The Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) at its Sept. 26 meeting approved a $461 million contract with Cubic Transportation Services Inc. to design, develop and operate a comprehensive update to the Bay Area’s Clipper transit-fare payment system, which handles payment for more than 21 million bus, rail, light-rail, cable car and ferry trips operated by 22 separate transit agencies each month.
The current Clipper system, which originally launched in 2006 under the TransLink name, was designed in the late 1990s and has been operated by San Diego-based Cubic since 2009. Aging equipment and new technologies have made the current card-based system increasingly obsolete, lacking features such as mobile phone integration or the ability to immediately accommodate add-value transactions made online or by phone.
Terms of the new contract call for Cubic to update the entire Clipper system with new equipment and back-end operations that will introduce:
- An account-based system that will let customers reload their Clipper cards through a variety of methods and use the value immediately;
- The ability to integrate with other transportation providers, such as bike share and paratransit;
- A new mobile app that allows customers to use their smart phones to reload their account and pay their fares; and
- Better compatibility with transit programs operated by employers, colleges and universities.
The modernization plan calls for minimal disruption to Clipper customers, who can continue to use their Clipper cards or opt for smart phone payment. While fares are set by individual transit agencies, the new Clipper system will better accommodate fare changes and allow the agencies to offer special fare promotions.
The new contract between MTC and Cubic will commence this fall, with the first operational improvements scheduled for 2019 and rollout of the new Clipper mobile-payment app in 2020. The total redesign and development will be completed by 2021, with customers transitioned to the new system by 2023. The development portion of the contract will involve updating equipment in hundreds of stations, and on more than 3,500 buses and light-rail vehicles; replacing 6,875 payment validators on buses and in stations and terminals; and upgrading more than 600 ticket machines.
The agreement identifies up to $165 million for capital equipment plus $222 million to extend Cubic’s operation and maintenance of the system through 2032. The contract also includes $74 million to provide a 15 percent contingency and to cover estimated sales taxes on equipment purchases, boosting the total contract value for both capital and operating to $461 million.
Cubic also is the developer of fare payment systems in New York; Boston; Chicago; London; Vancouver, B.C.; and other major cities worldwide.
MTC is the transportation planning, funding and coordinating agency for the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area. MTC operates the Clipper system on behalf of the region’s transit agencies.