Saturday, January 06, 2007

the fire on bus 0476 (correction)

Photo 7News
Thanks to the folks at and for picking up on the bus fire Friday morning (January 5th)

Fire ignites in back of MBTA bus (1/05/2007)VIDEO from 7NEWS

Channel 7 was the only media outlet to pick up on this story which I find curious. If this had happened on one of the Chinatown buses to New York (Fung Wah , Lucky Star or Boston Deluxe ) you can be certain that Picknelly family of Springfield who owns Peter Pan Bus Lines would make sure the word got out quickly as the Chinatown buses have cost Peter Pan a great deal of revenue on the New York-Boston run.

The fire happened on the #276 route (EXPRESS BUS Boston Medical Center - Long Island via Expressway & Neponset River Bridge) which you will not find listed on the T's website. It is a contract bus used to shuttle passengers from the homeless shelters on Long Island and the Boston Medical Center. Nobody was seriously injured in the fire though there were reports the driver was hospitalized for stress related trauma.

The T in the year 2050?

Download the Original size

vanshnookenraggen ponders the future and on a fascinating website he looks at possible ways the T could expand for future generations.

He wrote the following on

This is a map I made for a Boston Magazine article on what projects should Boston undertake after the Big Dig. I suggest expanding the subway system.For more check out my site

The T has to face reality that many of the jobs that were downtown have moved to the suburbs. I would suggest that some sort of rail link be developed that follows I-95 (128) from Braintree to the North Shore.

But this map is food for thought.

Not on my bus lady "I can't be bothered".......

I really felt awful for the woman on the #66 bus Saturday morning (January 6th) who tried to get her CharlieCard reloaded first at a retail outlet and then on the bus and could not. She had gone to ALL CHECKS CASHED on Harvard Avenue but apparently they were having a problem with the T's computer and could not reload the card. But they gave her the instructions from the T's website on how to do it on the bus and even printed it out for her.

Then she boarded bus 2137 that had left Harvard Square for Dudley on the #66 route around 10:30 AM. The driver flat out refused to let her do it saying "Not on my bus lady, I can't be bothered." This was not a rush hour situation as there were perhaps 8 people on the bus and no one was waiting to board. This woman did EXACTLY what the T asks riders to do. From the T website it says

using on-board fareboxes to add stored-value can hold up boarding lines and cause transit delays. Consider loading value at full-service in-station fare vending machines or retail sales terminals prior to boarding. She did that and for her trouble wound up paying $1.75 more to get to work.

This is no small matter and it is something the T has to address NOW. This woman was now forced to spend $3.00 for 2 bus rides instead of $1.25 because the only way you can get a bus to bus transfer now is on a CharlieCard or a CharlieTicket that has value on it before you board. If you pay cash there is no transfer.

Now who really is at fault here? One can question the driver's attitude but in the memo the drivers were given about the new changes the adding value at a farebox was not mentioned. In my opinion the driver was wrong but he is a product of the T's culture towards customer service. Riders can complain and nothing ever changes.

The new fareboxes were designed to do this so obviously this is what the T wanted in the first place. For example in Chicago you can not add value to the Chicago Card on a bus, you have to go to an L station or retail location.

The T has to make a policy decision on this now and in fact if they want riders to have this option then the drivers have to be told it is the rule PERIOD. If they don't want riders to do this then disable the option and take the instructions off the website.

The T is trying to instruct people to load up their cards before getting on a bus. On the #66 route they now have signs at every bus stop telling people where to go to do so. But the woman I mentioned tried to do so and was rebuffed. Yes everybody is trying to adjust to the new system and it will have growing pains. However there needs to be clear direction from T management on how things are implemented in the field. This is a prime example.

It really would be nice if the managers at 10 Park Plaza actually rode a bus once in awhile they might learn something about how public transit is supposed to work.

new buses going into service

On December 8, 2005, the MBTA Board of Directors approved a contract with the New Flyer Bus Company of Winnipeg, Manitoba Canada for 155 low-floor diesel buses for delivery in late 2006/early 2007. These buses are now arriving at about 6 vehicles per week are are being assigned to the Charlestown garage. Of note these buses have three security cameras installed. Riders on the following routes may see the buses in the near future.

Charlestown-Charlestown district
89, 90, 91, 92, 93, 94-(evening and weekends), 95-(evening and weekends), 96-(evening and weekends), 97-(weekends), 99-(evening and weekends), 100-(evening and weekends), 101, 104, 105-(weekends), 106, 108, 109, 110, 111, 112, 132-(Saturday), 134-(evening and weekends), 136-(evening and Saturday), 137-(evening and Saturday), 194, 325, 326, 352, 355, 411-(Saturday), 430-(evening and Saturday), 9301, 9302, 9303, 9304
Charlestown-Bennett/Somerville district
62, 64, 67, 68, 69, 70, 70A, 71-(Sunday), 73-(Sunday), 74, 75, 76, 77, 78, 79, 80, 83, 84, 85, 86, 87, 88, 350, 351

On December 7, 2006, the MBTA Board of Directors approved a contract to exercise an option with New Flyer for an additional 155 buses, to be delivered between October 2007 and April 2008. The total number of New Flyer buses under the original contract and the option combined will be 310.

With the arrival of the new buses the T will be able to rehab a number of the older RTS buses in the fleet with some expected to be in service as late as 2012. What remains to be seen is what kind of problems the T will have in the future with the 298 buses that were manufactured by Neoplan which went out of business in the United States one year ago and parts may become a major headache.
The Neoplan buses the T is currently running are

  • Diesel 40-footers #0401-0593
  • CNG-powered 60-foot artics #1001-1044 (in heavy use on the #39)
  • Diesel-electric dual-mode 60-foot artics #1101-1132 (Silver Line Waterfront and Airport)
  • Trackless trolleys #4101-4128 (North Cambridge-Watertown-Waverley)

The entire T vehicle roster can be found at NETransit site.

Friday, January 05, 2007

How to sit by yourself on the train (at least in Chicago)

One thing you need when riding public transit in a major city is a sense of humor
This helpful hint comes from a Chicago transit blog the CTA TATTLER
Let me just add this is a very good reason for Boston to keep "New York Style" seating on the subway

Please comment on your Charlie experience

Blogs and message boards around Greater Boston have had a number of CharlieCard horror shows since the new system kicked in January 1. has been scanning the blogs for reports and there are some angry commuters out there.

But we would like to hear from you especially if your experience has been a good one, but if you had a horror show let us know that as well. The software will let you post as anonymous or you can post by name. You can also send an email to and we will post your comments (first name only)

This system will be here for the next 20 years at least so we need to help the T make it better. They are watching this blog.

T plans to purchase new vehicles for Commuter Rail

The T announced on Thursday that are putting out to bid an order for 38 new diesel electric passenger locomotives and 75 bi-level commuter rail coaches.

“We need to take advantage of new technology,” said MBTA General Manager Daniel A. Grabauskas. “A fuel efficient, dependable, and environmentally friendly commuter rail vehicle is what our customers deserve and why we are encouraging manufacturers to competitively bid this work.”

Presently, the T commuter rail fleet consists of 410 coaches including 140 bi-level and 270 single coaches, and 80 locomotive units. The fleet ranges in age from 29 to 7 years of age. Commuter rail service carries approximately 74,000 customers each weekday.

As Mac Daniel in the Globe points out this morning the T is going to need more cars and locomotives available next summer when the Greenbush line resumes service after nearly 50 years. The former New Haven Railroad shut down the service in 1959 when the Southeast Expressway opened.

Also in Pawtucket, Rhode Island the city and CVS are discussing plans to save the old railroad station in the city and are holding out hope that Pawtucket would be given a stop on the Providence commuter rail line.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

If your CharlieCard DIES it can be fixed...but

This morning my 4 day old CharlieCard died. Neither the faregates at Harvard Square or the vending machines could read the chip. The CSA's tried to solve the problem but alas I was told to go to the new CharlieCard Service Center located in the concourse at Downtown Crossing (located on the Red, Orange and Silver Lines) When I got there I wasn't alone and it took about 25 minutes to see a clerk. The good news is that with the number of the old card they were able to retrieve my information and saw that I had both a monthly pass for January and $1.10 in stored value on my card and and they were able to transfer the information to a new card in a matter of seconds. Plus for my trouble I got a nifty CharlieCard passholder.

There were very long lines at the Senior/Disabled pass office next door as riders who had not upgraded to the new CharlieCard Senior/TAP card found their old cards were no longer valid with the changeover. Senior and TAP customers have been urged to get the new card for over a year but many didn't heed the T's warning. Expect long lines there for the next month or so.

Also if you have stored value on a CharlieTicket and want to transfer the balance to a CharlieCard the service center can do that as well. Looks like the T did a good job addressing this concern. In New York if your MetroCard fails you have to go out to Brooklyn.

What worries me is why my card failed in 4 days.

What the T told their bus and trolley operators about the changes

Below is the memo that was given to all drivers on the Green Line and the bus routes.

I think it is important to note that the operators were not told in this memo that passengers can reload a CharlieCard at the farebox. After reading this you will know what the drivers have been told to do.

Rev 8 12/27/06
Special Order #06-180
• During off peak times, Motorpersons are required to make the following announcements when customers board using the side or rear door

"Attention please, customers who have just boarded the streetcar through the side or rear door must come to the front to pay their fare or to show proof that they have a valid CharlieTicket. Thank You."

While the safety of our customers, employees, and the public is paramount, operating personnel must not lose sight of the importance of running dependable and efficient service, if you are delayed due to fare issues, call the OCC Dispatcher and inform them so that they will be able to take action to address the situation.

All employees shall use good judgment in settling fare disputes. Keep in mind the dignity of the customer and the right of the Authority to collect a fare for its services,If you have any questions regarding this directive, please contact your Supervisor's Office, the OCC Dispatcher, the Heavy Rail Training School or the Light Rail Training School . Thank you.

Massachusetts Bay
Transportation Authority


2007 Fare Structure Highlights
All Operators - Local Routes - Fare set 1
• Fare structure-
• $1.25 if customer uses stored value on CharlieCard
• $1.50 if customer uses stored value on a CharlieTicket or pays with cash onboard
• $40.00 for a local bus monthly pass on either a CharlieCard or a CharlieTicket
• Transfer features
o The operator cannot issue a transfer. Paper transfers have been discontinued.
o Bus to bus transfers are electronically built into a CharlieCard or CharlieTicket
o Bus to subway transfers are electronically built into the CharlieCard only, with an additional $0.45 deducted at the subway fare gate. (Monthly bus pass excluded)
o No cost subway to bus transfers are electronically built into the CharlieCard only.

o No transfer can be issued with a cash fare.
o Accurate transfer transactions depend upon accurate sign code and fareset information. It is extremely important to use the proper sign code and fare set and to change the sign code before each inbound and outbound trip and at other locations as required.
• Monthly pass features
o The new LinkPass replaces the old Subway, Combo & Combo+ passes. .

o Visitor passes are now 1-Day or 7-Day LinkPasses.
o "2 for 1" Sunday riding privilege has been discontinued.
• All free fare zones have been eliminated. Customers pay entering the vehicle at Dudley Square, Egleston Square, Mattapan High-speed Line and outbound Green Line surface stops.
• A token has a $1.25 cash value towards the $1.50 cash local fare. Tokens can be used to add value.
• Change tickets will be issued if Full fare is more than $0.49 or Reduced fare is more than $0.09
• Child fare has been eliminated:
o Children 11 and under ride free with a paving adult o Student fare policy when applicable:
Three types of student passes Mon - Fri (8pm), Man - Fri (10:30pm), Mon - Sat (8pm)
Full adult fare at all other times
All zoned local fare zones have been eliminated. Routes 34E, 52, 62, 76, 134,136, 137, 230, 240, 350, and 435 are now single zone local routes.
• Routes 01,39 and CT routes (701, 708 & 74T) are now regular local routes and will no longer use a special fareset.
All Operators - General Express Bus Information
• Inner Express Bus (Fare set 3) & Outer Express Bus (Fare set 4)
NEW PROCEDURE: On all express bus routes, customers must pay when exiting the bus inbound and must pay when boarding the bus outbound.
• Customers will no longer be able to add cash to a lower value pass to pay an express bus fare, but Inner Express and Outer Express Bus Passes will allow unlimited travel on local buses and rapid transit
• 10-ride express bus tickets will still be honored, but new 10-ride tickets will no longer be sold.
• Customers will not be able to purchase a monthly Express Bus pass on a CharlieCard until later in 2007. Until then, customers will need to purchase passes on a CharlieTicket
• If a customer wishes to use a monthly pass for travel on express buses and commuter rail, the customer must purchase a commuter rail monthly pass for the appropriate zone. Commuter Rail monthly passes provide unlimited access to local buses, rapid transit, express buses, and inner harbor ferry services.

Area 123 Cabot Operators -Turnpike Express Bus Routes
• Express buses that travel on the Massachusetts Turnpike
• Fare set 3 - Inner Express routes (170, 501,502,503,504,553, 554, 555, 556, and 558)
• Fare set 4 -Outer Express routes (500 and 505):
• On all express bus routes, customers will pav their fares when exiting the bus in the inbound and when boarding the bus in the outbound
• Inner Express Routes 501,502, 503, and 504 - Fare set 3
• $2.80 if customer uses stored value on a CharlieCard
• $3.50 if a customer uses stored value on a CharlieTicket or pays with cash-on-board
• $89.00 for an Inner Express monthly pass (currently available only on a CharlieTicket). With the monthly Inner Express Bus Pass, you will also have unlimited access to all local bus, rapid transit, inner harbor ferry, and commuter rail Zone 1A services.
• Inner Express Zoned Routes 170,553,554,555,556, and 558 - Fare set 1 & 3 - The fare set must be changed when leaving the last stop of the current zone.

Outbound fare collection procedures - When leaving Downtown Crossing or Back Bay set the fare set to 3 for the Masspike express portion of the route. Change the fare set to 1 at the first local stop alter exiting the Masspike for travel within Newton, Waltham and Burlington. Customers will always pay their fare when boarding the bus in the oufbound direction
Inbound fare collection procedures—When leaving from Newton, Waltham or Burlington, set the fare set to 1 for the local portion of the route. Change the fare set to 3 when leaving the last local stop before entering the Masspike. Customers will always pay their fares when exiting the bus in the inbound direction
To ride the express (fare set 3) portion of the route (if customer travels on the Masspike), customer will pay an Inner Express Bus fare:
• $2.80 if a customer uses a CharlieCard
• $3.50 if a customer pays with cash-on-board or uses a CharlieTicket
• $89.00 for an Inner Express Bus Monthly Pass (available only on CharlieTicket)

To make trips within the local (fare set 1) portion of the route (if the trip does not include travel on the Masspike), customer will pay the local bus fare:
• $1.25 if customer uses a CharlieCard
• $1.50 if customer pays with cash-on-board or use a CharlieTicket
• $40.00 for a local bus monthly pass (available on CharlieCard or CharlieTicket)
• Outer Express Routes 500 and SOS-Fare set 4
For all travel on these routes, customer will pay an Outer Express Bus fare:
• $4.00 if customer uses a CharlieCard
• $5.00 if customer pays with cash-on-board or use a CharlieTicket
• $129.00 for an Outer Express Bus Monthly Pass (available only on CharlieTicket)

With the monthly Outer Express Bus Pass, customer will also have unlimited access to all local bus, rapid transit, inner express bus, inner harbor ferry, and commuter rail Zone 1A services.
Rev 8 12/27/06

In Braintree and Quincy good news and bad news about the Red Line

The South Shore edition of Starts and Stops appeared in those editions of the Globe on Thursday (1/4/07)

The good news for commuters is that the price of the subway ride went down. The bad news is their parking fees went up.

MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo said the parking fee increase and fare restructuring went through the proper channels and usual vetting process. "All of the proposals were subject to comment at the many workshops and public hearings that were held," he said via e-mail.

Whitey has been missing for 12 years and counting

From time to time we will comment on Boston life and of course one of the big mysteries in Boston is "Where's Whitey?"

The new issue of The Phoenix has an article by long time Channel 5 reporter David Boeri who now covers local news at WBUR on the continuing saga of looking for Whitey Bulger. The article questions in great detail if the FBI really wants to find Whitey who if caught could really make life miserable for many in the Federal justice system.

Personally I believe Whitey is no longer on the planet as too many of his former underlings have now turned against him and do not fear Whitey making a final visit to Southie. However the fact that the FBI after 12 years still has no idea where Whitey is or what has become of him makes you wonder just how hard they are looking.

This is one of the best articles the Phoenix has had in recent memory and hopefully we will see more of Boeri's work in the months to come.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Subway Superman in New York saves Boston student

Wesley Autrey should be given a free MetroCard for life. On Tuesday he dove onto the tracks in front of an onrushing train to save the life of a Boston area student. Both the Daily News and Post have gripping accounts of this man's bravery.
MIRACLE MAN: Death-defying Wesley Autrey gives a thumbs-up sign yesterday
after jumping onto the tracks at 137th Street and shielding Cameron Hollopeter as a train rolled over both of them.
On Thursday the New York Times had this editorial on Mr. Autrey

suggestions for the T at the subway stations ( 1-3-07)

A few odds and ends as Day 3 of the new system on the T winds down.

I rode at midday on the C line out to Cleveland Circle and riders getting on outbound were not being asked to pay (even those who entered at the front door) This may have been this particular operator but at Coolidge Corner about 10-15 people boarded the train going outbound and all traveled free. I also haven't seen a fare inspector now since Monday (January 1)

Got an email from a reader in Chicago who happened to be in Boston last week and they offered an opinion on Charlie.

I was just in Boston, where I am originally from, and my first experience with the Charlie Card was not pretty. I felt like I was from a foreign country trying to figure out what I was supposed to do when I got to the machine. The Budapest system was easier to figure out, and I don't even speak Hungarian. We actually had a helpful CSA (it was the Wonderland stop in Revere) who patiently walked us and three Japanese visitors through the whole thing. We missed two trains in the process, but there is no instruction on the machine or in the station (that we saw) that tells you to go and get a Charlie Card from a CSA before you start, so we kept trying to buy a card at the machine itself. I felt like a maroon. The only good thing about it is that it takes credit cards.

Yes the signage in the subways is horrible. A CSA at Harvard Square helped the situation there by placing handwritten instructions about the new fare on each FVM ( fare vending machine). They make a good point about getting a card from a CSA and thus being able to get the lower fare. How long the T will make them available in the stations is any one's guess. I know in Chicago to get the smart card you have to go to a retail location or CTA headquarters in the Loop which isn't very helpful to a tourist trying to ride a train. The one big drawback in Chicago is the system doesn't accept debit or credit cards at most stations so Boston got that right.

Now one thing that I have been asking the T to consider for months and have gotten nowhere is to have a simple card reader in each station that can tell a customer how much money is left on their CharlieCard or CharlieTicket. This is something that both New York and Chicago have and something Boston sorely needs. If they had a card reader it would not tie up a FVM ( and a customer wouldn't have to wait for a machine to free up) The only way one can check a card right now is with the FVM and you have to go through a couple of menu pages to get to the card information screen. It simply would help speed things up in the stations and free up the vending machines.

I am curious if other riders have been having problems with the faregates when LEAVING a station. For me it seems that 30% of the time I approach a gate and have to stop dead in my tracks because the gate doesn't open and then have to step back and approach it again. Originally when the T signed the contract it was supposed to be turnstyles but they changed it to the high speed gates.

It should be noted that subway systems around the world seem to be abandoning turnstyles in favor of the high speed gates. The company that got the Boston contract is now doing a similar project in Lyon, France. But many of these transit system require a ticket entry to leave the station which is something Boston thankfully did not embrace.

Feel free to leave a comment here or you can email the blog at Email comments would be posted anonymously unless otherwise directed. To reduce spam we ask simply that you type the text asked for when posting.

How to add value to your CharlieCard on a bus or trolley

This has been brought up before but bears repeating.

You CAN reload (add value) to your CharlieCard on a bus or trolley. Drivers have confided to me that the T really does not want people to know they can do this as it may cause delays boarding a bus or trolley. However since retail sales locations are few and far between and not everyone goes through a subway station everyday it is an option that riders can use. The T says
using on-board fareboxes to add stored-value can hold up boarding lines and cause transit delays. Consider loading value at full-service in-station fare vending machines or retail sales terminals prior to boarding.

1. Touch the white button at the top of the farebox to begin adding value to your CharlieCard.

2. Tap your CharlieCard to the black card target and follow the directions.

3. Insert money—fareboxes accept cash, coins and even old T-tokens—and press the white button again to 'accept' the transaction.

4. Tap your CharlieCard again, a second time, to register the value you just added and you're done.
Then you can tap your card again and it will deduct the CharlieCard fare for that vehicle.
IMPORTANT The amount you insert in the farebox will be the total added to the card. There is no way to provide change and the transaction must be in cash.
I would suggest that if you need to do this simply tell the driver that you will wait until everybody else pays their fare and then do it. That will make the driver very happy. You may run into a driver that will claim you can't do load a card on a bus/trolley. Just show him how it is done.

media coverage on Charlie - January 3

The Herald covered the first workday of the CharlieCard era on their website and also in the print edition Wednesday.

Of note the T denies they plan to charge for CharlieCards like transit companies in Chicago and Washington.

Riders at Dudley Station in Roxbury today were being told that the T would soon start charging a fee of $3 to $5 for a CharlieCard, prompting outrage from several residents. MBTA General Manager Daniel Grabauskas said the T has no plans to charge for the cards.

Grabauskas said the first work day with the fare increases went well. He said every station had at least one T worker today helping riders navigate the system. During rush hour at busy stations, they added more workers.

“It’s been exceedingly smooth,” he said.

Herald print edition "Charlie horse for MBTA riders"

with quotes from riders
Linda Hollins, 46, Dorchester, takes the bus from Dorchester to Roxbury: “It’s terrible. We don’t get the service for the money.”

Nicole Montaque, 26, Roxbury, relies on bus and trains to get around: “It’s hell because we’re not getting the service we need with all the fare increases. We should have 24-hour service like in New York.”

Emily Crehore, 28, Boston, takes the bus to work in Downtown Crossing and the subway home: “I’m not pleased (with the fare hike), but I know it’s one of the cheapest in the country.”

Natalie Jean, 15, takes the T to high school in Brighton, said it’s digging into her allowance:“It’s too much money.”

Jasmine Welcome, 14, Boston, takes the T to high school in Brighton, didn’t know how what to do with her CharlieCard: “I have no idea.”

From the Attleboro Sun we find some riders were shocked with the increase in Commuter Rail
Software engineer Avnish Gupta thought the new price of a monthly train ticket to Boston was an error message.A monthly pass from Attleboro cost Gupta $235 - a $44 increase from 2006, when he paid $191.

7NEWS offers this video report T riders offer mixed reviews of new Charlie Card

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

The CharlieCard problem on the Express Buses

Just got a e-mail from someone who works at the Harvard University News Office and they have had a very trying day with riders who found their pass didn't work this morning when taking the one of the express buses.

The problem is simple to explain but how the T (or the employer) plans to correct it remains to be seen.

This link is the information Harvard University sent to employees concerning the new system. (PDF). It states that anyone who had a SUBWAY, COMBO or COMBO PLUS pass in 2006 would be automatically converted to a LINK PASS in 2007.

Mass General Hospital did the same thing.

For the riders who simply used the Rapid Transit lines everything was fine but the express bus riders found that their passes were rejected by the new fareboxes. The problem stems from the fact that between 2004 and the end of 2006 the T's Combo pass was accepted for payment on the express buses. It was only supposed to offer a $2.20 discount on the express bus but that was never enforced.

Monthly Combo Pass – $71
The monthly Combo Pass entitles the holder to unlimited travel on almost all rapid transit service and all local bus service.
Unlimited travel on the Green, Orange, Blue and Silver lines
Unlimited boarding on the Red Line except Quincy Adams and Braintree. (Exit fare at Quincy Adams and Braintree still apply)
Unlimited travel on all regular local, zoned local and Crosstown (CT) bus routes
Unlimited travel within Commuter Rail zones 1A and 1B
$2.20 discount on express bus routes

Monthly Combo Plus Pass – $79
The monthly Combo Plus Pass entitles the holder to unlimited travel on all rapid transit service, all local bus service, and inner harbor ferry service.
Unlimited travel on the Blue, Orange, Red, Green and Silver lines
Unlimited travel on all local, zoned local and Crosstown (CT) bus routes Unlimited travel within Commuter Rail zones 1A and 1B
Unlimited travel on inner harbor ferries
$2.50 discount on express bus routes

Now under the 2007 fare schedule you have

Inner Express Bus
$89/month Unlimited travel on Inner Express Bus PLUS all Subway, Local Bus, Inner Harbor Ferry, and Commuter Rail Zone 1A.

Bus routes: 170, 325, 326, 351, 424, 426, 428, 434, 441, 442, 448, 449, 450, 455, 459, 501, 502, 503, 504, 553, 554, 555, 556, and 558.

Outer Express Bus
$129/month Unlimited travel on Outer Express Bus PLUS all Inner Express Bus, Local Bus, Subway, Inner Harbor Ferry, and Commuter Rail Zone 1A.

Bus routes: 352, 354, 355, 500, 505.

But unless you told your employer to change the plan you received a Link pass which is not valid on the express buses.

So it is easy to see how the mistake was made as it is clear the employers were not given clear and concise information on the pass changes. Now what remains to be seen is will the T decide to honor the passes that were issued for one month and make sure everybody has the right pass next month? Harvard and Partners are 2 of the biggest employers the T deals with and they can not be happy this evening.

things the T could improve

A few suggestions to the T in helping riders adjust to the new system. We are not trying to criticise the T on everything they do but simply offer suggestions and point out how other transit systems have coped with situations.

The T really needs to publish a CharlieCard brochure in Spanish or if they have to really get it out into the stations. While the vending machines themselves have Spanish instructions I get the sense that many riders who don't speak or read English have any idea about the savings the CharlieCard offers.

The T needs to take a trip to Chicago to see first hand how the CTA uses smartcards on the bus system. What the CTA has done is so simple yet it cuts boarding time IN HALF on their major bus routes. Most of the newer CTA buses have installed smartcard readers to the left of the door as you board. Passengers with the ChicagoCard simply touch the card reader and board the bus and not be forced to wait for passengers that must use the farebox.

The other thing that Chicago has done concerning smartcards is that every farebox and faregate has a decal of the ChicagoCard on the card reader itself that indicates at a glance where to touch your card. It would be very simple for the T to put a picture of Charlie on the black target.

The T also needs to give CharlieCards to the bus drivers so they can pass them out to riders who don't go to a subway station.

I observed some confusion at the Porter Square commute rail this morning with conductors over the LinkPass and the Zone 1-A passes. While both passes cost $59 there is a MAJOR difference.
The Zone 1-A pass which can be used at Porter, West Medford, Malden, Chelsea, Ruggles, Forest Hills, Uphams Corner and Morton Street for commuter rail and is also good on the Inner Harbor ferries plus unlimited bus (with the exception of the outer bus express service) and subway. The LinkPass is only good for unlimited bus and subway. For now at least MBCR conductors have been told NOT to accept the LinkPass. Since they are exactly the same price they should be

Speaking of MBCR they need to update their website as many of their links are looking for the old T website and when you click you get the "Error 404 We apologize but the page you are looking for no longer exists."

things the T is doing well

Today being the first workday under the new fare structure my observations indicated by and large that things went well during the morning rush hour. A major reason for this was the fine work by the Customer Service Agents deployed at the stations. The CSA's armed with a stack of CharlieCards in their hands did their best to make sure nobody was forced to pay the extra fare by not having a CharlieCard. The T got this right.

I rode outbound to Chestnut Hill on the B line and I found the drivers were incredibility patient in trying to explain to riders that they now must pay to go outbound. Some riders were understandably grumpy by this as this changes a system that has been in place on the Green Line for at least 30 years.

The fare inspectors I observed on both the B and D lines were very polite in dealing with riders. I observed one potential problem that the T will need to address. A rider got on the train at Copley and at Harvard Avenue he was asked to show his proof of payment and he produced a CharlieCard that had no value on it. He explained he paid $1.70 at Copley but the scanner on the inspectors wrist only showed that their was no value on the card. My best guess is that the inspectors will be instructed only to ask riders they see getting on the train above ground.

I would suggest to the monthly pass holders on the "D line" who have their pass on the CharlieCard to use the validators which are located at every stop as you will be
issued a receipt will prove you have paid. Riders who are paying a single fare by either CharlieTicket or CharlieCard can also use the validation machines which deduct the fare and issue a recepit. Monthly pass holders who were given a CharlieTicket have no reason to use the validaters for now but expect this to change once the Commuter Rail switches to CharlieCard. When that occurs all monthly passes will then be on CharlieCard system wide.

There is a major learning curve for all of us in this switchover but today was an indication the system will work once riders get used to it.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Good Luck 'D' Line riders - T introduces new "easy" boarding

I decided to take a ride on the D line this afternoon to see how the new changes under the CharlieCard were working out.The new fare sheds along the line are open and in a surprise they are all manned with Customer Service Agents. Each shed has 2 or 3 CharlieTicket vending machines and 1 or 2 "validators".

The trains are opening all doors inbound and outbound and if you get on at the middle or end the driver tells you to come to the front to pay or show proof that you paid. That is where the validator comes into play.

I have a monthly pass and the validator issued a CharlieTicket good for 1 ride and a 90 minute time limit. But it doesn't work in the farebox it is just meant to show that you have paid. But the T for some inane reason has added another level to this. When you show the driver your proof stub they then issue you ANOTHER piece of paper that also shows you paid.

Along with the CSA's at each stop there were also fare inspectors watching the outbound platform. They are outfitted with a card target reader on their wrist that will also let you pay before you get on the train and they also issue the proof of payment voucher.

Today being New Year's Day ridership was low. But tomorrow (Jan 2) the first workday under this could be interesting.

I also checked out the C line outbound and there were fare inspectors all along the route.