An untold number of transit passengers in the East Bay have been hit with extra fees due to a glitch in the Clipper card system that was not noticed by regional officials for a month.
AC Transit passengers who make bus transfers are only charged 25 cents for their second leg, even if they split up that journey with a trip on BART. However, for a two-month stretch earlier this year, Clipper card readers were not recognizing that first trip, leading to overcharges.
The Metropolitan Transportation Commission, which manages the Clipper card with its private partner, Cubic, did not detect the problem until Feb. 29, a month after the glitch started, according to MTC spokesman John Goodwin.
It took until March 22 to fix the problem.
Jonathan Pistorino was one of the passengers affected. As part of his commute from Oakland to Hayward, Pistorino takes two AC Transit buses, sandwiched around a trip on BART. Pistorino normally pays $2.10 to board the first bus and 25 cents to hop on the second one, provided the transfer is within two hours. Combined with his $3 BART fare, it’s a $5.35 trip.
However, the Clipper readers on the AC Transit buses were not recording his original trip, so he was charged $1.85 every time he transferred. The $1.85 would make sense if he was transferring from BART to AC Transit—it’s 25 cents off the normal fare.
And since he used the autoload payment feature, Pistorino did not immediately notice the overcharges.
Making matters worse, Pistorino had no luck getting an explanation from Cubic, the private manufacturer that administers the Clipper card. One attendant told him, falsely, that he was being charged correctly. Another told him it was a problem with AC Transit.
“I finally made some progress with one representative, but then she went on vacation,” Pistorino said. “Another guy picked up the complaint, and I got back on the right track. And then he went on vacation.”
It wasn’t until speaking with a service manager at Cubic that Pistorino found a resolution.
The manufacturer acknowledged the glitch and reimbursed Pistorino — but only after first offering to pay him just $30, well below his lost expenses.
Customers can contact Cubic to receive reimbursements for their travel, although the MTC has said it would take time since the manufacturer would have to review the specifics of each case.
Pistorino is convinced that many more passengers have been paying too much for their travels.
“They told me repeatedly that nothing was wrong,” Pistorino said. “Clipper is a great service when it’s working right. But the people running it seemed to have no problem letting the card rip me off.”
Jonathan Pistorino’s commute
- $2.10: Cost of original trip on AC Transit bus
- $3.00: Cost of BART fare
- 25 cents: Cost of second bus on AC Transit bus under transfer rules
- $1.85: Cost actually charged by Clipper card for second bus
- $1.60: Amount he was overcharged every trip