TransLink launch delayed from on-time arrival

The new year has brought the same old news to Bay Area transit riders hoping to use TransLink on BART, Muni and Caltrain: potential delays in the system.

TransLink, a one-card fare system for participating Bay Area transit agencies, went systemwide on Alameda-Contra Costa and Golden Gate transit district buses in September, but glitches in software and testing have pushed back a soft launch of the card on Muni, Caltrain and BART from mid-December until the end of March this year and perhaps even further, according to transit officials.

So far, 38,000 TransLink cards have been distributed, with a surge in users on AC Transit starting in October. Despite a downturn in ridership during the holiday season, TransLink users set a record of 11,500 boardings on Dec. 3, according to a system report.

At a TransLink meeting Monday, Gary LaBonte, an executive manager of Transit System Development for BART, said the projected date of March 31 for Muni and Caltrain to be “revenue ready” — ready for a limited launch of the single-fare card payment system on their buses and trains — was under review and a revised schedule for BART’s potential launch was not submitted by Motorola/ERG, the company responsible for the system software.

Device upgrades and delays in field testing threaten the revenue ready dates for Muni and Caltrain. Lab testing was halted for the BART system and will not resume until Wednesday, which could delay its status for a soft launch by two or more months, LaBonte said.

LaBonte showed frustration with Motorola/ERG, which is in charge of scheduling the launch dates for TransLink, saying it was a return to previous business habits.

“It’s not encouraging,” LaBonte said.

Larry Weissbach, a vice president at Motorola, said during the Monday meeting that the company has put 50 percent more staff onto the projects and has employees working six-day weeks “to bring in all schedules closer to” the originally projected dates.

Monday’s meeting was not entirely negative, with the announcement that 82 percent of Muni’s vehicles now have TransLink card readers placed on them in anticipation of the system going online soon. 

dsmith@examiner.com

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