BART tix get magnetic fix
March 6, 2008 3:01 PM
About once a week, Jerica Montez has to make an unwanted appointment with a BART station agent—when she’s trying to exit the fare gate and her ticket is rejected with a stern “See Agent.”
The 19-year-old SF State interior design student can’t seem to avoid it, nor can many commuters. Each day, BART officials receive an average of 250 complaints for demagnetized fare tickets, and now they are doing something about it.
The transit agency’s board recently approved a contract to print the next five years’ supply of fare tickets with a higher grade magnetic strip that should drastically reduce the common problem and help the Bay Area’s largest transit system keep up with other major U.S. cities.
“New York, Chicago, Philly and Boston transits have them,” said Brian Hallman, senior vice president of sales with contract winner Electronic Data Magnetics.
Many SF State students rely on BART and the school’s free shuttle service, which departs from the Daly City station, to get them to classes. Commuters should notice improvements by this fall, said agency spokesman Linton Johnson.
“It’s all about having as few headaches as possible,” he said. “A happy customer is priceless. Riding the BART should be relaxing and we are trying to make it as stress-free as possible.”
High coercivity magnetic strips—the kind used on most credit cards—will be less prone to being erased as the low coercivity ones used on current tickets. Users have found that they can be damaged with a simple contact to a magnetic clasp on a purse or when pinned against an MP3 player or cell phone in a pocket.
“At least once a week it happens,” Montez said. “My wallet has a magnet on it—you think I would learn, but I don’t.”
“It used to happen to me all the time, and then I stopped putting [the ticket] in my pocket with my cell phone,” said Oliver Scotting, 23, a graduate student in biology at SF State.
While Scotting figured out the cause of his ticket being demagnetized, for some riders a demagnetized ticket remains an awkward surprise.
“I don’t even know how it happened,” said Virak Yin, 26, grad student at SF State, who was surprised last Thursday when his ticket was rejected by the gate machine for the first time. “They were cool about it, took it and fixed it.”
The $3.7 million ticket contract was approved on Feb. 14 but implementations to convert the current ticket machines to ones that can read and write on the new magnetic strips will take more time. “It takes more energy to write to and erase,” Hallman said.
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