TransLinkCard2.jpgIn today’s Examiner, they say that anyone with a Translink card can now use it on Cable Cars, saying

“cable car operators will be equipped with handheld card readers that will be able to scan a TransLink card. The reader will be able to verify whether the card includes a current monthly pass. If not, the card will be debited the $5 fare for the ride.”

But Akit says that the only people who can use the TL on a Cable Car are Fast Pass holders! Who’s right?

Short answer? Akit. Here’s the scoop:

As Akit notes, the SF MTA recently announced Cable Car operators will have a a handheld card reader they’ll use to scan your card to see if you’re a monthly pass holder. But, according to the MTA site, and in conflict with the Ex story, the Cable Cars won’t deduct fares from non pass holders’ cards.

I double checked this with Metropolitan Transportation Commission spokesperson John Goodwin, who says that “The Examiner report is incorrect. The handheld card readers cannot deduct e-cash.” Why? Because the ” hand-held card readers…are ‘read only.’ Because these devices cannot ‘write’ to the card, they are not able to deduct value and thus cannot accommodate e-cash customers.”

However, Goodwin says that “if you are an Autoload customer and have used Autoload to load a monthly pass onto the card at any time during the first three days of the month,” you’re all set for Rice-a-Roni box fun. If not, you need to have $5 to pay the Cable Car fare.

So, all you monthly pass holders, start getting your Cable Car on, that is, before they get shut down next year.

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!
  • Alex Zepeda

    What? Why don’t they use the same devices that the pop cops use? I’ve had one pop cop use his reader to scan through my TL card history and, because the readers on the train weren’t working, validate my fare (presumably deducting cash from my TL card’s balance).

    Then again… considering that the cable cars have NextBus transponders on them, I wonder what the big deal would be with having a proper TL reader on-board.

  • Alex Zepeda

    What? Why don’t they use the same devices that the pop cops use? I’ve had one pop cop use his reader to scan through my TL card history and, because the readers on the train weren’t working, validate my fare (presumably deducting cash from my TL card’s balance).

    Then again… considering that the cable cars have NextBus transponders on them, I wonder what the big deal would be with having a proper TL reader on-board.

  • Eve Batey

    Why don’t they use the same devices that the pop cops use?

    Great question, Alex! I’ll see if anyone knows the answer to that one.

    I wonder what the big deal would be with having a proper TL reader on-board,

    Akit says this is due to historic preservation issues. I haven’t confirmed this, but he usually knows what he’s talking about, so perhaps that it?

  • Eve Batey

    Why don’t they use the same devices that the pop cops use?

    Great question, Alex! I’ll see if anyone knows the answer to that one.

    I wonder what the big deal would be with having a proper TL reader on-board,

    Akit says this is due to historic preservation issues. I haven’t confirmed this, but he usually knows what he’s talking about, so perhaps that it?

  • PhilD

    I am embarrassed for how poorly this new system is being implemented. This is another case of Things Other Cities Figured Out Decades Ago That We Can’t Seem To Handle. There are so many rules and exceptions that this will inevitably turn more riders off of Muni. Especially once the next rate hike goes into effect.

  • PhilD

    I am embarrassed for how poorly this new system is being implemented. This is another case of Things Other Cities Figured Out Decades Ago That We Can’t Seem To Handle. There are so many rules and exceptions that this will inevitably turn more riders off of Muni. Especially once the next rate hike goes into effect.

  • Akit

    I think it’s OK for Muni to put a Nextbus GPS device onboard since it can’t be visually seen by the public. TransLink readers changes the look of the vehicles, but also demands a decent electrical source, in which the Cable Cars only have car batteries powering the headlight at night.

  • Akit

    I think it’s OK for Muni to put a Nextbus GPS device onboard since it can’t be visually seen by the public. TransLink readers changes the look of the vehicles, but also demands a decent electrical source, in which the Cable Cars only have car batteries powering the headlight at night.

  • Alex Zepeda

    Sorry, that was more of a rhetorical question. IIRC, the reason that the cable cars still use wooden brakes (vs a more effective friction material) is because of that whole historical nonsense. It’s either that, or the MTA is far too cheap to invest a bit up front for savings down the road.

    In any case, I agree about the poor TL rollout. It seems like TransLink put new firmware on their readers. Not only did my card fail to read without taking out of of my wallet the other day. The reader went all spastic before my wallet was even an inch away from the reader.

  • Alex Zepeda

    Sorry, that was more of a rhetorical question. IIRC, the reason that the cable cars still use wooden brakes (vs a more effective friction material) is because of that whole historical nonsense. It’s either that, or the MTA is far too cheap to invest a bit up front for savings down the road.

    In any case, I agree about the poor TL rollout. It seems like TransLink put new firmware on their readers. Not only did my card fail to read without taking out of of my wallet the other day. The reader went all spastic before my wallet was even an inch away from the reader.

  • Erik

    I think the portable devices the PoP cops carry are for read-only checking of whether you paid in the last 90 minutes or have a pass.

  • Erik

    I think the portable devices the PoP cops carry are for read-only checking of whether you paid in the last 90 minutes or have a pass.