One-pass travel has second run

A long-anticipated program that one day is expected to allow Bay Area transit riders to use one pass for all the region’s public transportation systems — more than 20 systems in all — is getting its second trial run.

More than 1,000 local public transit riders have been signed up to test TransLink’s computerized fare system on two systems — AC Transit and Golden Gate Transit and Ferry. E-mails went out last month from both agencies to recruit riders.

“In a 24-hour period we got 800 responses,” AC Transit spokesman Clarence Johnson said.

Four years ago, TransLink was given its first trial run in a six-month pilot program involving nearly 5,000 participants, who were able to use the universal pass on select routes for six different transit agencies: AC Transit, BART, Caltrain, Golden Gate Transit, Muni and Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority.

The trial is expected to run through to the end of the year. The biggest test of the program would be in 2007, when Muni and BART, the Bay Area’s two biggest transportation agencies, are scheduled to be hooked up to the TransLink system.

The region’s other systems would be added in the subsequent years, with an expected 2010 goal for the full rollout.

“Most of the bugs have been worked out,” said John Goodwin, spokesman for the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, the agency coordinating the regional transit program that is slated to cost $150 million to fully implement. “This thing has been tested, retested and re-retested.”

To use TransLink, riders are provided with a plastic card embedded with a computer chip, which is loaded with a dollar value, a number of specific rides or a monthly pass for a specific agency. When waved in front of a TransLink card reader, located within transit vehicles and stations, the fare is deducted from the card’s balance. More value can be added through machines located at transit stations and ticket offices, by going online or through automatic transfer.

The ride isn’t any cheaper and the card will cost $5, but local transit officials are hoping the ease of use will eventually encourage more people to get on board public transportation.

beslinger@examiner.com

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