Clipper customers encouraged to go mobile amid plastic supply chain issues

Clipper customers encouraged to go mobile amid plastic supply chain issues
Clipper card photo by Ron Purdy.

By Kathy Chouteau

As supply chain issues put a stranglehold on the plastic Clipper card inventory, BART and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) are encouraging riders to put the card on their mobile phones via Apple Pay or Google Pay. The shortage is expected to continue for several months, per the transit agencies.

There’s a bonus for riders who select to use the mobile option for their Clipper card—the usual $3 new card fee will be waived through the end of this year. Customers who opt for a plastic card instead of the mobile option will be charged the fee.

Setting the Clipper card up on a mobile device is easy-peasy, according to the MTC and BART. Apple customers—who have an iPhone 8 or later model or an Apple Watch Series 3 or later—can add the card directly through Apple Wallet and load cash value with Apple Pay. Those who have Android phones running Android 5 or later can add the Clipper card via Google Wallet and load cash value.

BART, which is by far the largest distributor of new plastic Clipper cards, has installed signs near ticket vending machines at its stations to let customers know they can save $3 by putting Clipper on their mobile phones. BART has also reprogramed ticket vending machines at the San Francisco International Airport station to distribute paper tickets rather than plastic Clipper cards, per the transit agency. While Clipper cards can still be refilled and utilized at the station, only paper tickets will be sold.

Riders utilizing fare-discount cards—i.e., those for seniors, youths, the Clipper START® program for lower-income adults, or the RTC Clipper card for disabled riders under age 65—don’t need to be concerned about falling inventories, said the MTC and BART. This due to those special purpose cards being directly distributed by Clipper and produced on an alternative card stock.

Per MTC, it serves as the transportation planning, funding and coordinating agency for the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area and also operates the Clipper system on behalf of the region’s transit agencies.