TransLink delayed for Caltrain 

The launch of a smart transit card system that would eventually allow seamless connections between more than 20 Bay Area transit agencies has been pushed back for Caltrain riders.

Scheduled for release this summer until recently, TransLink cards won’t go out to Caltrain riders now until the end of this year, possibly even later, according to Caltrain spokesman Jonah Weinberg.

The delay is due to problems in December with the card system on AC Transit buses in the East Bay, John Goodwin of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission said.

The delay didn’t prevent the Caltrain board on Thursday from moving forward with an $867,000 contract to install wiring and other hardware for card readers at all 29 Caltrain stations.

"Installation of the card readers is scheduled for this summer and will take a couple of months," Weinberg said.

Caltrain, along with Muni and Bay Area Rapid Transit, is part of the second phase in a limited, multiyear rollout of the TransLink card. AC Transit and Golden Gate Transit were the first to test the most recent release of the smart card in November. AC Transit quickly discovered problems when some machines in its buses failed to read the cards, however, delaying the program’s launch until this week, Goodwin said.

Use of the TransLink cards has increased from about 800 riders in November 2006 to about 2,000 now, officials said.

The card — first piloted for six months in 2002 by a handful of agencies — will cost agencies about $150 million. Transit experts expect roughly 600,000, or 40 percent of the Bay Area’s transit riders, to eventually use the cards each workday, easing transfers between ferries, BART, local buses and Caltrain.

"There will be no more fumbling for change or waiting to feed wrinkled dollar bills into a machine," Goodwin said.

SamTrans buses and Valley Transit, in Santa Clara County, are scheduled to begin limited launches of TransLink in 2008. Smaller bus agencies in Vallejo and Petaluma will follow suit later.

ecarpenter@examiner.com

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