Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Caltrain Staff Report FAIL

From this month's Caltrain JPB Meeting Agenda - item 7 - Report of the Executive Director.

Clipper – Caltrain continued to make customers aware of the imminent elimination of the paper Monthly Pass. It also reminded customers of the top tips for riding Caltrain with a Clipper card: maintain a minimum $1.25 on the card; tag on and off each time for e-cash and 8-ride Ticket customers; and tag on and off the first ride of the month for Monthly Pass customers. Information was disseminated with staff visiting stations and onboard outreach, website posting,conductor announcements, station electronic message board notices, brochures, take ones, station flyers, and via ticket vending machines.

This should not be a point of pride. It should be a point of embarrassment. Currently the conductors get their daily orders from Caltrain and every day are instructed to repeatedly remind customers to have $1.25 on their cards, instead of focusing on passenger and train safety. All of this costs money, in addition to the $450,000 that MTC has allocated due to excess Caltrain customer complaints.

The Clipper Facebook page and some rumbling from Conductors on the train mentions that they are looking at ways to change the system. This better include public outreach.

Caltrain they held 4 public outreach meetings on fare increases and service cuts - meetings which predictably consisted of "Please don't cut the service". Unless someone was showing up with a check for $30 Million, the meetings were redundant.

Meanwhile, Caltrain - "train guys" - are probably going to overhaul Clipper without doing public outreach. Clipper is "Computer Programming", "Algorithms", "User interface", "Market Research". Some of the foremost experts in the world on these topics RIDE Caltrain, but do not WORK FOR Caltrain. Caltrain could leverage those highly paid professionals - FOR FREE - but history indicates (Bike Cars, no public outreach on Weekend Baby Bullet Schedule) that they are too stubborn or too incompetent to do so.


Andrew said...

Today Clipper customer service told me that the reason my refund has not been applied for six weeks is "technical" and I wouldn't understand if he tried to explain it to me.

Bart said...

Andrew - I doubt that the reason is technical. At worse case they could mail you a new Clipper card loaded with the refund amount.

On the ClipperDirect (pre-tax payroll funded Clipper) front I've found a glaring UI flaw. Apparently when you order Clipper products via pre-tax deductions, those products are placed into an intermediate queue and transferred to your Clipper card when certain conditions are met.

The flaw is that this queue and the transfer criteria are not visible to users. So you've got to rely on memory and mythology to understand whether or not your Clipper card will remain valid after the next ride. If you lose track then you need to call customer service to read what's in the queue. Good thing they just got another half million to staff customer service.