Campus launches AC Transit Easypass, providing Clipper cards for easier public transit options

Simon Greenhill/Staff

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This fall, UC Berkeley will phase out Class Pass stickers — placed on Cal 1 Cards for AC Transit — in favor of a new system students can use for additional public transit access throughout the Bay Area.

The new system, called AC Transit Easypass, is a personalized card that provides students their current unlimited access to AC Transit, while also functioning as a reloadable Clipper card for BART, CalTrain and San Francisco Muni.

The move is intended to make the transit experience simpler for users as a result of feedback from students and ASUC officers, said campus spokesperson Adam Ratliff in an email. It marks the campus’s latest effort to give students access to all local public transportation using their student ID cards.

On Wednesday, students began picking up the new personalized cards at the Cal 1 Card Office with online confirmation and their student ID. Because the cards are updated automatically at the end of each semester, students will no longer wait in long lines to renew the Class Pass sticker each semester.

Over the next few weeks, however, students should expect delays at the office to account for “the greater logistical challenge of distributing 37,000 pre-printed cards to the correct students,” according to Ratliff.

“(It’s) a bit more complicated than simply affixing a Class Pass sticker to a student’s card,” Ratliff said in an email.

On Wednesday morning, the line from the Cal 1 Card office stretched through the tunnel in the Cesar Chavez Center, and at different points in the day the line approached Sather Gate.

Ben Sydserff, a campus junior, said he didn’t mind the wait.

“You wait in a long line once, but you get benefits for the whole semester,” Sydserff said. He noted the additional security benefits of the card over the previous stickers, which can fall off and are sometimes sold by students online.

First year graduate student Hikaru Mizuno said while waiting in line that the new card could be useful for trips to San Francisco and commuting to school from nearby Albany.

“Berkeley is a lot bigger compared to Northfield,” Mizuno said, who completed his undergraduate degree in Minnesota. “It’s convenient to get around.”

Class Passes were adopted in 1999 and are paid for by all students as part of a semesterly student fee. The new cards do not give students the same privileges for BART or other transit systems, but it remains a fully-functional Clipper card upon graduation, the campus said in an email.

According to AC Transit spokesperson Robert Lyles, the stickers posed numerous problems for bus operations since they could not deactivate the passes or stop people from selling or replicating them.

ASUC External Affairs Vice President-elect Andre Luu, who ran for office on a platform of transportation affordability, said student pressure on the campus Parking and Transportation Department helped bring about the change. His goal is to create Cal 1 Cards for students that have integrated Clipper card capacities, while also making public transit cheaper overall.

According to Ratliff, the campus has been trying to establish the Class Pass in an electronic medium for seven years.

BART has begun its own program to facilitate discounts for college students using their ID cards. In July, BART officials approved the “Gator Pass” at San Francisco State University, granting students unlimited rides on Muni with a 25 percent discount on rides to and from the Daly City BART station.

Luu said he had expected after discussions with the campus that Cal 1 Cards with Clipper capabilities would be released this summer. Ratliff said in an email, however, that the campus faced technological hurdles when attempting to create functional cards without compromising keycard access for faculty and students to some campus facilities.

This is because the different information-storing electronic chips for the Cal 1 Card and Clipper card cannot function together, resulting in “chip confusion,” according to BART spokesperson Alicia Trost. The Gator Pass avoids this issue because SFSU student ID cards will store school information on a magnetic stripe, rather than chips.

Ratliff noted that the campus will begin making significant technological changes — such as updating older keycard readers — in order to make the cards compatible across campus and public transit systems. He estimated that this process would take at least two years, and said the campus will continue to consult with student groups for feedback.

Luu said he sees the move from stickers to Clipper cards as a small step towards the eventual goal of a student ID with access to all local transit systems.

“There should be progress in the meantime, because there’s always room for improvement,” Luu said.

Managing editor Andrea Platten contributed to this report.

Alexander Barreira is the university news editor. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @abarreira_dc.

A previous version of this article incorrectly referred to André Luu as the ASUC executive affairs vice president. In fact, Luu is the ASUC external affairs vice president.