Clipper gates dock at Civic Center station 

The Clipper card is getting ready for its maiden voyage at Muni’s Civic Center station.

As part of a $30 million project, new fare gates and ticket machines were unveiled Monday. The moves are important steps in the agency’s transition to full use of the Clipper card, a payment option that works on various regional transit systems and that used to be called TransLink.

In the works for more than two decades, the Clipper card will replace all forms of Muni’s monthly Fast Pass by the end of May, and the new equipment at the Civic Center station will be the first of several upgrades geared toward integrating the card into the agency’s system.

The new fare gates are cashless entrance points that will accept Clipper cards and, for a limited time, Muni’s Fast Pass, although the magnetic reader that traces Fast Passes will be phased out. No transfers will be issued at the gates. The ticket machines allow Muni passengers to purchase and reload their Clipper cards and find out balance information.

The new equipment was showcased Monday, but it won’t be accessible until next month.

In total, 81 fare gates at nine Muni Metro stations will be replaced with Clipper card technology. The current fare gate and ticket-vending system is 30 years old and has outlived its useful life, according to Nathaniel Ford, executive director of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which operates Muni.

The number of passengers using the Clipper card has increased from 300,000 boardings in January to 800,000 in June. On average, the agency records roughly 21 million monthly boardings.

The SFMTA’s transition to the Clipper card has not been without complications. Passengers have complained about being unfairly cited by fare inspectors, lack of outreach in non-English-speaking communities and technical glitches that disrupt service.

Ford said that any new technology is bound to come with growing pains, but the agency has vowed to make those problems as minimal as possible.

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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