Appeal staffer Rita is like Prince’s mother — she’s never satisfied! No sooner did BART announce their implementation of the TransLink transit payment card that she asked “When’s Translink coming to Caltrain????”

We’ll do anything for Rita, so we rang up Caltrain Public Information Officer Christine Dunn, who told us that after “rigorous, real-world” testing Caltrain employees earlier this summer, as of August 17, 400 non-Caltrain-employeed volunteers will start tagging their cards as they ride the rails.

As with BART’s soft launch (which we all enjoyed the fruits of this morning), however, anyone with a working TransLink card will be able to use the TL transponders to tag and ride. And, also, as with BART’s soft launch, this is “not necessarily recommended” as Dunn said “we can’t be sure everything will work perfectly during the testing phase.” So this method of payment is best left to those who choose to live life on the jagged edge.

This reporter’s not a big Caltrainer, is there anyone out there who is who wants to keep us posted on how this goes? If so, let us know.

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.

Please make sure your comment adheres to our comment policy. If it doesn't, it may be deleted. Repeat violations may cause us to revoke your commenting privileges. No one wants that!
  • Akit

    Wow! Another big step so soon! I wonder how prepared the train conductors are, and if they carry the specialized card readers on them.

    It will definitely be a while until other agencies can get going for testing, the installation of the product on buses takes time.

  • Akit

    Wow! Another big step so soon! I wonder how prepared the train conductors are, and if they carry the specialized card readers on them.

    It will definitely be a while until other agencies can get going for testing, the installation of the product on buses takes time.

  • Plug1

    Plug2 is a daily Caltrain rider and Translink card holder. Ill give you play-by-play (via her) once she is able to use it.

  • Plug1

    Plug2 is a daily Caltrain rider and Translink card holder. Ill give you play-by-play (via her) once she is able to use it.

  • John Murphy

    I predict this will be a massive FAIL.

    Caltrain’s current fare structures.

    1) Monthly Pass
    2) Eight Ride ticket
    3) One way tickets

    Will you have to load an eight ride onto your card, or will tagging your card trigger the purchase of a new eight ride? Will the reader tell you how many rides you have left? – there is a substantial penalty for a one way vs an eight ride. The eight ride tickets have a 60 day expiry – have the brainiacs at Translink figured that one out? And if so, how do you check how long until that ticket expires?

    How do you load any of these things onto a translink card anyway? Will the TVM machines allow you to insert a translink card? In theory you could do it just by tagging, but what if you are going some place unusual and you just want a one way, not an eight ride?

    Me, I’ll buy my paper monthly pass for a long long time, if nothing else than that flashing that pass will be quicker than having the conductor scan my translink card.

  • John Murphy

    I predict this will be a massive FAIL.

    Caltrain’s current fare structures.

    1) Monthly Pass
    2) Eight Ride ticket
    3) One way tickets

    Will you have to load an eight ride onto your card, or will tagging your card trigger the purchase of a new eight ride? Will the reader tell you how many rides you have left? – there is a substantial penalty for a one way vs an eight ride. The eight ride tickets have a 60 day expiry – have the brainiacs at Translink figured that one out? And if so, how do you check how long until that ticket expires?

    How do you load any of these things onto a translink card anyway? Will the TVM machines allow you to insert a translink card? In theory you could do it just by tagging, but what if you are going some place unusual and you just want a one way, not an eight ride?

    Me, I’ll buy my paper monthly pass for a long long time, if nothing else than that flashing that pass will be quicker than having the conductor scan my translink card.

  • Akit

    Take a look at their management report just released today, it gives much deeper insight into the execution of the program. I found this because the management group responsible for Translink met just a couple of hours ago.

    It gives some details about BART, Caltrain, Samtrans, VTA, and some of the future changes with Cubic’s purchase of Motorola ERG.

    http://apps.mtc.ca.gov/events/agendaView.akt?p=1327

  • Akit

    Take a look at their management report just released today, it gives much deeper insight into the execution of the program. I found this because the management group responsible for Translink met just a couple of hours ago.

    It gives some details about BART, Caltrain, Samtrans, VTA, and some of the future changes with Cubic’s purchase of Motorola ERG.

    http://apps.mtc.ca.gov/events/agendaView.akt?p=1327

  • Rita

    YAY!!! Thank you, SF Appeal!!! This IS what it sounds like when doves cry! Will have my better half report on how Caltrain implementation goes as well.

  • Rita

    YAY!!! Thank you, SF Appeal!!! This IS what it sounds like when doves cry! Will have my better half report on how Caltrain implementation goes as well.

  • Rita

    oh, and to answer at least some of John Murphy’s questions, it sounds like Caltrain is going to ask riders to swipe in when they board, and swipe off when they leave. If you don’t swipe off, you get billed the maximum. Monthlies only have to swipe once, and they claim you can load multi-ride passes on the Translink too. I got this all off one of the Caltrain newsletters (.pdf), of all places.

    I agree that it’ll be interesting to see how the Caltrain implementation works — MUNI’s been pretty good with distinguishing between single rides, transfers, and monthly passes so I’m hoping theiir technology is okay. Me, I’m still working myself up in a lather over the fact that BART can’t get a non-credit-card way to give me my High Rider Value ticket!

  • Rita

    oh, and to answer at least some of John Murphy’s questions, it sounds like Caltrain is going to ask riders to swipe in when they board, and swipe off when they leave. If you don’t swipe off, you get billed the maximum. Monthlies only have to swipe once, and they claim you can load multi-ride passes on the Translink too. I got this all off one of the Caltrain newsletters (.pdf), of all places.

    I agree that it’ll be interesting to see how the Caltrain implementation works — MUNI’s been pretty good with distinguishing between single rides, transfers, and monthly passes so I’m hoping theiir technology is okay. Me, I’m still working myself up in a lather over the fact that BART can’t get a non-credit-card way to give me my High Rider Value ticket!

  • Akit

    Tag-on and tag-off; its the same policy as Golden Gate Transit is using right now.

    I heard rumors that they will have an “unfortunate event” option (derailment, accident, etc.) that passengers with Translink cards can tag-off at the same station they were waiting for their train and get a full refund. Not sure that’s true, but it would take some of the grumpiness out of wasting your money on a train that is severely delayed.

  • Akit

    Tag-on and tag-off; its the same policy as Golden Gate Transit is using right now.

    I heard rumors that they will have an “unfortunate event” option (derailment, accident, etc.) that passengers with Translink cards can tag-off at the same station they were waiting for their train and get a full refund. Not sure that’s true, but it would take some of the grumpiness out of wasting your money on a train that is severely delayed.

  • John Murphy

    “I heard rumors that they will have an “unfortunate event” option (derailment, accident, etc.) that passengers with Translink cards can tag-off at the same station they were waiting for their train and get a full refund.”

    I’ve been on trains that had fatalities. Eventually they walked us across the tracks to a parking lot and put everyone on a bus. Execpt of course for those of us with bikes.

    There is always a reader to tag off a GG Transit bus…
    But… there’s no translink reader in a parking lot in the middle of Redwood City – the readers are on the platforms, not the trains. Which makes sense or dwell time would be ridiculous.

    Fortunately you don’t have to “tag off” in San Francisco, you can just let it take the max off while you run to the N-Judah. Otherwise, there might be a rumble to get to the front of the tag-off queue. I can’t say the same for when 200+ people get ejected from Caltrain in Mountain View. If you miss your company shuttle – there is no next company shuttle.

    My overall point is that this will be more of a pain in the butt than the paper tickets will be, which is counter to the whole point.

  • John Murphy

    “I heard rumors that they will have an “unfortunate event” option (derailment, accident, etc.) that passengers with Translink cards can tag-off at the same station they were waiting for their train and get a full refund.”

    I’ve been on trains that had fatalities. Eventually they walked us across the tracks to a parking lot and put everyone on a bus. Execpt of course for those of us with bikes.

    There is always a reader to tag off a GG Transit bus…
    But… there’s no translink reader in a parking lot in the middle of Redwood City – the readers are on the platforms, not the trains. Which makes sense or dwell time would be ridiculous.

    Fortunately you don’t have to “tag off” in San Francisco, you can just let it take the max off while you run to the N-Judah. Otherwise, there might be a rumble to get to the front of the tag-off queue. I can’t say the same for when 200+ people get ejected from Caltrain in Mountain View. If you miss your company shuttle – there is no next company shuttle.

    My overall point is that this will be more of a pain in the butt than the paper tickets will be, which is counter to the whole point.

  • John Murphy

    Hmm. Right now, a Monthly Caltrain pass is good as a monthly pass on VTA or SamTrans. But those agencies don’t have readers… :(

  • John Murphy

    Hmm. Right now, a Monthly Caltrain pass is good as a monthly pass on VTA or SamTrans. But those agencies don’t have readers… :(

  • Akit

    I was trying to describe that policy as if your train doesn’t show-up at your starting station, you can cancel-out; not in the process of being delayed or stuck during your train ride.

  • Akit

    I was trying to describe that policy as if your train doesn’t show-up at your starting station, you can cancel-out; not in the process of being delayed or stuck during your train ride.