cardholders who set up Autoload, which means its impossible to run out of the High Value Discount ticket value (unless the Autoload is canceled). (BART receives all funds resulting from the load of the BART High Value Discount ticket immediately.)

    Where a customer has both e-cash and the High Value Discount ticket and the customer rides BART, the system will charge the BART High Value Discount ticket, because the system is designed to always charge the customer the lowest fare for which the customer qualifies.

    It’s not simple, but it’s the implementation that BART required. Once customers figure it out, it will become habit, but there will be problems as customers figure it out.

    Thanks for your interest in TransLink.

  • Akit

    Would you know when BART will flip the switch to allow Translink?

    If Linton Johnson doesn’t want to tell, what’s the answer from the folks at Translink and MTC?

  • Akit

    Would you know when BART will flip the switch to allow Translink?

    If Linton Johnson doesn’t want to tell, what’s the answer from the folks at Translink and MTC?

  • talineslo

    I handle commuter benefits at my company so I load e-cash on multiple Translink cards each month. I noticed at the end of June on ONLY one of the Translink cards that there’s a greyed out option to add a High Value Discount Bart ticket. Can’t click on it. I haven’t seen this same greyed out option on the other cards I load. Seems shady.

  • talineslo

    I handle commuter benefits at my company so I load e-cash on multiple Translink cards each month. I noticed at the end of June on ONLY one of the Translink cards that there’s a greyed out option to add a High Value Discount Bart ticket. Can’t click on it. I haven’t seen this same greyed out option on the other cards I load. Seems shady.

  • SethBenson

    Doesn’t Muni have this service up and running at their turnstyles? I could swear that my girlfriend and I have had to use separate card checks that actually had Translink logos on them. Is Johnson saying that the EZ card readers will house both the EZrider cards and the Translink cards? Should we be looking for Translink branded readers on the BART turnstyles? I am familiar with card panels from the security system here at work and I know that we are able to activate the terminals to use separate products given that we know the format of the cards. So, the chief question is this: are we looking for specific readers or are we just going to keep trying our translinks at the same posts as EZRider?

  • SethBenson

    Doesn’t Muni have this service up and running at their turnstyles? I could swear that my girlfriend and I have had to use separate card checks that actually had Translink logos on them. Is Johnson saying that the EZ card readers will house both the EZrider cards and the Translink cards? Should we be looking for Translink branded readers on the BART turnstyles? I am familiar with card panels from the security system here at work and I know that we are able to activate the terminals to use separate products given that we know the format of the cards. So, the chief question is this: are we looking for specific readers or are we just going to keep trying our translinks at the same posts as EZRider?