It’s so cool, I can barely stand it. My new TransLink pass, that is. I first discovered TransLink the way I discover most things – by whining to another person about some problem and being pleasantly surprised to find out that a solution to my problem already exists. In this case I was whining to E about Muni transfers. 90% of the time I ride Muni to and from clients’ homes and so I have to save the transfers so that I can write them off as business expenses. More than once I’ve thought about buying a monthly pass, but the passes are $60 for Muni only and $70 for Muni + BART (within SF). This means that I would have to ride the bus at least once a day to make just the $60 pass worth the expense. The most I’ve ever spent on Muni in a month is $40, and I just don’t think the convenience of owning a pass (versus carrying around a bunch of ones or quarters) is worth the extra $20+. My other complaint with these passes is that they’re monthly unlimited passes. Unlike a monthly unlimited yoga membership, I’m not going to hop on Muni just because I have a pass and I can. It’s not like riding Muni is relaxing or fun. Why can’t there be something like the BART EZ Rider card where you pay a certain amount for the card and Muni fares are deducted on a per ride basis?
Like most Bay Areans, I’ve been saying we should have a system of transportation that conveniently takes you wherever you want to go in the Bay Area. But seeing as how Santa Clara and San Mateo will probably NEVER get their act together around BART, I’d settle for a singular pass that I could use on BART, Muni, CalTrain, AC Transit, etc. This is the point where I borrow from the Windows 7 commercials and say, “I ride public transportation and TransLink was my idea.”
TransLink is the one ring to rule them all. You can use it on all the above-mentioned agencies and more are coming on-board in the future. You have multiple options for adding fare to the pass – you can either do it at add fare machines (just like you would for BART), you can add value online, or you can have the pass automatically refilled once it falls below a certain balance. Within this automated option, there are further options: You can load passes onto the card (like BART’s 45/48 pass or a Muni monthly pass), or you can use “e-cash,” which is basically a pre-set amount of money that you want to keep on your card. I have mine set up on the e-cash option so now I can use the TransLink pass on BART or Muni (or whatever) and have the correct fare deducted from my card balance. An extra awesome feature – if I lose the card or have it stolen, I can go online, cancel the card and save my balance. There’s a fee for getting a new card, but it sure beats the heck out of accidentally running a regular BART card through the wash and losing everything.
I’m totally stoked. Perhaps it’s my shoebox of an apartment, but I love consolidating things, or things that have multiple functions. Like the cribs that eventually break down into full-sized beds, or the car-seats that clip into your stroller, or phones that take pictures and play music and serve as a GPS.
Now if only we can get TransLink to work with FasTrak.