TransLink and EZ Rider: Smart Card Shenanigans
After a trial period that started in 2002, the Bay Area’s long-awaited RFID transit-fare card, TransLink, is just now starting to roll out. If you want a card, you can order one on the TransLink site. Officially, the card only works on AC Transit, Dumbarton Express, and Golden Gate Transit, but I talked with a cardholder earlier today, and he told me that he used it at a Muni Metro station with no problem–the faregate read his TransLink card, deducted his $1.50, and let him through. No word on whether this’ll cut any ice with a Muni fare inspector, nor whether it’ll work on buses. If you have a TransLink card and wouldn’t mind experimenting a bit, comment with your experiences.
In related news, BART is conducting a pilot program for its own RFID fare card, EZ Rider. I have one of these, and it’s great–I just touch my wallet to the pad on the faregate and walk through. (Alas, the EZ Rider card is no good at all for lockpicking.) On the one hand, it doesn’t seem to make too much sense for BART to set up its own RFID card program with TransLink scheduled to roll out there this year, but after five years, I can see how BART would be getting impatient with the existing 1960s fare-collection technology. (The TransLink cardholder I spoke with said that the receipt he got from the TransLink machine in the Muni station had actually yellowed with age.)
My informant tells me that the BART faregates recognize when a passenger puts a TransLink card on the reader, but that they display the “See Agent” message that you get when you put a demagnetized or damaged ticket into the faregate. TransLink points don’t seem to register my EZ Rider card, though. No idea what this means for their future interoperability.