clipper.jpgThe San Francisco Municipal Transportation Authority laid out a timeline today for the gradual transition from traditional paper Fast Passes to the regional Clipper Card.

By the end of October, customers who receive disability discount passes or those who use certain Fast Passes will need to convert to a Clipper Card before purchasing a November pass.

Come early 2011, senior and youth pass holders will need to apply for the regional transit card, and remaining Fast Pass users will need to transition by springtime.

Muni customers who are already using TransLink cards do not need to switch to the Clipper cards because the Clipper-compatible fare gates and pass readers already accept TransLink cards.

More than 40,000 Muni customers who use the “A” Fast Pass, which allows riders to also access BART within San Francisco, will receive notice from the SFMTA in September or October of the pending change.

Another 7,000 customers who use a monthly sticker on their Regional Transit Connection discount identification cards will also be required to make the switch before Nov. 1.

The SFMTA, several major Bay Area transit operators, and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission unveiled the re-branded transit card on June 16.

Since then, the SFMTA reported a leap in the number of Muni boardings paid using a Clipper Card or its predecessor, TransLink.

In June, approximately 600,000 Muni rides were paid for using the cards, which was more than twice as many as the agency reported six months ago.

Yet the agency is urging customers to beat the rush by switching to the blue and white Clipper Cards as soon as possible, and SFMTA Executive Director Nat Ford stressed that time is of the essence in adopting the Clipper Cards.

“It’s critical we start early,” he said. “We want our retailers and customers to be informed well in advance so they can be prepared for the transition.”

Monthly passes on the Clipper Card will operate the same as the paper passes but without all the color changes and discarding of outdated passes, which the SFMTA said this will save the agency time and money.

Additional benefits of using the re-loadable card include balance protection against lost or theft, automatic replenishment, and electronically tracked transfers, according to the SFMTA.

Beyond San Francisco, the Clipper Card is currently accepted on BART, AC Transit, Caltrain and Golden Gate Transit and Ferry. Soon, SamTrans and the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority will also accept the regional cards.

Customers can load their cards online by visiting participating Clipper vendors or–beginning this fall–by using a Muni station ticket vending machine.

Monthly “A” Fast Pass customers can get their Clipper Cards free of charge by visiting any Clipper retailer, visiting or by calling (877) 878-8883. Disabled users holding an RTC discount card will automatically receive a Clipper-compatible card when they apply for or renew their card

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