Software Glitch Causes Clipper Double Charge

4.7.11
Photo by Lydia Chow

Update: Clipper vigilante Akit points to a post on his site from June of this year describing more or less the exact situation that Danielle (below) found herself in. Danielle’s story came to us in late October, proof that Clipper’s response to this glitch has been lethargic at best.

Original post: Rider Danielle noticed a double charge on her Clipper card history when she transferred from Muni to BART and then back on Muni within the 90-minute time period.

It’s possible everyone’s been aware of this for ages, but I feel like a sucker for just noticing now: using Clipper on BART voids a Muni transfer.

I don’t use Muni quite often enough in a month to warrant buying a transit pass, so all that’s on my card is cash value. If I take a muni bus to BART, get off after a few stops and then transfer back on Muni, I’m charged for the second bus ride, even if I board within the 90 minutes of buying the original muni transfer.

We contacted SFMTA and found out that there is indeed a software glitch that caused the double charge. “Currently the Clipper system prioritizes the Muni to BART (within San Francisco) transfer discount ($.25) over the Muni 90-minute transfer,” SFMTA’s Kristen Holland told us. In other words, if you take Muni to BART within San Francisco like Danielle did, and get back on Muni within 90 minutes, you would lose your 90-minute transfer.

Holland said that the SFMTA is working with the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (which operates Clipper) to resolve the software issue. Meanwhile, you can get a refund for the double charge.

“The Clipper Customer Service Bureau has the authorization to provide refunds when this happens. We expect Clipper to have a fix for this problem early next year,” Holland said.

Check the Clipper Customer Service information for how to get a reimbursement.

7 comments

  • loren

    from the Clipper Customer Service info link:
    “…There is a $5 administrative fee for processing a refund request; if your card does not have at least $5 in value on it, your refund request will not be processed…”

    there’s no point in seeking a refund for that extra $2 ride when they charge you more than TWICE that amount to get it back. gee, thanks for charging people for YOUR problems clipper.

  • loren

    my apologies, this seems to be more related to larger refunds, like if you don’t intend to use your card anymore and want the balance back. i guess you just call a number for those smaller “mistakes”.

    charging $5 is still kinda crappy though, imo.

  • steve

    Good idea to own more than one clipper card. That way, if one gets rejected for some reason, you can pull out another. In the BART vs Muni case, just use different cards for BART and Muni and you don’t have to worry about BART killing your Muni transfer. You do sacrifice your 25 cent Muni discount, though.

  • Devin

    You have what sounds like a rudimentary software fix, to a system that intrinsically supports network data dissemination, and you expect to have a fix… “early next year”? Does anyone actually work at Cubic Transportation Systems, or is it a pure-contract shop waiting for next January’s budget to open up? If I told my employer that a bug of this magnitude would take that long to fix, I’d be replaced.

  • get 2 Clipper cards. Mark on one side BART, other one mark MUNI & use accordingly.

  • Erik

    I want to know where this person was going that Muni -> BART -> Muni was the best option.

  • Zach

    I’ve done Muni->BART->Muni before and been hit by this “bug” when the Muni Metro has suffered from one of its regular breakdowns. A ride from Castro to 2nd and King is a good example (riding BART for the Civic Center to Embarcadero leg). Monitoring the subway on sfmunicentral.com, I’ve managed to beat my original train by a good margin, even after transferring and waiting for BART. It’s bad enough to have to pay the extra $1.75 BART fare when doing this, but paying Muni twice when their service failure caused the entire mess is adding insult to injury. This scenario could arise when running errands, e.g. if one rides both Muni and BART to their destination and then attempts to return while their transfer is still valid.

    While I appreciate the complexity of managing so many agencies’ complex fare structures, fixing this simply cannot be such a difficult problem that it will take 9+ months from the time the problem was reported. If that really is the case for a simple bug fix, how many years will it take for Cubic to implement actual new features when transit agencies request them? If Caltrain wants to change its zone structure or BART and SamTrans decide to offer transfers, just how long are we all supposed to wait for Cubic to get around to updating their software?

    Clipper not only needs to fix this immediately, they need to identify the passengers they have overcharged and proactively issue refunds to our Clipper cards.

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