Ferry Gets Half-Baked Clipper Support

The recent addition of Clipper card readers at the ferry terminals in Alameda and SF looked like at long last the ferry service was going to get Clipper support so books of paper tickets would no longer be needed. And so it is, on October 1st.

Unfortunately, as with many aspects of the SF Bay area public transit system, those in charge of planning the addition of Clipper apparently don't use the service at all, or even listen to people who do.

The current paper ticket books include two transfers, one for AC Transit in the East Bay and one for Muni in SF. That allows you to take the bus to & from the ferry terminals (although AC Transit does their best to make that hard). This is one of the few examples of well thought out public transit around here. It means people can get between their home and/or office and the ferry terminal on a single ticket.

With Clipper though, the Muni transfer is going to be reduced in value from $2 to 50¢, and the AC Transit one goes away completely. The AC Transit transfer will remain available on the paper books. And the paper books remain at their current price, but according to the FAQ the paper books are going to lose their Muni transfer completely. So now you have to choose: paper tickets with AC Transit or Clipper with a token discount on Muni.

Other metro areas that have implemented RFID type commuter cards (London, Hong Kong, Tokyo etc) make this work seamlessly. Here in SF I already have to have a special bucket of money on the card for my BART ticket, which can only be added by auto-reload making it hard to use commuter checks to get the discount commuter rate (how stupid is that). Now they add the ferry, but cannot handle the transfers at both ends, even though both Muni and AC Transit are already part of the Clipper card system.

And to encourage everybody to switch to Clipper they increase the fares as well as reducing the inter-service transfers. Anybody would think they didn't want people using Clipper (or public transit).

Increase Breakdown

  • If you use the ferry without any transfers, you can keep the books you use now for no change in price. Or pay an extra 25¢ per ride (compared to the 20 ticket books, a little more than that if you use the monthly books) for the convenience of Clipper.
  • If you use the AC Transit transfer, you need to stick with paper unless you want to pay for a full fare on AC Transit plus the increased ferry fare (a total of $2.35 extra each way, unless you buy an AC Transit discount pass).
  • If you use the Muni transfer, you will need to switch to the Clipper card, and your trip will increase by $1.75 each way.
  • If you use both, it looks like sticking with paper tickets will be the most cost effective, but your commute will still go up by $2 each way (a full fare on Muni).

Not much encouragement for people to use public transit for their commute; not even much of a reason for existing commuters to switch to Clipper (some might even decide that driving is a better deal at these prices).

Public Hearing
All of these fare increases are subject to approval at a public hearing to be held on September 6 at 1pm. You can express how you feel about these fare increases as follows:

Public comments are welcome and may be submitted in person at the Public Hearing, by email to gularte@watertransit.org, or by letter addressed to Lauren Gularte, Pier 9, Suite 111, The Embarcadero, San Francisco CA 94111. Written comments must be received no later than midnight on September 5, 2012.


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