VTA Drops Paper Transit Passes

Paper passes will no longer be accepted as of July 1, as agency switches completely over to the Clipper Card.


On July 1, the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority is going “paperless,” replacing the old, disposable paper transit passes with the so-called Clipper card, a regional plastic pass card. 

All VTA customers will be required to pay for rides on VTA bus and light rail using the reloadable, all-in-one “smart card,” VTA spokeswoman Brandi Childress announced in a press release this week. 

The card looks like a credit card or debit card. It allows passengers to load cash value and monthly passes over the phone, on the Internet, and at a variety of point of sale locations, including Walgreens.  

The new card keeps track of passes, discount tickets, ride books and cash value that customers load onto it, while applying all applicable fares, discounts and transfer rules. The card can hold multiple fare media specific to the transit system being used, as well as up to $300 in cash value at one time, Childress said in the release.

For example, if a rider wants to go from El Camino Hospital to the Kaiser Hospital in Redwood City, or to downtown San Francisco, that person could use the Clipper card to takes VTA bus #51 to the Mountain View Caltrain station, use the same Clipper Card pay for his or her ride on Caltrain up the Peninsula, and again on SamTrans Bus #296 to Kaiser. To get to downtown San Francisco, the Clipper Card could be used to board any of the many different San Francisco Muni vehicles when the rider got off Caltrain in the city.

“Clipper saves time and makes transfers easy,” said Santa Clara County Supervisor and VTA Board Chair Ken Yeager.  “Riders no longer have to have exact change or carry multiple passes from different transit agencies.”

In addition to allowing customers to pay for transit throughout the entire Bay Area using just one card, the cards are environmentally friendly since they can be used indefinitely, unlike the paper pass which expires in 30 days, the released stated.

Also, since the cards can be registered for added security, customers can have their card replaced and balance restored if the card is lost or stolen. 

Customers can automatically load cash value or monthly passes by linking a credit/debit card or bank account to their card. 

When boarding VTA bus or light rail, riders simply tag the card on the Clipper card reader located on buses and light rail station platforms. The tag is proof of payment. Every time a customer tags, the Clipper device will show the pass used or amount charged for the ride and cash balance of their card. 

Clipper youth and senior cards are specially encoded to automatically calculate the discounted cash fare each time you use Clipper. The age range for a youth pass is between 5 and 17 years old, while the minimum age for seniors is 65 years old. 

To download an application for a youth or senior card and see a list of acceptable forms of identification to bring to a ticket office, please visit www.clippercard.com. The application cannot be submitted by mail or fax; it must be submitted in person or it will not be processed.

Customers can acquire Clipper cards at the VTA Downtown Customer Service Center and at the VTA River Oaks Administrative Offices. Clipper cards can also be purchased from Clipper retailers, including Walgreens.  A complete list of retailers is available online at clippercard.com/retail

Details: VTA’s Customer Service, 408-321-2300, TTY (408) 321-2330; or visit www.clippercard.com or call Clipper Customer Service at 877-878-8883.

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