Thursday, May 19, 2011

If your clipper card has a monthly pass, how can VTA cite you?

Yesterday I got chewed out by a fare inspector on the VTA light rail for not tapping (tagging, swiping, scanning) my clipper card before boarding the train, as their FAQ says I must.

I confess, I'm cranky and have a Bad Attitude about this and am thus disobeying both Philippians 4:4 and 1 Peter 2:13. How much money do Caltrain and VTA (and thus the taxpayers) spend on all the fancy electronic equipment to load, read [etc] these cards? They still need ticket machines at each station, at which by the way you cannot buy a monthly pass or load it onto the clipper card.

And why do VTA insist that you tag on every time you board, even if you have a monthly pass? If they cite you, what kind of fine can legally be imposed? I googled "fare violation santa clara county" (no quotes) and first up was California Public Utilities Code section 99580, which says that agencies can pass ordinances to fine you for activities defined in subdivision (b), among which is (aha!)

(2) Misuse of a transfer, pass, ticket, or token with the intent to evade the payment of a fare.
So they couldn't get me on that one, because I've already paid for the monthly pass. If I engage in an argument with the fare inspector, they could presumably get me under
(6) Willfully disturbing others on or in a system facility or vehicle by engaging in boisterous or unruly behavior.
But if I get off the train at the next station with the fare inspector and tag my card at that time (the reader will confirm the pass is good to the end of the month) then 99580 doesn't apply, right?

Am I missing something here? Besides having a bad attitude I mean?

Update 2011-06-06: sent to VTA

Sent this morning, after I had to run like heck from caltrain, to get onto the light rail:
From the faq
Do I need to tag my card even if I have a monthly pass?

Yes, regardless of whether you use cash or a monthly pass, you must tag your card to a card reader every time you board a bus or before you board light rail. Your tag is your proof of payment.
This is disingenuous. the "tag" machines know that I have a monthly pass, and the fare inspectors would know that too, if their machines were programmed to recognize monthly pass holders (as the caltrain fare inspectors' machines are).

Can you help me understand why it's reasonable for VTA to impose this additional burden on monthly pass holders? I don't believe that citing for failure to tag on would be supported by either spirit or letter of CPUC 99580(b)(2) (or any other part of (b), (c), or (d) for that matter -- since by failing to tag on I would not be evading payment of fare).

Why does VTA program the fare inspectors' machines to reject valid paid monthly passes on Clipper?
I'll see what they say, if anything.

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