In our last installment, we looked at a poorly placed Clipper reader. The readers are there for riders to tag on and off the train, so that the system knows how far you have ridden the train, and can charge you appropriately. But how does that work if you have a monthly pass, you ask?
I will be "autoloading" my pass onto my Clipper card via my Wageworks Credit Card every month. So come the first of the month, I will have my pass ready to go. However, the pass is autoloaded into the system, but not magically transmitted to my Clipper Card. In order to get my pass onto my Clipper Card, I need to load it onto the card by tagging on and off to ensure the zones traveled match the zones purchased for the pass.
Here's where it gets dodgy. If I have a Zone 1-4 pass, does Zone 2 "match" that pass? Answer - no. This is a problem. I work near Lawrence Expressway, in Zone 4. But the Baby Bullet trains require me to get off the train in Mountain View, in Zone 3. On the first of the month, if I get on a bullet train, and tag on in Zone 1, and off in Zone 3 - that doesn't "match" my pass. I will get charged a $7.75 cash fare that I have already effectively paid by buying my monthly pass. Additionally, my pass will still not be activated.
I asked Clipper about this...
"Yes, you do need to tag off in Zone 4 or else you will be charged the Zone 1-3 cash fare.
I understand that it can be inconvenient, but since Caltrain is a zone-based system with open entry/exit, they have instituted the policy that every c...ard be charged the maximum fare (from the originating station) until the card tags off at its destination. At that time, Clipper searches for an applicable pass or ridebook. If there isn't one, than the fare is deducted from the cash balance.
Kind of sucks given that Caltrain's Clipper Brochure says this...
Monthly Pass: When you load a Caltrain monthly pass, you’ll receive unlimited rides within the zones specified, just like a paper Caltrain monthly pass. Monthly passes can be purchased on the 21st of each month for the coming month through the 9th day of the valid month.
Technically correct - the rub being that you have to go through the proper procedure to "load" the pass.
I told Mike Scanlon last month - "I am not a train guy", and he fed off this to say something about "this seems like common sense but...". Well, I AM a programmer guy. This should be trivial to get right. No - this IS trivial to get right. But they FAILed instead.