|Location||San Francisco Bay Area|
|Operator||Cubic Transportation Systems|
|Manager||Metropolitan Transportation Commission|
|Currency||USD ($300 maximum load)|
The Clipper card is a reloadable contactless smart card used for electronic transit fare payment in the San Francisco Bay Area. First introduced as TransLink in 2002 by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) as a pilot program, it was rebranded in its current form on 16 June 2010.
In 1993, Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) and County Connection launched a pilot program named Translink (not to be confused with other agencies with that name) that allowed the use of a single fare card between the two systems. The card, which used magnetic stripe technology, was envisioned to one day include all Bay Area transit agencies. However, due to technical problems, the program was abandoned two years later.
Translink had a projected capital cost of $4 million when undertaken in 1993. In its current form, first as TransLink and later as Clipper, implementation was expected to cost $30 million. Cost estimates have since increased; the projected 25-year capital and operations costs are now estimated at $338 million.
Scheduled implementation delays have added up to more than a decade. In 1998, MTC envisioned full availability of TransLink by 2001. However, it was fully operational for only five transit agencies by 2009. As of December 2011, Clipper was only accepted by eight of the Bay Area's transit agencies.
Clipper was developed by Australian-based ERG Group and Motorola under the ERG-Motorola alliance in April 1999. However, upon the launch of Clipper, Cubic Transportation Systems has taken over administration of distribution, customer service, and financial settlement of the program.
On June 16, 2010, MTC changed the TransLink name to Clipper, an homage to the clipper ships of the 19th century, which were the fastest route for traveling from the east coast to San Francisco, and eliminated the contact interface which had been used to load funds onto the cards at Translink machines.
Cost of card
Obtaining a cards was free from introduction in June 2010 to encourage users to adopt the card, until September 1, 2012 when new adult cards began to cost $3. This charge covers the approximately $2 per card to manufacture and reduces the incentive to throw away the card if the value goes negative when fare is calculated on exit. The $3 fee is waived if the card is registered to auto-load more value (in which case it cannot go negative).
Passengers can add money to their Clipper cards in person ("at participating retailers, participating transit agencies' ticket vending machines and ticket offices, Clipper Customer Service Centers, and Clipper Add Value Machines") at work, automatically, or online. While the money is added immediately in person, it will take 3–5 days before it registers on the Clipper card if added by telephone or online.
Clipper is currently functional for seventeen Bay Area transit agencies:
- AC Transit, including Dumbarton Express
- Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART)
- County Connection
- Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District (Golden Gate Transit and Golden Gate Ferry)
- Marin Transit
- Petaluma Transit
- San Francisco Municipal Railway (Muni)
- Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA)
- Santa Rosa CityBus
- San Francisco Bay Ferry (except for Angel Island and AT&T Park service)
- Sonoma County Transit
- Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit (2016)
- Tri-Delta Transit
- Vacaville City Coach
In addition, a few parking garages in the Bay Area currently accept Clipper as payment.
Differences between agencies
|Agency||Tag when entering||Payment duration||Tag when exiting||Minimum card balance to enter||Special rules|
|AC Transit||yes||2 hours||no||$0.01||
|Bay Area Rapid Transit
|County Connection||yes||1 hour||no||$1.75; $0.75 Senior/Disabled|
|Fairfield And Suisun Transit||yes||1 hour||no||$6.00; $5.50 Senior/Disabled||FAST does not accept Clipper for Short Hop Fares on SolanoExpress Route 30 and Route 40.|
|Golden Gate Transit||yes||yes||yes||$0.00||If the passenger does not tag off, the fare from the boarding point to San Francisco or Santa Rosa, whichever is greater, will be charged.|
|Golden Gate Ferry||yes||N/A||yes||$4.25||The passenger tags on or off at the ferry terminal, not on the ferry.|
|Marin Transit||yes||yes||yes||$0.00||Not accepted on Muir Woods shuttle routes (66/66F).|
|San Francisco Municipal Railway (Muni)||yes||90 minutes||no||$1.75 adult; $1.00 discount ||
|Petaluma Transit||yes||1 hour||no||$1.50 adult, $1.25 youth, $0.75 senior/disabled||No minimum balance is required when using a 31-day pass.|
|Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA)||yes||2 hours||no||$0.01||
|Santa Rosa CityBus||yes||1 hour||no||$1.50 adult, $1.25 youth, $0.75 senior/disabled||No minimum balance is required when using a 31-day pass.|
|San Francisco Bay Ferry||yes||?||yes||$1.50 adult; $0.75 senior/disabled||The passenger tags on or off at the ferry terminal, not on the ferry.|
|SolTrans||yes||1 hour||no||$6.00; $5.50 Senior/Disabled||Local transfers do not exist within the SolTrans system, however transfers between other transit systems are valid 60 minutes after tagging.|
|Sonoma County Transit||yes||3 hours||yes||$3 adult, $2.75 youth, $1.50 senior/disabled||
|Tri-Delta Transit||yes||1 hour||no||$1.75; $0.75 Senior/Disabled|
|Vacaville City Coach||yes||1 hour||no||$6.00; $5.50 Senior/Disabled|
|VINE Transit||yes||1 hour||no||$6.00; $5.50 Senior/Disabled||VINE accepts Clipper for payment on Route 29 to BART, but not for Route 29 to the Vallejo Ferry Terminal.|
|WestCAT||yes||1 hour||no||$1.75; $0.75 Senior/Disabled|
|WHEELS||yes||1 hour||no||$1.75; $0.75 Senior/Disabled|
Clipper utilizes a NXP Semiconductors MIFARE DESFire (MF3ICD40) integrated circuit to manufacture the card. The card operates on the 13.56 MHz range putting it into the Near Field Communication category (rather than RFID, as is commonly misconceived). Because the card uses NFC technology, any NFC-enabled device can read the serial number, travel history, and current balance on the card. However, data cannot be written to the card without the proper encryption key, preventing unauthorized access to funds on the card. The former Translink cards, while still functional on the fare system readers, do not conform to MIFARE and are unreadable by 13.56 MHz readers.
Because Clipper operates in multiple geographical areas with sporadic or non-existent internet access, the fare collection and verification technology needs to operate without any networking. To accomplish this, the Clipper card memory keeps track of balance on the card, fares paid, and trip history. Unfortunately, this also means if funds are added to the Clipper account via the internet, funds will not show up on the clipper card until it has been scanned at an internet-enabled (or recently synchronized) device. Buses and other vehicles without internet access will have to return to a service station in order to synchronize with Clipper's servers. During synchronization, the payment collection device will upload to the server data about any fares collected, and will download information about new account balances. Riders who scan their card at a recently synchronized payment collection device will have their card updated to reflect their true account balance.
The waiting period between synchronizations may cause some cards to report lower funds than are actually on the corresponding Clipper account. In order to alleviate this problem, Clipper allows riders to go as low as −$11.25 on the card before funds need to be added, and/or the card needs to be scanned at an internet-enabled or recently synchronized device.
- "Senior, youth and disabled discounts". Clipper card website. Retrieved 19 July 2012.
- "Limited Use Muni Tickets". San Francisco Municipal Railway website. Retrieved 19 July 2012.
- "Clipper on Golden Gate - FAQ". Clipper website. Retrieved 23 August 2014.
- TransLink name changes to Clipper on June 16
- "Metropolitan Transportation Commission Fund Management System". Metropolitan Transportation Commission. Retrieved 19 June 2008.
- Bowman, Catherine (15 January 1998). "Multitransit Card Proposed". San Francisco Chronicle.
- Gordon, Rachael (27 November 2007). "TransLink backers consider letting people pay for parking with card". San Francisco Chronicle.
- "Use Clipper". Metropolitan Transportation Commission. Retrieved 8 December 2011.
- "Cubic Supports Metropolitan Transportation Commission in Launching ClipperSM Card for San Francisco Bay Area". Retrieved 30 May 2011.
- Mara, Janis (11 June 2009). "Bay Area universal transit card stalls". Contra Costa Times. p. 1. Retrieved 22 June 2009. Archived 13 August 2014 at the Wayback Machine.
- Cabanatuan, Michael (10 February 2010). "Translink, step aside". San Francisco Chronicle.
- "ClipperSM Card Grows in Popularity and Reaches Out to Chinese Market". Metropolitan Transportation Commission. Retrieved 9 July 2011.
- 李秀蘭 (8 October 2010). 公車儲值卡 中文名路路通. World Journal (in Chinese). Retrieved 9 July 2011.
- New Clipper Cards to Cost $3
- Clipper Card’s Dirty Little Secret (Hint: It Can “Go Negative”)
- Get Clipper
- Clipper card: Ways to add value
- Prado, Mark (14 April 2016). "SMART begins talking rail schedule as service set to begin later this year". Marin Independent Journal. Retrieved 16 April 2016.
- "Clipper Home". Clipper Card. Retrieved 11 November 2014.
- Caltrain: Ticket Vending Machine
- How to Ride Step 3 - Pay
- Questions about using Clipper® on Caltrain
-  VTA. Last accessed on August 7, 2014.
- Butler, Eric (7 February 2011). "FareBot: Read data from public transit cards with your NFC-equipped Android phone". Retrieved 11 June 2012.
- "Clipper Cards Reveal Travelers' Whereabouts To Police, Lawyers, Apps". 2012-10-16. Retrieved 2015-06-06.
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