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It’s no Skull and Bones or Illuminati quite yet, but the San Francisco Municipal Railway is getting closer to an all-seeing-eye of its very own — in as soon as two years, Muni will be able to track you, dear rider, wherever you board, wherever you exit, wherever you pay! (Cue the maniacial bwa-ha-ha here).

As The Appeal first reported last week (and honestly we hate hate hate that snide phrase. But since everyone else uses it, we’re happy to follow suit for, we think, maybe the first time in our career. So there you go, everyone else, you got beat and you suck), the MTA will use $11 million in stimulus money to replace all existing underground fare collection gates with new, Translink-only faregates throughout 2010.

The first FastPass faregates to go will be at Forest Hill station in the first few weeks of next year, according to Muni director Nat Ford, and Muni hopes to have all faregates replaced by late next year.

A TransLink-only system will eliminate cash handling from a Muni worker’s job description, but also allow the agency to “track ridership patterns much more robustly,” Ford said Thursday.

“We’ll be able to get up-to-date data in real time,” said Ford, who was quick to point out that the agency does not plan to track its passengers’ personal data (like some major supermarket chains do), merely boarding patterns or ridership habits, like taking a 29-Sunset to Balboa Park, then riding BART to Powell, then taking a 9x-Bayshore Express to Broadway (all for the pleasure of a fine meal and some titties, say). Having such data handy would have made that Transit Effectiveness Project a breeze, but that’s hindsight for you.

Other frequently asked questions:

Your current beloved paper FastPass won’t go the way of the dodo for another two years at the earliest, while the fare collection boxes on light rail vehicles and buses are replaced;
Cable car conductors and fare inspectors alike will carry TransLink readers with them to scan fares, making for some surely-awesome and awkward cable car encounters with European tourists in our near future.

Your money will soon be no good here, much like it is on BART. Passengers wishing to use cash to board Muni will be, once those bus and LRV fareboxes are replaced, directed to the smart-card dispensing machines that will be located at the Muni Metro underground stops. Similar to systems in place in New York, Boston and the rest of the civilized world, a passenger without a plastic TransLink card will be able to insert cash or a debit/credit card and receive a paper smart card.

We’ve also been asked, and if these faregates break, will they be fixed? A good question, given how many broken Muni ticket machines are out there already. We’ve asked Muni spokesperson Judson True about their plans, there, and will update you when we hear more.

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  • Hulka

    Any idea how this will work for those of us who currently pay for our Fast Passes through the Commuter Check program?

  • Hulka

    Any idea how this will work for those of us who currently pay for our Fast Passes through the Commuter Check program?

  • Eve Batey

    We’re pulling together a super easy guide to where you can do commuter check TL stuff. Soon! I’ll email you!

  • Eve Batey

    We’re pulling together a super easy guide to where you can do commuter check TL stuff. Soon! I’ll email you!

  • apleifer

    It should be pretty easy, actually… I have Wageworks now and have previously used Commuter Checks with my Translink Card. Pretty much any Walgreens can take your Commuter Checks and use them to add value to your TransLink card. Other locations can too. I called the TransLink Customer Service desk before I went to Walgreens and they were pretty helpful.

    For my Muni Fast Pass, I just had to give Wageworks the serial number on my TL card and they’ll autoload the Muni Pass each month, just as they used to send me a paper one before.

  • apleifer

    It should be pretty easy, actually… I have Wageworks now and have previously used Commuter Checks with my Translink Card. Pretty much any Walgreens can take your Commuter Checks and use them to add value to your TransLink card. Other locations can too. I called the TransLink Customer Service desk before I went to Walgreens and they were pretty helpful.

    For my Muni Fast Pass, I just had to give Wageworks the serial number on my TL card and they’ll autoload the Muni Pass each month, just as they used to send me a paper one before.

  • Akit

    I skipped on vouchers after a few months because of the hassle of finding a vendor, and switched to automatic deposit of my Commuter Check funds to my Translink account.

  • Akit

    I skipped on vouchers after a few months because of the hassle of finding a vendor, and switched to automatic deposit of my Commuter Check funds to my Translink account.

  • Erik

    My employer does some kind of online commuter benefits thing through ADP that lets me automatically put a pre-tax Fastpass on my Translink card every month. No paper shuffling required. Before translink they would mail it to me automatically every month.

  • Erik

    My employer does some kind of online commuter benefits thing through ADP that lets me automatically put a pre-tax Fastpass on my Translink card every month. No paper shuffling required. Before translink they would mail it to me automatically every month.

  • LibertyHiller

    Sounds like a nice idea, but I don’t see how this gets rid of the fareboxes. BART is easy enough to run on a cashless basis, since it only has a few dozen entry points, but on MUNI’s surface lines, there are thousands. Some of these are a mile or more from a streetcar stop, much less a Muni Metro station (hey there, Richmond District!). Are they going to put a Translink machine every few blocks wherever buses run, or put one on every bus? Although it’s convenient that we have Walgreen’s, etc. selling Translink cards, it’s hardly a complete solution.

  • LibertyHiller

    Sounds like a nice idea, but I don’t see how this gets rid of the fareboxes. BART is easy enough to run on a cashless basis, since it only has a few dozen entry points, but on MUNI’s surface lines, there are thousands. Some of these are a mile or more from a streetcar stop, much less a Muni Metro station (hey there, Richmond District!). Are they going to put a Translink machine every few blocks wherever buses run, or put one on every bus? Although it’s convenient that we have Walgreen’s, etc. selling Translink cards, it’s hardly a complete solution.

  • Akit

    I don’t think any transit agency can get rid of their cash fare box machines on the buses. People will still have to pay cash.

    But it does sound like the goal is to get the entire Bay Area on the Translink card. I’m not sure how popular it will be, but once transit agencies start cutting back on their production of paper passes and maybe eliminate paper transfers, Translink would be the only way to ride around with a monthly pass or get a transfer.

  • Akit

    I don’t think any transit agency can get rid of their cash fare box machines on the buses. People will still have to pay cash.

    But it does sound like the goal is to get the entire Bay Area on the Translink card. I’m not sure how popular it will be, but once transit agencies start cutting back on their production of paper passes and maybe eliminate paper transfers, Translink would be the only way to ride around with a monthly pass or get a transfer.

  • Erik

    Best way is to make Translink or equivalent easily available and make the cash fare 2x the electronic fare.

  • Erik

    Best way is to make Translink or equivalent easily available and make the cash fare 2x the electronic fare.

  • Erik

    Chicago’s tollways work this way.

  • Erik

    Chicago’s tollways work this way.