TransLink will be the required for all Caltrain monthly pass and 8 rider users after January 2011.
TransLink (soon to be renamed Clipper) is the reloadable smart fare card that can be used on AC Transit, BART, Caltrain, Golden Gate Transit, and SF Muni. TransLink readers are now installed (but not yet used) on VTA buses, with SamTrans scheduled to get on board later this year.
On Caltrain, passengers tag on and off by sweeping the TransLink before and after their train trip. Monthly pass holders sweep the card only at the first trip of the month (so the monthly zone fare can be calculated); 8-Ride and single ride passengers need to tag on and off for each ride. Caltrain conductors carry handheld TransLink readers to verify that you’ve tagged on.
This is all assuming Caltrain survives the next couple of years. Caltrain isn’t dead yet, but give it a couple of years, it won’t be long.
Caltrain provides commuter rail transportation from Gilroy to San Francisco. According to Caltrain CEO Mike Scanlon, the rail agency is pretty close to a financial death spiral. Caltrain receives its funding from the three Bay Area counties it serves (Santa Clara, San Mateo, and San Francisco), and all three counties have already indicated they plan to cut 70% of their contribution. With that level of funding, Caltrain can only afford to run about a dozen trains per day, versus the 96 trains they run daily right now. Many of those trains run during the commute hours are packed full. $74 million of Caltrain’s $90 million budget is spent on train operations.