Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The conversion to Automatic Fare Collection (AFC)

It has been 18 months since the first AFC equipment showed up at Airport Station and finally most of the system has been converted. Will it work? The answer will come in January.

I have talked to disabled and senior riders who have used the smart card for the past year and for the most part they seemed happy with it once they got the hang of the vending machines. Come the first of the year senior and TAP riders will also be able to use the smart card to buy a monthly pass as will the rest of us with our brand new Charlie Cards.

But I have seen signs of possible trouble ahead and phone calls and e-mails to T staffers have gone unanswered. I have used AFC equipment in several cities but am very familiar with Chicago. Chicago has been using a smart card called Chicago Card now for several years and the system worked well when I used it. Chicago also offers lower fares and transfers when using the smart card. Chicago also has a system on buses where riders with a card can hit a touch pad on the left side of the bus upon entering while persons paying cash or have a ticket wait for the fare box. This speeds things along during boarding but the T does not plan to do this.

Chicago like New York also has special readers so a rider can check the balance on the fare card WITHOUT tying up a vending machine. The designer of the Charlie Card system Scheidt & Bachmann does not plan to do that. I also find it interesting that a search of the Scheidt & Bachman website has very little information on the "MBTA Boston Projekt" which was supposed to be a showcase for the company. It only has information on the new Smart Card Validator (MBTA Boston Projekt) which will appear on the Green Line in January.

I am interested in your comments about the new system as the more feedback we can get it will become harder for the T to ignore our complaints.

Much more to come

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