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TransLink card

October 19, 2009
The new TransLink® fare payment system for the San Francisco Bay Area is now accepted on several of the region's largest transit networks, including San Francisco Muni, BART, AC Transit, Golden Gate Transit & Ferry, Caltrain and Dumbarton Express.

With a single reloadable TransLink smart card, riders can:

  • take transit without worrying about having exact change or carrying paper passes or tickets,
  • avoid a trip to the store or standing in line to buy a transit pass or ticket book,
  • benefit from the security of card and balance replacement if their TransLink card is lost or stolen,
  • skip the hassle of dealing with paper transfers.

How TransLink works

The credit card-sized TransLink card stores value in the form of electronic cash (e-cash) and transit passes. To pay a fare, a rider simply “tags” the card by touching it to one of the card readers installed on buses or at the entrance to transit stations or terminals and — in an instant — the card reader automatically deducts the correct fare and applies any appropriate discounts, including transfers. Transit riders will never again have to fumble for exact change or juggle multiple passes and tickets.

Convenience and security are key benefits

Designed to make it easier to pay for transit, TransLink provides several convenient options for getting a card and loading value onto it. Customers can order TransLink cards — and add value to them — online, by phone or by mail, or pick up a card at participating retail locations and transit agency ticket offices. Customers also can add value at self-serve Add Value Machines located in transit stations, or through an employee transit benefit program (such as Commuter Check®).

With TransLink’s convenient Autoload feature, customers can even set up their cards to reload automatically using a secure funds transfer from a bank account or credit card. The TransLink card is free for customers who set up Autoload, or just $5 without Autoload.

TransLink also provides financial protection. Today, if customers lose their cash fare or paper transit passes or tickets they cannot replace the money they’ve lost. But with TransLink, customers with registered cards are eligible for card replacement and balance restoration for a small fee in the event of card theft or loss.

Next Expansion: VTA and SamTrans

The system will continue rolling out in phases to other transit agencies, with Santa Clara VTA and SamTrans scheduled to be the next agencies to climb aboard. They will soon be followed by all other Bay Area transit agencies. Once all agencies are on board, a customer will be able to ride every transit system from San Jose to Santa Rosa with just one card.

Testing and development of TransLink

Testing of the TransLink program involved all major modes of public transportation in the Bay Area, including buses, trains, light-rail and ferries. More than 5,000 volunteers participated in the original six-month pilot program that began in 2002, with cardholders rating satisfaction at 9 out of a possible 10.

As of September 2009, the TransLink system recorded an average of more than 37,000 weekday boardings. The most common feedback received by far has been questions about when TransLink would be available for more transit services.

Funding and operations of TransLink

TransLink is a joint effort of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), AC Transit, BART, Caltrain, Golden Gate Transit, Muni, SamTrans, Santa Clara VTA and all other Bay Area transit agencies. MTC has funded the system’s development through a combination of federal, state and regional funds.

TransLink is managed by the TransLink Consortium, which includes MTC and the major transit agencies in the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area. The TransLink system is operated through a contract with Motorola, Inc.

For more information about TransLink, please contact John Goodwin in MTC’s Public Information Office at 510-817-5862 or