Rajesh Kumar

Optimizing life, one day after the next

The Clipper Card

23 Aug 2010

On Aug 3rd 2010, I obtained two free Clipper cards from the local Walgreens store on my way back home from work. I added $20 to one of them to try it out. The Clipper card is a simple debit card that combines the payment and pass systems of all the transit systems in San Francisco and surrounding areas into one easy-to-use plastic card. This service is quite similar to the Oyster card used for transport in London, UK.

The key advantages of the clipper card are:

I like the clipper card a lot since it's a great technical solution to a real-world problem. In fact, the solution is not just technical in nature, but socio-technical. The adoption of the clipper card by transit users involves training people and bus drivers on how to use it, providing customer support in non-English languages, and managing staffing to deal with complaints if any.

The main disadvantages of the clipper card are:

Some suggestions for improving the overall clipper experience:

  1. Have a "remember me on this computer" checkbox on the login screen that makes you have to login only every 7 days. This checkbox should be unchecked by default.

  2. The "transaction history" page should show the transactions as a HTML table right on the page, with an option to export to CSV and PDF. Right now, it only display as PDF which is annoying.

  3. When showing card activity as HTML, it should show ALL items but with pagination limiting the page to about 20 or 30 lines per page. Right now, I can't see transaction history beyond the last 60 days which is bad if I want to do some processing and analysis on my travel patterns.

The Clipper card is a great service for people like me who do not own cars and therefore take public transit quite a bit. Order your card online now.

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