The engineering behind Translink, he says, was the same used in other successful instruments, such as the Octopus in Hong Kong. Motorola was awarded the prime contract, ERG Transit Systems was a subcontractor to Motorola. ERG's participation was purchased last year by Cubic.
Originally Trankslink was managed by the TransLink Consortium, which included the MTC and the major transit agencies in the Bay area. That changed last year as it was too challenging explains Goodwin. MTC is now managing the program itself.
The development has been funded by MTC through a combination of federal, state and regional funds, with federal funding having been provided through FTA 5307 Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program and Surface Transportation Program. Additional funding has been provided through State Transit Assistance, STP Exchange and Regional Measure 2 tolls.
"It was really conceived of as a means to make transit more convenient for the passenger, that was the primary purpose," Goodwin says of Translink. "With that said, we realized there were some operational benefits as well.
"If you have enough people using Translink, you speed the boarding process, you don't have people fumbling for cash, trying to fit a dollar bill into a bill acceptance device on a bus, and provided you have sufficient usage, it reduces the amount of cash that the transit operators have to handle themselves."
He reiterates, "There are really three different advantages, but the primary purpose of the Translink program is to make transit itself more convenient and therefore a more attractive option for people."
The card stores value in the form of e-cash (electronic cash). Cards and value can be purchased and added to online by phone, mail, online, retail outlets and at the agency offices. The e-cash does not expire and works just like cash on the vehicles of participating transit agencies.
A piece of advice Goodwin shares is to introduce the card as a means of carrying cash. "What we call e-cash," he says, "rather than a medium for loading discount tickets or monthly passes or employer transit benefits offered by employers.
"We do all of that and it all works, but it has taken a long time to get it all to work." So for speed and ease of launch, he suggests fewer possible fare instruments, just start with e-cash and you will probably get off to a very quick and a very successful start he says.
The message they've been sending out is that what ever the rider is getting from the transit agency now, it's available on Translink. "That's a simple message," Goodwin says. "I don't think we would ever go down the road of trying to communicate the hundreds of possible combinations going from San Fran to Muni to BART; too many possibilities." He adds with a laugh, "We have an app for that.
"The agencies already had many, many different kinds of fare instruments; they had 31-day passes, discounted high-value tickets on the BART system. Our system was designed to try and take in every single one of these combinations and then the business rules had to be written so that every possible fare combination could be incorporated.
"We had not only 26 different agencies, but we had literally hundreds of different fare combinations."
He stresses, "No. 1, try not to do it with two dozen or more operators."
The real marketing of Translink if scheduled to get underway this summer, Goodwin says. And it will also be getting a name change. "When the real aggressive marketing push begins in June it will be done with a new name. That moniker is Clipper, to evoke the historic era of the clipper ships and it's attached to the California Gold Rush days, and also designed to eliminate any confusion between TransLink the transit operator in Vancouver. "It's very prominent in our conscience now and it was in the fall of '09 in the lead up, up to the games."
Finding humor in the stress of making Translink come to fruition he adds, "My advice for other agencies making a move to smart card is 1. Try to do it in a region that doesn't have so many transit agencies." With a laugh he adds, "My deepest sympathies would go out to anyone trying to implement a smart card program incorporating more agencies than we have."