Clipper card

The Clipper card is a reloadable contactless smart card used for automated fare collection in the San Francisco Bay Area. First introduced as TransLink in 2002 by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) as a pilot program, it was rebranded in its current form on June 16, 2010.[4] Like other transit smart cards such as the Oyster card, the Clipper card is a credit card-sized stored-value card capable of holding both cash value and transit passes for the participating transit agencies.[5] In addition to the traditional plastic card, Clipper is available as a virtual card in Google Pay and Apple Wallet.[6][7][8][9] Clipper is accepted by nearly all public transit services in the Bay Area, including Muni, BART, Caltrain, AC Transit, SamTrans, Golden Gate Transit, Golden Gate Ferry, San Francisco Bay Ferry, VTA, and many others.[10]

Clipper
The Clipper logo. Two ships, each composed of three rounded blue triangles pointing upwards atop one blue triangle pointing downwards. The ship on the right is twice as large as the ship on the left. At the right is the word "Clipper" in all capital letters.
Clipper logo
Other names
  • 路路通 (Chinese)
LocationSan Francisco Bay Area
LaunchedJune 16, 2010
Technology
OperatorCubic Transportation Systems
ManagerMetropolitan Transportation Commission
CurrencyUnited States dollar ($300 maximum load)
Credit expiryNone
Auto rechargeYes
Validity
Retailed
Variants
  • Youth Clipper card[1]
  • Senior Clipper card[1]
  • RTC Clipper card[2]
  • Limited-use Muni ticket[3]
  • Limited-use Golden Gate Ferry ticket[3]
WebsiteClippercard.com

HistoryEdit

Early effortsEdit

 
The former TransLink card, issued prior to June 2010.

In 1993, Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) and County Connection launched a pilot program named Translink (not to be confused with other agencies with that name) that allowed the use of a single fare card between the two systems.[11] The card, which used magnetic stripe technology, was envisioned to one day include all Bay Area transit agencies. However, due to technical problems, the program was abandoned two years later.[11]

Translink had a projected capital cost of $4 million when undertaken in 1993.[11] In its current form, first as TransLink and later as Clipper, implementation was expected to cost $30 million.[12] Cost estimates have since increased; in 2008, the projected 25-year capital and operations costs were estimated at $338 million.[12]

Implementation took more than a decade. In 1998, MTC envisioned full availability of TransLink by 2001.[13] However, it was fully operational for only five transit agencies by 2009.[14]

TransLink was developed by Australian-based ERG Group and Motorola under the ERG-Motorola alliance in April 1999. However, upon the launch of Clipper, Cubic Transportation Systems took over administration of distribution, customer service, and financial settlement of the program.[15]

Relaunch as ClipperEdit

 
The Clipper card

On June 16, 2010, MTC changed the TransLink name to Clipper, an homage to the clipper ships of the 19th century, the fastest way to travel from the East Coast to San Francisco,[16] and eliminated the contact interface which had been used to load funds onto the cards at TransLink machines.

In October 2010, the MTC selected 路路通 (Pinyin: Lùlùtōng, the "Go Everywhere Card", lit. "every transit route/line pass") as the official Chinese name for Clipper.[17][18] In Spanish it is known as "tarjeta Clipper".[19]

In 2014, the MTC started an initiative to design the next generation version of the Clipper system, nicknamed "C2" or "Clipper 2.0".[20][21] The contract with Cubic for the existing Clipper system expired in 2019, and the system architecture dates from the 1990s. These factors led the MTC to start developing a next generation system planned to begin operation in 2021.[22] The new system was specified to include a mobile app as well as integration with digital wallets.[22] The upgrade was funded in part by $50 million from Regional Measure 3, a bridge toll increase approved in June 2018.[23]

In December 2020, BART announced that it had converted all of its ticket machines to Clipper-only, discontinuing the sale of paper magstripe tickets that had been used since the system's inception in the 1970s.[24] Existing paper tickets remain valid and add-fare machines inside the paid area of each station can be used to add fare to paper tickets if they have insufficient fare remaining to exit at the station in question.[24]

On April 15, 2021, Clipper became available in Apple Wallet, and the Clipper mobile app for iOS was released.[25] Integration with Google Pay and an Android app were released on May 19, 2021.[26]

UsageEdit

 
A Clipper card being used to enter a BART faregate

Cost of cardEdit

Obtaining a card was free from introduction in June 2010 to encourage users to adopt the card, until September 1, 2012 when new adult cards began to cost $3.[27] This charge covers the cost (approximately $2) to manufacture each card and reduces the incentive to throw away the card if the value goes negative when fare is calculated on exit.[28] The $3 fee is waived if the card is registered for Autoload at the time of purchase (in which case it cannot go negative).[29] There is no fee to transfer plastic Clipper cards to mobile wallets,[6][7] and the $3 fee for new virtual cards in mobile wallets is being waived for the first six months following launch.[30]

Adding money and transit passesEdit

 
A Clipper card vending machine, used to buy new cards and load transit value and passes, at Salesforce Transit Center.

Passengers can add money and transit passes to their Clipper cards in person ("at participating retailers, participating transit agencies' ticket vending machines and ticket offices, Clipper Customer Service Centers, and Clipper Add Value Machines") at work, automatically, online, or using the Clipper mobile app. While money and passes added in person are available to use immediately, doing the same by telephone, online, or using the mobile app may take 3–5 days to register on a physical Clipper card.[31][32] Cash value and passes added online or via the mobile app to virtual Clipper cards in Google Pay or Apple Wallet are available for immediate use, except for BART High-Value Discount tickets; these are available by the following day.[6][33]

Transit servicesEdit

Clipper is currently accepted on 24 Bay Area transit services:[10]

A number of smaller regional transit agencies have not yet joined Clipper, including ACE and Rio Vista Delta Breeze. Clipper is not accepted on Amtrak California's Capitol Corridor or San Joaquins trains, despite these serving the Bay Area.[10]

Differences between transit servicesEdit

The fare rules for each participating transit service are set by the agency operating the service, not by Clipper. Each service has differing rules that approximate the fare collection rules used by that service prior to Clipper adoption, and are adapted to the needs of that service. For example, Golden Gate Transit uses a zone-based fare system, so it requires passengers to tag on when boarding and tag off when alighting;[34] in contrast, San Francisco’s Muni has a flat fare structure so it only requires that passengers tag on when boarding.[35]

Clipper payment rules by transit service, as of May 2021
Transit service Tag when entering Payment duration Tag when exiting Minimum card balance to enter Notes
AC Transit (including Dumbarton Express) Yes[36] 2 hours[37] No[36]
  • If traveling locally on a transbay bus, the passenger has to inform the driver of this before tagging their card so that the driver can set the reader to a local fare.[38]
  • Once a passenger has reached $5.00 in fares in one day ($2.50 for discounted fares) a day pass is automatically loaded to the card allowing for unlimited rides the remainder of the day.[36]
Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) Yes[39] 3 hours[40] Yes[39] $2.10 adult;

$1.05 youth;

$0.75 senior/disabled[41]

  • Passengers enter and exit the train platform through a turnstile, at which point they must “tag on” or “tag off” their cards.[39]
  • Muni to BART to Muni transfer results in charging extra Muni fare.[citation needed]
  • If the card has insufficient balance upon exiting, the passenger must use a nearby add-fare machine to add the remaining balance by tagging the Clipper card at the machine and adding payment before exiting the BART system.[39] Most add-fare machines only accept cash, although BART is in the process of upgrading them to accept credit and debit cards.[39] The agent may allow passengers to use the ticket machines outside the fare gates to add value with a credit or debit card.[39]
  • A passenger exiting from the same station they entered without any intervening exit from the BART system will be charged an “excursion fare” of $6.20.[39] If a passenger needs to exit a station shortly after entering it, they can ask a BART station agent to waive the excursion fare.[39]
Caltrain Yes[32] 4 hours; 15 minutes to re-tag at the same station to cancel the trip and refund the fare charged to the card Yes[32] $1.25[32]
  • There are no turnstiles, as Caltrain uses a proof-of-payment system. Passengers paying with cash must tag on & tag off for each trip at card readers located on platforms or in station buildings.[32] Passengers who board the train without a valid fare (checked by conductors on each train) are subject to an administrative fine of $75.[32][42][43]
  • Passengers with a monthly pass only need to tag on and off for their first ride of each month.[32]
  • Passengers are charged the maximum one-way fare when they tag on prior to boarding the train and the difference is reimbursed when they tag off after leaving the train. If passengers forget to tag off when they exit the train, they will be charged “the highest cash fare from [their] point of origin.”[44]
County Connection Yes[45] 2 hours[45] No[45] $1.75 adult/youth;

$0.75 senior/disabled[45]

  • One free transfer within two hours to another County Connection bus or to Tri Delta Transit, Wheels, WestCAT, SolTrans, or FAST.[45]
  • Total daily fares are capped ($3.75 for adults and youth; $1.75 for seniors and disabled) on County Connection, Tri Delta Transit, WestCAT and Wheels, except for WestCAT Lynx. Subsequent rides after reaching the daily maximum in paid fares are free.[45]
Fairfield And Suisun Transit (including SolanoExpress) Yes[46] 1 hour[46] No[46] $2.00[47]
  • Clipper can be used for local (within Solano County) trips on SolanoExpress, but the full express fare will be charged.[47]
  • One free transfer within one hour. Not valid for transfers to or from SolanoExpress.[46]
Golden Gate Ferry Yes, unless boarding at Sausalito or Tiburon[48] 3 hours[49] No, unless boarding at Sausalito or Tiburon[48] $2.00[49]
  • Passengers traveling from Larkspur or San Francisco must tag their card at the terminal before boarding the ferry; passengers traveling from Sausalito or Tiburon must tag their card when disembarking in San Francisco.[48]
  • Not valid on Oracle Park[50] or Chase Center[51] routes.
Golden Gate Transit Yes[34] 4 hours[34] Yes[34] $2.00[52]
  • Upon boarding, the maximum one-way fare from the starting zone is charged; the difference is refunded when the passenger tags off.[34]
Marin Transit Yes[53] 2 hours[54] No[53] $1.80 adult;

$1.00 youth/senior/disabled[54]

  • Includes up to 2 transfers within 2 hours.[54]
  • Not accepted on Muir Woods shuttle routes (66/66F).[54]
Petaluma Transit Yes[55] 2 hours[55] No[55] $1.50 adult;

$1.00 youth;

$0.75 senior/disabled[55]

  • No minimum balance is required when using a 31-day pass.[55]
SamTrans Yes[56] 2 hours[57][58] No[56]
  • Includes unlimited transfers within 2 hours.[58]
  • Caltrain monthly pass holders (2 zones or more) get free rides on local routes, and a discount on express routes.[57]
San Francisco Bay Ferry Yes[59] 3 hours[59] Yes[59] $5.40 adult;

$3.60 youth/senior/disabled[59]

  • When tagging on, the maximum one-way fare from the starting ferry terminal is charged; the difference is refunded when the passenger tags off.[60]
  • The passenger tags on and off at the ferry terminal, not on the ferry.[59][60]
  • Not valid on Oracle Park[61][62] or Chase Center[63] routes.
San Francisco Municipal Railway (Muni) Yes[64] 2 hours[65] No[64] $2.00 adult;

$1.25 youth/senior/disabled[64]

  • Includes unlimited transfers within 2 hours. Passengers need to re-tag their card if the 2 hours expires while they are riding.[65]
  • Between 8:30 pm and 5:00 am, tag once and get unlimited rides until 5:00 am. Only tag on for the first ride; multiple tags will incur multiple charges.[65]
  • Cable car conductors use handheld devices to collect payment by Clipper card. Express Transit does not work with these devices; customers paying with their iPhones must authenticate with Face ID, Touch ID, or their device passcode.[66]
  • Muni to BART to Muni transfer results in charging extra Muni fare.[citation needed]
Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) Yes[67] 2 hours[67] No[67]
  • Includes unlimited transfers within 2 hours.[68]
  • For adults, after reaching $7.50 in daily fares paid, a day pass is loaded to the card; subsequent rides on local buses and light rail are free.[68] After reaching $15.00 on express buses in a day, all rides on express buses are free.[68]
  • For youth, after reaching $3.75 in daily fares paid, all rides on all VTA routes are free.[68]
  • For seniors and the disabled, after reaching $3.00 in daily fares paid, all rides on all VTA routes are free.[68]
  • VTA's light rail is a proof-of-payment system: passengers must tag at a Clipper card reader located near ticket vending machines before boarding. Passengers without a valid ticket or pass may be fined up to $250.[69]
Santa Rosa CityBus Yes[70] 2 hours[70] No[70] $1.50 adult;

$1.25 youth;

$0.75 senior/disabled[70]

  • No minimum balance is required when using a 31-day pass.[70]
SolTrans (including SolanoExpress) Yes[71] 1 hour No[71] $2.00[71]
  • Clipper can be used for local (within Solano County) trips on SolanoExpress, but the full express fare will be charged.[71]
  • Local transfers do not exist within the SolTrans system. Transfers to and from other transit systems are valid for 60 minutes after tagging.[72]
Sonoma County Transit Yes[73] 3 hours[74] Yes[73] $3.00 adult;

$2.75 youth;

$1.50 senior/disabled[73]

  • Upon boarding, the maximum one-way fare from the starting zone is charged; the difference is refunded when the passenger tags off.[73]
  • Clipper card users must exit using the front door of the bus in order to tag off, as none of the buses are equipped with a Clipper card reader at the rear door exit.
  • No minimum balance is required when using a 31-day pass.[73]
Sonoma–Marin Area Rail Transit (SMART) Yes[75] 4 hours[75] Yes[75] $3.50 adult;

$1.75 youth/ senior/disabled[75]

  • Upon boarding, the maximum one-way fare from the starting zone is charged; the difference is refunded when the passenger tags off.[75]
  • No minimum balance is required when using a 31-day pass.[75]
Tri Delta Transit Yes[76] 2 hours[76] No[76] $1.75 adult/youth;

$0.75 senior/disabled[76]

  • Total daily fares are capped ($3.75 for adults and youth; $1.75 for seniors and disabled) on County Connection, Tri Delta Transit, WestCAT and Wheels, except for WestCAT Lynx. Subsequent rides after reaching the daily maximum in paid fares are free.[76]
Union City Transit Yes[77] 90 minutes[77] No[77]
  • 31-day passes are only available on the Clipper card.[78]
Vacaville City Coach Yes[79] 1 hour[79] No[79] $2.00[79]
  • No minimum balance is required when using a 31-day pass.[79]
VINE Transit Yes[80] 1 hour[80] No[80] $2.00[80]
  • Fares are standard for most routes, but higher for routes 21 and 29.[81]
  • Day passes are not accepted on route 29.[81]
  • No free transfers are between routes 10 and 11, or to route 29.[81]
  • American Canyon Transit, Calistoga Shuttle, and the St. Helena Shuttle also accept Clipper within the VINE system.[82]
WestCAT Yes[83] 2 hours[83] No[83] $1.75 adult/youth;

$0.75 senior/disabled[83]

  • Total daily fares are capped ($3.75 for adults and youth; $1.75 for seniors and disabled) on County Connection, Tri Delta Transit, WestCAT and Wheels, except for WestCAT Lynx. Subsequent rides after reaching the daily maximum in paid fares are free.[83]
  • Clipper cannot be used to pay for the local portion of the Lynx route.[83]
Wheels Yes[84] 2 hours[84] No[84] $1.75 adult/youth;

$0.75 senior/disabled[84]

  • Total daily fares are capped ($3.75 for adults and youth; $1.75 for seniors and disabled) on County Connection, Tri Delta Transit, WestCAT and Wheels, except for WestCAT Lynx. Subsequent rides after reaching the daily maximum in paid fares are free.[84]

Other usesEdit

Clipper cards are accepted by Bay Wheels, the Bay Area's bikeshare system, as well as some electronic bicycle lockers operated by BikeLink. For each of these systems, the Clipper card is used not for payment but only as a key; users must have a credit or debit card linked to their Bay Wheels or BikeLink account, and usage fees are charged to this linked payment card, not deducted from the Clipper card's stored value.[85][86] These systems are not compatible with mobile wallets such as Google Pay or Apple Pay; only physical Clipper cards may be used.[5]

Beginning in 2013, a few parking garages in the Bay Area accepted Clipper for payment as part of a pilot program. Funds used for parking were kept separate from those used for transit.[87][88] This program was discontinued effective September 1, 2017.

TechnologyEdit

Clipper cards contain an NXP Semiconductors MIFARE DESFire (MF3ICD40) or MIFARE DESFire EV1 (MF3ICD41) integrated circuit inside the card.[89] The card operates on the 13.56 MHz range,[89] putting it into the Near-Field Communication category. Because the card uses NFC technology, any NFC-enabled device can read the serial number, travel history, and current balance on the card.[90][91] However, data cannot be written to the card without the proper encryption key, preventing unauthorized access to funds on the card.[citation needed] The former TransLink cards, while still functional on the fare system readers, do not conform to MIFARE and are unreadable by 13.56 MHz readers.[citation needed]

Because Clipper operates in multiple geographical areas with sporadic or non-existent internet access, the fare collection and verification technology needs to operate without any networking. To accomplish this, the Clipper card memory keeps track of balance on the card, fares paid, and trip history. This also means if funds are added to the Clipper account via the internet, funds will not show up on the Clipper card until it has been tagged at an internet-enabled (or recently synchronized) Clipper payment terminal.[33] Buses and other vehicles without internet access will have to return to a service station in order to synchronize with Clipper's servers.[33] During synchronization, the payment collection device will upload to the server data about any fares collected, and will download information about new funds and passes added online or over the phone. Riders who tag their card at a recently synchronized payment collection device will have their card updated to reflect their true account balance.[33]

The waiting period between synchronizations may cause some cards to report lower funds than are actually on the corresponding Clipper account.[92] In order to alleviate this problem, Clipper allows riders to go as low as -$11.25 on the card before funds need to be added.[citation needed]

Mobile walletsEdit

On April 15, 2021, the Clipper mobile app for iOS was released, and Clipper became available in Apple Wallet, joining other transit cards such as Suica, Pasmo, and TAP.[93][25] Supported devices include iPhone 8 or later and Apple Watch Series 3 or later.[94] Customers can create new virtual Clipper cards or transfer their existing plastic Clipper cards to Apple Wallet by using their iPhone's built-in NFC reader.[25]

On May 19, 2021, the Clipper mobile app was released for Android, and Clipper became available in Google Pay.[26] Phones must have an NFC chip and be running Android 5.0 (Lollipop) or later to be used for mobile payment.[7]

Physical Clipper cards transferred to mobile wallets can no longer be reloaded or used to pay for fares, but will continue to work as keys to unlock Bay Wheels bikes and BikeLink bike lockers (see "§ Other uses" above).[5] TransLink cards cannot be directly transferred to mobile wallets, as they cannot be read by the NFC reader inside a mobile phone.[25] Clipper cards with a San Francisco State University Gator Pass or VTA SmartPass also cannot be transferred to mobile wallets.[95]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

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  3. ^ a b "Loading Value". Clipper. Retrieved 9 May 2021. Limited-use tickets can only be used for one-way and round trips on Golden Gate Ferry and Muni and provide no transfer discounts, but youth, senior and disabled riders can purchase discounted tickets at ticket machines.
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  86. ^ "Clipper Cards Now Pay for Parking in Select SF Garages". Bay Crossings. 2013-08-01. Retrieved 2021-05-13.
  87. ^ "Park with Clipper®". SFMTA. 2013-07-01. Retrieved 2021-05-09.
  88. ^ a b jeff (2011-06-10). "What Does Your Clipper Card Say About You?". Muni Diaries. Retrieved 2021-05-15.
  89. ^ Butler, Eric (7 February 2011). "FareBot: Read data from public transit cards with your NFC-equipped Android phone". Retrieved 11 June 2012.
  90. ^ "Clipper Cards Reveal Travelers’ Whereabouts To Police, Lawyers, Apps". 2012-10-16. Retrieved 2015-06-06.
  91. ^ "Loading Value | Clipper". Clipper. Retrieved 14 May 2021. If you purchase value for your plastic Clipper card online or by phone, it won’t be available immediately. When it is, you will have to pick it up by tagging your card to a card reader, which will load the value onto your plastic Clipper card. Here’s how long you’ll need to wait to pick it up:
    - If you place your order by midnight, you can usually pick it up in the next 1 to 2 days.
    - If you are picking up your value on a bus or a Muni light-rail vehicle, allow up to 5 days.
    - If you are setting up automatic reloading (Autoload) with a bank account, allow an additional 10 days for value to be available.
  92. ^ "Clipper® Launches on iPhone and Apple Watch, Debuts New Mobile App". Metropolitan Transportation Commission. 2021-04-14. Retrieved 2021-05-09.
  93. ^ "Apple Pay - Bay Area Transit". Apple. Retrieved 2021-05-09.
  94. ^ "Bay Area Clipper on Twitter". Twitter. Retrieved 2021-06-04. You can transfer an adult, Senior, Youth or RTC card to your phone. You cannot transfer a blocked card, a TransLink card, or a card with a Gator Pass or VTA SmartPass to your phone at this time. RTC cardholders and bike share users should keep their cards!

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