A Time for Change

A few months ago I posted a couple of primer about the SF transportation system (part I and part II).

While I had hoped my previous posts would adequately cover all of its oddities, a recent trip on the BART uncovered a fascinating new quirk:

Note: Despite the notable forthcoming idiosyncrasy, my previous BART posts/warnings and the location of your final Bay Area destination, the BART actually can be a fast and convenient transportation option to/from SFO.

No fancy credit cards please

No fancy credit cards please

A Cautionary Tale:

I arrived at the Embarcadero station, little BART ticket-thingy safely in hand. (As devoted SFIW.com readers will recall, BART riders must first decipher a complex algorithm to successfully calculate their fare before purchasing a ticket-thingy from the unintuitive ATM-like device. Finally, you are expected not to loose the ticket-thingy before reaching your final destination – since the ticket-thingy is required to unlock the turnstile before exiting the station.)

Like a pre-loaded Metro Card (sort of), I had a balance left on my ticket-thingy from a previous trip, but evidently not enough. A turnstile at the exit flashed a notice that I needed to add currency to my ticket in order to exit. I looked up and sure enough there’s a couple of “ADDFARE” machines nearby. I headed over but quickly notice a problem: I was not carrying any money and the machines, in a theatrical flashback to 1983, only take cash. To be specific, the machines only accept $1 or $5 bills. No credit cards. No debit cards. No $20 bills (not that I had a $20 bill).

How quaint.

How do they make money? Volume.

How do they make money? Volume.

Now, if I happened to have a $20 bill there is another machine located near the “Add Fare” machines labeled “Change,” which will turn your $20 bill to two $10’s and a $10 bill to two $5’s.

Yay technology!

But unfortunately, with no money I’m in a bit of a quandary.

I ask the (always friendly!) attendant what to do in this particular circumstance. No problem. He’ll buzz me out, I can leave the secure area, use the ATM-like machines around the corner (that do accept credit and debit cards) to add the appropriate fare to my ticket-thingy, then return through the security area (hi friendly attendant!), immediately turn around and exit again through the turnstile – this time with my now properly fared ticket-thingy.

I mean come on! That’s just weird!!!


About adamahata

On February 5, 2008, after 15 amazing years in New York City, I got married, changed careers, and moved out to San Francisco. All within a three-week period, and with very little preparation. This blog is for those of you who follow me out to San Francisco (or have been here for a while and are still trying to figure this place out). You're not in Kansas anymore Dorothy.
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