We're not huge users of Caltrain, because frankly, it sucks. It's way slower than driving to San Francisco, and by the time you've paid for two return tickets, you might as well have driven and paid for parking.
That said, we do use it from time to time. One of the things I noticed when we first moved over here was this intriguing box on a pole, to the side of the normal ticket vending machine. It looked all battered and faded, kind of like a deprecated form of ticketing that had been phased out years ago. Except it looked too high-tech to be phased out.
Fast forward to four years later, and we're using Caltrain to get back from SFO after returning from Atlanta for Christmas, and there's this "Don't forget to tag off" TransLink poster inside the carriage. I'm now officially intrigued.
I did some browsing of their website on the journey home. How could this be? Hong Kong's MTR has the Octopus Card. London's Tube has the Oyster Card, and the Bay Area has TransLink? Why the hell isn't this thing being pimped out more? It's awesome! I mentioned it to a co-worker the other day, who's been in the Bay Area for 7 years, and he'd never heard of it.
So I signed up for it for myself and Sarah, and two cards promptly arrived. If you sign up with an autoload of $20 or more, there's no cost for cards at all.
So from now on, whenever we need to ride Caltrain (or BART or Muni, which are the public transport networks we're ever likely to use) we can just wave these cards at something and never have to worry about a ticket ever again. It's awesome. Apparently VTA is coming on board with it later this year, so that'll round things out nicely.
It sounds like it's been an epic implementation, starting back in 1999, and still rolling out ten years later. Better late than never.
The added bonus will be for our visitors. When they come, we can just give them these cards, and they won't have to deal with BART's utterly confusing (for casual riders) fare system.
One of my favourite things about Hong Kong was the MTR and the Octopus Card. Now we just need awesome mass transit for the Bay Area. Somehow, I think that's going to take even longer than TransLink.