Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Hopefully this is an isolated case

Just got a note from Jim in Cambridge who reports his January LinkPass vanished when he bought his February one.
According to the MBTA (and the Globe on January 28), “T officials are encouraging folks to put their February passes on their CharlieCard now to avoid lines. You can do this for any month, beginning on the 15th of the preceding month. There's no need to wait until this Wednesday, the 31st.” It’s true that you can add the February pass . . . but what they forgot to mention is that doing so erases the January pass from your CharlieCard. This evening, on my way home from work, I stopped at Park Street to add a February pass to my card (which had a January pass already on it, and which I had been using without problems for the whole month of January). After adding the February pass, I went to enter the gate . . . and got a “Not enough value” message. I tried another gate – same story. I went back to the vending machine, which confirmed I had a pass good through 2/28/2007 . . . but failed to inform me that, evidently, the pass now would not be good until 2/1/2007. As a result, I had “add value” to the pass so I could get home (and for my two trips tomorrow). Steve from Boston (see Globe Starts & Stops dated January 28, 2007) was apparently correct in stating that “it is not possible to have both January and February on the card's chip at once," and it is the MBTA and the Globe who are handing out the “Bad Information.”

I will refrain from speculating how much money the T will be making off of this error, or the lines which will be at all the T Fare Vending Machines on the morning of the first of each month once this error becomes more widely known. I would have sent a copy of this e-mail to the MBTA, but I can’t find an appropriate e-mail address on their website.

- Jim in Cambridge

P.S. The funny thing was, up until this point, I was personally quite happy with the CharlieCard system. Well, I guess you live and learn.


This is the first report of this I have heard so I am thinking this is an isolated case. The CharlieCard is designed with three stored value slots, 2 which are used for monthly passes and the third is for any stored value.

The question to throw out there is has anybody else experienced this?

On a related note universalhub.com posted a blog entry from Moxie who had her own horror show on Tuesday when she tried to buy her February pass with her WageWorks card.

14 comments:

Dani B. said...

From all the anecdotes that I've heard when you add a Feburary pass to your charliecard that already has a January pass it just extends the deadline to 2/28/2007. This is the first case where I've heard of it overwriting the old one. Perhaps this was a glitch for another reason and the user should retry his card again at a different time/station? Or did he maybe add the Feburary pass to a different charliecard and didn't realize it and mixed it up with his January one.

Anonymous said...

I used my Wageworks credit card on 1/28 to load my February Linkpass onto my CharlieCard. I was able to go through the gates, which said that my Card was good until 2/28.

Anonymous said...

So Jim from Cambridge can dissect and diagnose a Charliecard from afar but can't figure out how to email the MBTA? Why do we automatically assume the card is broken or there is this major glitch conspiracy underwraps and not that the guy didn't read the screen completely?

Jim in Cambridge said...

This is Jim from Cambridge. My pass (the only one I own) apparently worked this morning - the screen at the gate indicated that the pass was good until 2/28/2007. However, this doesn't explain why it would not work last night, at two separate gates. I'm hoping it was a temporary glitch, but I personally plan to wait until the last day of February to buy my next pass.

I'm not sure what the comment at 8:41 a.m. is supposed to mean. Go to the MBTA website (http://www.mbta.com), under Customer Support, and tell me if YOU see an e-mail address listed for complaints. There is an Online Customer Support page, but there is no independent e-mail address, and hence, I could not copy my e-mail to the MBTA (as I said in my original letter). Should I then
"Write to the Top"? There are addresses for the Chiefs of the various lines, commuter rail, buses, etc., but no one to write to about the vending machines. So, smart one, should I have done a mass e-mail to all of them? Maybe to every @mbta.com address I could find on the internet?

And as for "not reading the screen completely" - the screen at the Vending Machine said I had added a February Pass. (I checked when I added the pass AND after the gates rejected my pass.) The screen at the gate said Not Enough Value. Believe me, I was there. What else was there to see?

Justin said...

To "Jim in Cambridge"

a) I think the form at http://www.mbta.com/customer_support/feedback/ is pretty clear - it has sections for CharlieCard complaints, fare box problems, and fare policy concerns. There's also a telephone number in the side column if you prefer to call and yell.

b) after adding the pass and paying, did you tap the card against the reader again as instructed? Did it say it updated successfully? If you don't do that the card itself isn't updated and it takes some time before the information is passed onto all the devices in the system so they can update your card.

Ron Newman said...

But a web form is not a good substitute for an e-mail address. Any business that serves the public should provide an e-mail address.

Benjamin Ostrander said...

I put my Feb pass on my CharlieCard yesterday and my January one still works fine.

what I'm worried about is what happens 3 years from now when my CharlieCard dies in the middle of the month. Will have to go to Downtown Crossing to get it taken care of? How will I prove I have my monthly pass?

Ron Newman said...

to Justin: even if the card didn't successfully update with the February pass, it should not have erased the January pass that was already on it.

to Benjamin: by then I hope the T has rolled out the registered Charlie Card program!

Charlie said...

I am just wondering if the problem with vanishing passes could be something as simple as the clocks not being set correctly at some stations.

If a gate or FVM thinks it is already February it wouldn't show the January info.

I do know for a fact that the bus and trolley fareboxes have a seperate clock than the time displayed by transitmaster and several that I have seen are off by as much as 20 minutes.

Ron Newman said...

OK, here's an interesting question: will our January passes still work properly between midnight and 1:30 am tonight?

Charlie said...

Ron Newman said...
OK, here's an interesting question: will our January passes still work properly between midnight and 1:30 am tonight?


That thought has crossed my mind...I'm sure somebody will go out and test it. Of course it has to be someone who doesn't have a February pass bought as of yet.

Ron Newman said...

I'll test my January and February CharlieTicket (Zone 1A) passes tonight, but we really need someone to test CharlieCard passes.

The tester will need two CharlieCards, one containing only a January pass, the other containing only a February pass, with no stored value on either one. The test is to try to open a subway gate with each one, sometime between midnight and 1 am tonight. Anyone willing to try this?

Ron Newman said...

I just came back from Davis station, where I tried to use both my January and February Zone 1A passes around 12:15 am.

The January pass opened the fare gate. The February pass did not, and the screen said "NOT VALID". So it looks like this policy is unchanged from pre-Charlie days.

Anonymous said...

Another data point: my January CharlieTicket pass worked on a bus after midnight.