This summer’s been a summer of milestones for TransLink, the universal smart-card technology that, once fully implemented, will allow Bay Area transit riders to carry just one fare card — just one! — for trips involving cable cars, ferry boats, BART trains and whatever else regional transit authorities can muster.
TransLink’s been available on Muni as part of its trial phase for about a year. In June, TransLink users accounted for about 4500 of Muni’s 600,000-plus daily boardings; by August, that number had jumped to 7300, according to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s Carter Rohan.
That’s a jump of nearly 57 percent, Rohan pointed out, but the MTA is nothing if not ambitious. By next year — when all Muni Metro faregates will be replaced with TransLink-only gates starting with Forest Hill in June, and when MTA hopes to phase out the paper FastPass by the end of the year — MTA hopes that 7300 will grow to a minimum of 120,000, MTA officials said on Tuesday.
That 120,000 isn’t a magic number, MTA spokesman Judson True was quick to point out — MTA doesn’t need to hit that number to fulfill its contract or unlock any bonus levels. But it does need that many boardings in order to “have significant penetration into the system,” True said. It also becomes more cost-effective — the more riders who use TransLink, the lower the per-boarding transaction fee, according to John Goodwin, of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.
“It’s an ambitious goal, but not unrealistic,” said Goodwin, whose organization is the regional authority overseeing TransLink. “Muni is by far the biggest transit operator in the Bay Area, and their use of TransLink will be an impetus” for many other transit riders all over the 415, 510 and 650 to ditch their outmoded fare cards for TransLink.
Still, 7300 boardings is “less than 1 percent of our riders,” MTA Board member Cameron Beach observed on Tuesday. “I’m concerned about going from less than 8,000 boardings to a minimum of 120,000 in a very short time.”
Of course, switching the faregates to TL-only and phasing out FastPasses, paper transfers and farebooks will help persuade passengers to do the switch — much like eliminating Marlboros and Camels would convince a smoker to switch to American Spirits (unless they could bum a Winston from someone, we guess).
Some more numbers:Regionally, over 30,000 passengers use TransLink, Goodwin told us. And once Muni gets to its 120,000 benchmark, the MTC hopes to have about 600,000 people on the TransLink bandwagon at the same time.
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