Extra hands hired for TransLink 

The Municipal Transportation Agency is hoping to avoid the setbacks other transit agencies experienced when installing new TransLink equipment by hiring transit supervisors to make sure the process is done properly the first time around.

The MTA is installing equipment for the TransLink program — which will allow riders to use one "smart card" for all the region’s public transportation systems by 2010 — on all its buses by November. Most of the agency’s metro light-rail vehicles already have smart card scanners.

But because other Bay Area transit agencies that have connected to the TransLink system have had trouble with faulty software and equipment, the MTA is deploying additional supervisors to oversee the installation process for its buses. There are currently 6,600 smart card riders across the Bay Area.

AC Transit, for example, hit several snags when the agency’s employees who had been given smart cards reported having problems with the scanners, such as the cards not being read, said Clarence Johnson, the agency’s spokesman.

It turned out that the scanners’ electrical wiring wasn’t installed with bumpy rides in mind, said John Goodwin, spokesman for the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, which is overseeing the TransLink program.

Since then, the wiring has been secured, and AC Transit’s system has improved, he said.

"No system is full proof," Goodwin added. "But [AC Transit] has learned some important lessons about the need to really monitor the installation and make sure it’s done very carefully."

And although Golden Gate Transit and Ferry’s first installations went smoothly, the agency has not been immune to problems either. Its TransLink system shut down altogether during daylight-saving time because of a software glitch, Goodwin said.

Hoping to avoid such problems, the MTA asked for an additional $450,000 from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission’s TransLink budget to hire additional supervisors who can oversee the installation process.

The commission granted MTA the funds, and on Tuesday, its Board of Directors voted to accept $280,000 for installation supervision, $115,000 for pre-launch inspection supervision, and $55,000 for equipment monitoring and testing.

The MTA is installing the TransLink scanners as one of various system-wide improvements the agency is undergoing, including a Transit Effectiveness Project that aims to make the system faster and more reliable. The agency was, however, heavily criticized last week for a rough launching of the T-Third metro line, which created system-wide delays.

While Bay Area Rapid Transit and Caltrain are expected to have TransLink installed by later this year, SamTrans and Santa Clara VTA will be on board in 2008.

Muni expects heavy travel on Thursday

Although The City’s metro system has nearly returned to normal since the rough launch of the T-Third line earlier this month, officials are saying the most hectic day is still to come.

A noontime San Francisco Giants game Thursday is expected to stress the system once again. Kenneth McDonald, Muni’s Chief Operating Officer, said the Municipal Transportation Agency is planning for a full day of "rush hour."

"This will be one of our most challenging days that we’ve had so far," McDonald said.

Once the morning commute tapers off, he said, those heading to the ballgame will crowd the system. After dropping the ballgame-goers off, the evening work commute will begin, McDonald said, stressing the system from about 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

The T-Third line, which runs from Castro and Market streets to Bayshore Boulevard and Sunnydale Avenue, has increased the number of trains in the Market Street underground tunnel by 13 percent, which has caused significant backup in the tunnel and system-wide delays.

McDonald said there will be additional game shuttle trains Thursday to help with the large crowds. Muni agents will be deployed to the busiest station platforms to guide people to the shuttles, he said.

arocha@examiner.com

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