Friday, January 05, 2007

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. Universalhub.com 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 charlieonthembta@gmail.com 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.

42 comments:

Anonymous said...

So far my Charlie experience has been a good one. I've noticed a few morning delays getting on the C or D lines as people get used to the system, but since the fare change there have been relatively helpful employees at the stops guiding commuters. The hiccups are really no worse than I was expecting, and as people get used to the system, I feel confident it will be a good change in the long run.

sam said...

Since 01/01/07, so far so good for me. Prior to that I was annoyed by the delays on buses and the Green Line above ground when I took them. Mostly I ride the Red Line and use a monthly pass, and I think that has worked out pretty well. I like not having to remove the card from my wallet to get into the station.

Brian said...

I mentioned it the other day, but my Charlie Card didn't work on day one, and I've observed a lot of people getting the same "See Agent" message. Its worked fine since (though not in my hands), the initial problem was made worse because the T didn't have sufficent staffing to handle the crush on the first day of the fare hike and Charlie Card system for monthly passes. Twice at my station, I've seen T Agents being inexcusably hostile towards riders. Once to myself and another person, and the next day to another rider. Customer service is a big area of improvement right now. Agents need proper support from management regarding staffing. They need better training for dealing with riders. In no instance I saw did the agent even react with hostility towards an angry rider, but I can sure tell you it made me into an angry rider. This is an issue of training and oversight. Finally, the T Agents need to be easily visable when they exit their huts. The MBTA issued jacket is very non-descript. The only logo is fairly small and on the chest. There need to be visable "T" logos on the arms and absolutely the back of the jackets. A lot of the usual problems are also still there, but customer service has seemed especially conspicious with so many anxious and put-off riders.

Charlie D. said...

Overall, my Charlie experience has been very good. I only ride occasionally, not enough to make a pass worth the money, and having a CharlieCard has been much easier than worrying about tokens for the subway and change for the bus. I just keep it loaded up with value and use it whenever I need to go anywhere. The boarding in December was sloowwww due to the number of people paying cash and using CharlieTickets, but now that people are finally using CharlieCards, this has been improving. I do have a few minor complaints:

1) The MBTA should communicate better with riders the new fare structure and new boarding procedures. The new website is an improvement, as is the recent signage at T stations, but it's clear that many people were caught by surprise with the changes or don't fully understand how everything is supposed to work now. Especially with the new POP system on the Green Line aboveground, the T employees need to do a much better job communicating what the procedures are.

2) The fare vending machines could use some UI improvements. The long lines are a testament that it's not totally obvious to users what they should choose. Some of the Charlie terminology seems to confuse people, such as what "stored value" means, and how much fares are, so users can easily determine how many "rides" they want to put onto their card.

I have ensured a smooth experience for myself by loading up my CharlieCard when the stations are not crowded or by doing it at my local Shaws, and I have been reading many T blogs and forums to keep up on the all the latest information. I definitely feel for the average user, who appears to be a bit out of the loop and not all that organized.

Overall, I am optimistic that within the next month or so, all the kinks will be worked out and users will be used to the new fares and procedures. Ideally, this will lead to a faster and easier T experience, will reduce the number of fare evaders, and will encourage more people to ride the T due to the simplified fares and easier payment methods.

Dani B. said...

Overall my experience with AFC has been good. I haven't been gipped out of any money yet by the T. My card has always functioned properly when I use it. I can see how some are unfamiliar with other AFC systems can be confused but there is a learning curve with every city that gets a system such as this. I think most of the complaints will die down within a month or two

SJG said...

I haven't had a problem using the card (yay, transfers work!), but today was the first time I added money to it, and it didn't go smoothly. At the Harvard station, I went to the bank of machines and up to the one on the far left. I tapped the card, and the machine said it couldn't read my card, and I should see an attendant. I stepped to the right and tried tapping my card on that machine and nothing happened. (At this point, I'm thinking, "Great, my card's screwed!") I went to the next machine, I tapped, and it was acknowledged. I selected to add value... $10... credit card. When I put in my card, and removed it, the machine said it couldn't read the card and the transaction was cancelled. OK, I went to the fourth machine and managed to put money on the card. I even checked it to make sure it was there. Curiously, meanwhile a guy seemed to have successfully used the first machine, but maybe he was just getting a ticket.

Fenway said...

The mailbox at charlieonthembta@gmail.com brings this comment from Steve

bought a linkpass on it Jan 2nd didn't have to wait in line or
anything. has worked perfectly since, I've even added some old tokens
to it in case I need to pay for a ride the linkpass doesn't cover.
I ride the B line from above ground where I live to Park st and back
for my work commute. I haven't taken a bus yet, but it opens the gates
at Park before my stride gets me to them so I'm happy.

Mika said...

I just found out this weekend that the benefit of bringing a free guest on the subway with a monthly pass on Sundays has ended with the new fare structure. However, a representative of the MBTA told me you can have a LinkPass attached to a CharlieCard along with stored value. Then more than one person can enter the subway system using the same CharlieCard. The first tap of the card will use the attached monthly LinkPass, and subsequent taps of the card will allow additional passengers to board with stored value on the same card. This is an improvement.

The T should install fare vending machines with CharlieCards at Logan's airport terminals. The Silver Line boarding is slowed down not only because people have luggage but a lot of out of town people must pay with cash due to no vending machines. The cash payment process is very slow. If the machines are weather proof enough they should even be installed next to the Silver Line stops at the airport.

Finally there is a problem with the speech output UI of the vending machines. The machines have speech and braille for people who are blind or print impaired. Most of the UI speaks and is useable. However, the option to check the value on an existing CharlieCard or ticket does not speak that information. Instead the voice prompts refer the passenger to an agent which is cumbersome at best. In contrast the Washington DC metro has a fully working speech output UI on their vending machines and it can read the balance of a DC SmartTrip card as they call them. FYI in Boston to pull up the audio UI you press 55. In contrast in Washington DC you pull up the speech UI with a button that says Audio in print and braille.

Finally I am surprised that the ability to check and update CharlieCards on the MBTA web site is so far behind the rest of the implimentation. Right now you can only buy new cards and passes online, but you cannot check the balance or update existing cards. I'm not sure that Washington DC (which seems the closest AFC system to ours) offers full web management of its SmartTrip cards which if they don't they should.

Anonymous said...

Sure, the vending machines are clumsy and the marketing ("It's Here") couldn't have been more useless, but I have had no problems with Charlie Cards. I'm a monthly subway pass holder and got a Charlie Card in the middle of December. My partner used it for occassional rides and it worked every time. One time at Park St we had to tap it twice to get through the gates and one time at Malden Center we had to insert his debit card twice to add 5 bucks but big deal, it worked. I bought a link pass from a vending machine around the 20th of December (something I stumbled on one night when I decided to test all the choices on the machine) and breezed by all the lines on January 2. The system is not intuitive, yet, and I'm no technology or transportation expert, but as far as Charlie goes, its worked very well for me. My partner even got his free transfer when we took a bus to Brighton from Kenmore.

Kathleen said...

Overall I like the system and am pleased with the transition. However, as with any major overhaul such as this, there are bound to be problems.

Like a good citizen, I got my plastic Charlie Card in mid December. I loaded it up with money so I could use it for my daily commute. At the start of January, I purchased the new LINK pass and loaded it onto my Charlie Card. Aside from the "See Agent" message I tend to get nearly every other time I try to enter a gate, I've had no problems. Usually I just tap at a different gate and get my usual "Valid until 1/31/07" message. However, last night when I tried to enter at Government Center, I got a different message. After a few "See Agent" messages, I finally managed to open a gate, and received a "$12.25 remaining message". What? Yep, sure enough, the gate had decided to deduct money from the stored value on my card, instead of recognizing my monthly pass.

I asked the agent for help and was told that I shouldn't store both cash value and a monthly pass on the same card, and that there was nothing he could do.

Helpful, huh?

Anonymous said...

it's been going pretty good for me. no unsually long lines getting on the C line. though i do have to wonder about the agents who have the nifty wrist held card readers so we can use all the doors in the morning. are they a permanent fixture during rush hours or is the T going to find a different solution that doesn't leave these guys and girls freezing in the cold for hours.

i had the omni-present, 'your card doesn't have enough value' issues once, but the agent was very nice and helpful and it didn't cause me any delay or stress.

have to say that the fact i no longer have to take the pass out of my wallet and therefore i'm less likely to lose it, is pretty sweet.

Jeff said...

In the mornings on the B line, I have always loved the concept of Show and Go. Even if I am on the train at 7:15, the train will still be packed in the trek downtown. So by being able to get on via any door on the train, it makes the commute less of a bother and increases the chances that the population of the train will be evenly distributed (thus removing the need for "PLEASE MOVE TO THE BACK" at each stop.)

What I don't get is that in the morning (and all the time now on the trolleys), the drivers are still opening up all the doors but making you do the inconvenient walk to the front to tap your card. I for one don't bother doing that as I know that the worst that could happen is that a mysterious T employee will come up to me and ask me to validate my card on the train, which I would be able to do easily. Granted I know not everyone is as honest as I am, but don't punish the people who can usually get on, get a seat, and start the day off properly because there is not a person to validate my pass. Clearly my pass is just as valid at Griggs St as it is at Harvard Ave.

Also, the commute down Commonwealth Avenue was supposed to be better because of no free rides anymore but now it seems longer because each stop the driver has to make someone do the walk of shame to the front. If they are going to be so rigid on paying the fare on the B line, then just open the front door and make them pay instead of wasting everyone else's time and causing general discomfort and more commuter rage.

grahams said...

I haven't had a single problem with my CharlieCard, and I've been using it since the first few days they were handing them out before Christmas. It is 100% better than the old system, and as more people get them and get used to them, it will only get better, imho.

If I had to dream up a complaint regarding CharlieCard, it would be that the web refilling isn't going yet.

Jen GraƱa said...

I'm seconding what Jeff said above about there being a lot of inconsistency on the B line, in both directions.

In particular, there have been cases where I've been asked to show my card to two MBTA employees at Harvard Avenue in the morning, and a third time when I've been yelled at by a driver - I shouldn't need to show my CharlieCard three times to three different employees at one stop in order to board a train.

Also, employees aren't sure of the rules with bus transfers. We were told at Fenway station on Saturday, 1/13, that a "CharlieCard validation ticket" is the same as a bus transfer by the T employee at the station. However, when we attempted to use these tickets to board buses at Harvard - we were en route from errands in the Fenway to visit a friend in Somerville - the T employees driving the buses said it wouldn't work. Subway-bus transfers should be free, and employees need to learn what can be used where in order to give riders accurate information.

daily B Line rider said...

I was under the impression that increased fare would bring about better service, meaning (to me), more trains during rush hours, later service, perhaps even more sitting room at stations. This has yet to be seen, at least on the B line.

Since the system change, there has just been greater confusion at every stop, making the 6 minute trip down Comm Ave take 4 times as long. Why not create a system where Charlie Card-carrying riders can tap their cards at all doors, leaving only cash-carrying riders to go to the front? Then there would not need to be as much of a wait time at every stop.

Jenn said...

Last week I had to take the 95 bus (in the rain) after a dentist appointment. I purchased a link pass (both subway and bus) at the end of December for January yet when I "tapped" my card, the bus driver told me that there wasn't enough money on the card.

I explained that it was a link pass and his reply was "the machine says there's no money on it, I don't care what you say it is. It's a Charlie Card so you have to put more money on it." I refused and sat down. He told me he'd let me go this once but not to let it happen again.

Not only was the machine on the bus wrong, but the driver clearly doesn't understand the way the cards work.

Hoo said...

My peeves with the new system have to do with the gates rather than the fares.

First! The gates make an error noise for most successful transactions, and their speakers are way too loud, and

Second! If you're not the first person exiting through a gate, the gate will start closing and then pull back violently, in much the same way a grade school bully will 'make you flinch'. The temptation to respond with a boot and a taunt of 'made you dented' is very strong, and

Third! If your card is misread and instructs you to 'See Agent', the next time you try it (with the agent watching) it will give a different error, stating that the card has been recently used.

P.S. The 'CharlieCard' name is too smug. I've taken to calling the disposable ones 'ChuckTix' and the hard plastic ones 'Charles-le-Pass'

Jonah said...

My fiancee's card got demagnetized and apparently you have to go to government center to fix it. We live in davis, and for our commute we take the T to harvard and then busses out to the suburbs. And the remagnatizing place is only open weekdays during working hours. So that's a huge pain.

Alexx said...

Today's Metro had an article titled "Fare jumpers, beware: T officials now ticketing". Further quotes, with my comments, below.

"If a person fails to pay their tickets, MBTA officials can forward their names to the Registry of Motor Vehicles to have their licenses suspended..." Think about this for a few minutes. What about people who *have* no licenses? Heck, they're the ones with the most incentive to use the T Ywith or without paying) in the first place. And if you take away someone's ability to drive, again, you're just increasing their incentives to steal T service.

"The [fare jumper] will now have to think about the fact that at any time during their trip they can be approached by a T official and asked for proof of payment," said MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo. "You might think you got away with evading a fare when you get on ... but two stops later you might be checked." OK, this is both dumb and scary. It's dumb, because the system still allows you to buy disposable Charlie Tickets (as opposed to Cards), so someone can have a perfectly legitimate reason for not having any "proof of payment", yet still be at risk of being arbitrarily fined and/or tossed off the train.

The scary part is that they apparently *do* have some means of checking "proof of payment" on the ubiquitous Charlie Cards. That suggests that these cards must not just keep track of their current balance, but also of their transaction history -- which in this case is also a history of where you've been. Moreover, if every station has officials with a device that can read that transaction history, those devices must be common enough that anyone wanting to do some privacy violation could probably get their hands on one.

"Currently, the MBTA loses approximately 3 percent to 5 percent of its anual revenue to fare evasion..." I hope they're not spending more than 1 to 2 percent on this new program, then. Otherwise, they could easily end up losing money on the proposition.

And that's assuming that this "lost" revenue is actually realizable. Like the arguments about IP piracy, there's a question of how much of this is really "lost revenue", in the sense that people would have bought the offered service if prevented from taking it for free. If I knew more about economics, I would probably talk about "market elasticity" here, but I'm not sure that's the right concept.

It's not that I'm in favor of fare-jumping or anything. Most fare-jumpers are young thugs who scare me, and I'd be glad to see fewer of them. The MBTA provides a valuable service, and it's reasonable of them to want to be paid for it. I just don't think their new policy is terribly well thought out...

always thinking about papelbon said...

I actually LOVE the cards-- not having to take it out of my wallet is a huge plus as it lessens the liklihood of losing the card.

I've also found that overall, the T employees have been extremely helpful and pleasant when dealing with the cards, questions about the new fares, etc. I particularly appreciate the Card Validators who stand at the above-ground Green line stops in the cold and have been nothing but cordial and sometimes even jovial and amusing.

However, I've experienced a lot of delays on the B train down Comm. Ave. At off-peak hours, the trip takes about 10 minutes. During morning and evening rush hours, it takes about 20, which is just less than it takes me to walk the same distance, generally making it worthwhile. Since the change to the Charlie system, things have slowed down drastically, sometimes taking over 30 minutes to make the trip. The main cause of the slow-down as far as I can tell is the time it takes to use the fare boxes-- people paying cash often have to re-insert their money several times. This leads to long lines and missed lights. At Warren St., if the light is missed, it can add several minutes to the trip and even more at Harvard/Comm and Packard's Corner.

Also, even though all the signage I've seen and every semi-official document posted or authored by the T says that drivers are now supposed to open ALL doors on Green Line trains above ground in both directions, this is not happening. For someone like me who exits the B line above ground, this is extremely annoying. With the crowd of commuters and students on these trains, it's almost impossible to get to the front door from the back of the train to get off. Show-and-Go helped the boarding issues, but you still had to exit at the front after Packard's Corner. So now that all doors are to be opened at all stops, I can safely move to the back and will still be able to get off the train at Babcock St. Great, right? But on three out of four commutes this week alone, the driver did not open all doors. This slowed boarding and was also irritating as I had to shove past approximately 26 oversized back-packs, 3 girls doing their makeup standing up, and became momentarily attached to someone's iPod (cord caught on my coat button) in my rush to make it off the train before the front door closed.

I hadn't used the FVMs myself since I have a monthly pass provided by my employer, but I had an out-of-town visitor recently and used the machines with her. As noted in this blog and elsewhere, the user interface is poorly designed, using terminology that is only known to those who use the system very regularly.

In general, the biggest problem I've noticed is that NO ONE knows all the details of the rather complicated new fare structure and associated media. There is just a complete lack of information and communication from the T to their riders, be they regular commuters or visitors to Boston. I think that the new system has a lot of good points and is definitely a step in the right direction, but I'm someone who has made it a point to learn the ins-and-outs of the changes. Most people won't do this and so any problems they have will contribute to the T's image problem.

ismith said...

The only real issue I have with the new setup is that it is less accessible than the old system. I love the smart cards, but the paper tickets are unusable if you have any problems with your grip.

I'm going to jump on the "Washington DC Metro did it right" bandwagon and point out that I never had problems with their paper tickets.

Anonymous said...

I bought the January Monthly Link fare & put on the Charlie Card in December. I have been using the card without incident, until Today. As I attempted to enter the handicap entrance on the Orange line Downtown Crossing at Franklin Street. The fare box LCD displayed Insuffient Funds & made an audio error message sound. Needless to say, I was unable to enter through the gate & the call box was unresponsive to let me in. To add insult to injury, I had my proof of purchase and no one to validate it. What a hassle!! The MBTA is extremely rude & thoughtless toward its pre-paid Charlie Card riders. Charlie Card Users are now being uncecessarily inconvenienced & delayed by having to go to the MBTA Customer Service Office & wait in long winding lines until a customer service rep. is available that can validate sufficient funds on a pre-paid MBTA Charlie Card.

Robbie D said...

Like the concept, need to make more accessable for purchase, ie machines at Seven Eleven or other stores + Charlie vending machines at Silver line bus stops on Washington St/,

Also need more machinces at train station, every time I go there a long lines, and people have not quite figured how to use the vending machines

Robbie D

Tape said...

At Downtown Crossing today, I walked by a man trying to load up his CharlieCard at one of the machines by the Red Line-only entrance at the Chauncey St. end of the concourse. I saw the screen, which was displaying some sort of pictorial instruction on how to tap your CharlieCard against the sensor so you could load it up. He was tapping his card against the picture on the screen. As I walked by him, I noticed that the actual black sensor was probably about 3 feet to the right of the picture — nowhere near where he was looking. And he just kept tapping his card against the screen, wondering why nothing was happening…

http://www.ataxia.net/2007/01/52/

Some Assembly Required said...

My big issue with the new system is that the design of the fare gates allows them to be used from both directions simultaneously, which causes problems trying to get into or out of a station. With turnstiles this did happen occasionally, but was a much less common occurrence.

I experience this most typically when I'm trying to enter a station and have to wait for riders who have just left a train and are leaving a station. Pople are just as selfish walking as they are when driving, so of course no one is going to move aside so you can catch your train.

For me it is compounded because I am legally blind and have one of the special passes. These only work at the handicapped gates, but other T riders can use their passes at any gate. I consider this discriminatory; the pass has no stored value and it does not expire, so what difference does it make which gate I use?

And let's not forget to mention how the gates don't respond until you're on top of them, forcing you to break stride and wait while they open. The T in its typical "wisdom" was so obsessed with preventing fare evasion that they have managed to make the system even less efficient and less user-friendly than it was previously. Brilliant.

One positive note: if you use the tunnel under Dartmouth St. at Back Bay, you can now enter the station without having to go back up to street level. Too late for me since I don't work over there anymore, but still good to see.

Anonymous said...

This morning, I tried to use my CharlieCard at the Harvard Ave B Line stop. So far, I've been alright with it, despite the fact that I'm incredibly displeased with the fare hike.
This morning was different. I had put in 5 dollars to a machine, not thinking that 3 x $1.70 = $5.10. I took two rides earlier this week, so I had $1.60 left. Damn. I offered to the driver to give him the extra ten cents. "It doesn't work that way", he said, "you have to pay the two dollars".
It's absurd that there is a two-tiered fare system. My cash is good when I put it into a machine, but it's not worth as much when I hand it straight to the driver?
It wouldn't be so bad if $1.70 wasn't such a bizarre amount. But to prompt people to put in $5 or $10 and then not have that buy them a whole number of trips? It's ridiculous.

Anonymous said...

It may be mroe money, but there fare really should have been raised to 1.75. I want say 6 rides on charliecard, its $10.20, and how often do i have 2 dimes?

Charlie said...

This morning was different. I had put in 5 dollars to a machine, not thinking that 3 x $1.70 = $5.10. I took two rides earlier this week, so I had $1.60 left. Damn. I offered to the driver to give him the extra ten cents. "It doesn't work that way", he said, "you have to pay the two dollars".

No you don't. You are allowed to add money to a CharlieCard on a bus and trolley before it deducts the fare. The T hasn't promoted this feature but it is available in cases like yours

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

Ben said...

Hi, I've been enjoying your blog. Here's my Charlie Card story...

I usually do a quick T commute from Kendall to Central then walk the
rest of the way home. One day last week I had to go into Boston to
meet some friends. Out of habit went to the wrong side of Kendall, and
after I went through the gate said 'oops' and crossed Main Street to
the inbound side of the station. I tried the gate, but my monthly pass
is now denied, with a little note saying I have to wait 20 minutes. I
asked the attendant, and she "NO YOU CAN'T GO THROUGH TWICE, BUY A
TICKET!!" Totally unprovoked she was yelling at me. I pointed out this
was a valid monthly pass I'd paid a lot of money for and she closed
the window on me.

I am just outraged to be treated so poorly. It's not just the rude
personnel, it's the idea that I can't use my monthly pass for 20
minutes after using the first time ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE STATION. I
can't be the first person this has happened to. It seems the T just
assumes a I am trying to rip them off.

Ariel said...

(This happened on January 22)

At 5:30, I left work. I had rehearsal in Porter Square at 7:30 and had an hour and a half to kill. so I arranged to meet my friend Al at Spike's in Davis between 6:15 and 6:30.

I get to South Station in plenty of time, but when I try to boop/ding my pass to let me through, the machine makes this loud noise and denies me by saying "not enough stored value." That's funny, I think to myself, because LinkPass, which I have, doesn't have stored value. It just lets you through if you're in the right month.


So I try every single turnstile, and none will let me through. I go to the purchasing machines and tap my card to see what the machine thinks I have on my card. Bing! You have a monthly LinkPass for January. So, hoping that the purchasing somehow reset the card since it knows I have a monthly LinkPass, I try again to get through with no luck at any turnstile. So I go and put $10 on my CharlieCard, because I have to ride from South Station to Davis, from Davis to Porter, from Porter to home, and then home to work tomorrow before I can go deal with this.


I add the money and it works. I am let through and now I have $8.30 left. Now I spot an MBTA employee, who was nowhere to be found before. I go up to him and tell him that I purchased a LinkPass for January, which worked perfectly up until today, but now registers as "not enough stored value" to pass through, even though the purchasing machine knows and recognizes that I have a LinkPass. I told him I bought $10 worth to get me through the next couple days in case I couldn't fix it, but could he please try to see if he could reset it somehow and have my LinkPass re-recognized.

He dings/boops my card to the machine to investigate and enters his MBTA employee super secret machine access code. "You have $8.30 on this card. You're fine!" at which point I had to tell him again that I just bought that $10, and had to use $1.70 to get in the turnstile to talk to him, and that that is not the problem. The problem is that the turnstile machine doesn't recognize my LinkPass and I don't want to pay $35 more dollars just to be able to go to work for the rest of January, which I already paid $59 for.

He checks the card again and he's like, "You have a LinkPass on here. You're fine!" Then I was like, I know I have a LinkPass. I have the receipt for it. The problem is the turnstile doesn't recognize my LinkPass and won't let me through. "But you came through. You're fine!" Then I had to re-explain why I put the $10 on there in the first place.

He screws around with the machine a bit more and announces he can't help me. He takes me to his supervisor, who is huddled over a desk in the tinted-window booth in the subway part of South Station. I give my card and my receipt for the LinkPass to him and I explain again to the supervisor what happened. He repeats the story, and seems to understand. Then he says, "where's your card? Let's check it." And I pointed to his hand, which was holding my card and receipt, and said "you're holding it." The guy is like, "oh look at that! I am!" and starts to fiddle with the purchasing machine. Meanwhile the first employee is trying to talk to me about Powerball.

The manager stops fiddling turns to me and goes, "You have $8.30 left on this card. It should work fine." I had to go through the whole thing again about how I have a LinkPass "oh yeah! Look at that! The computer says you do have a LinkPass!" and how it magically stopped working when I tried to enter today.

10 minutes later, the manager is like, "I can't help you, you have to go to the sales center at Downtown Crossing tomorrow." By now it's 6:20, and I had told Al I would be in Davis between 6:15 and 6:30. So I rush to the train, and the driver proceeds to drive approximately as slow as possible between every redline station. I arrive at Davis at 6:40, find Al has left because he thinks I stood him up (I didn't have his number somehow). So I order and eat fast, email Al from my smartphone to apologize and run back to the train at Davis in time to make it Porter by 7:15, so my bandmate could pick me up and drive me to the hinterlands of North Cambridge for rehearsal.

Here's the kicker. The card somehow reset the LinkPass itself. I entered Davis and it gave me the "good until 1/31/07" reading that you get with a pass. So at Porter I checked the machine, and lo and behold it still had $8.30 on it, meaning it didn't deduct cash when I entered at Davis – meaning it recognized my pass! When I enter Porter after rehearsal, it has the same result. Now I'm really mad. I wasted $10, missed dinner with a friend and subsequently looked like a complete jerk, rushed around and scarfed my dinner down and generally was crazy for no good reason. The pass works fine today (two days later) too.

I still have no idea whether it was my card's fault, or the fault of every single turnstile at South Station, or just an MBTA poltergeist that decided to ruin my day.

Anonymous said...

To Ariel:

Sounds like the problem is with you, not the card. RFID cards do not magically "reset" themselves, thats just absurd. You confirmed, multiple times, that you had a LinkPass on the card, so instead of quickly waving the card at the reader lay it flat for a second or so and wait for it to beep to let you in. The reader has to search the card for your pass so give it time (one second, maybe) to find it.

Anonymous said...

So the T advertises this new web site and says that riders can sign up for Service Alerts delivered by email. But there I am this morning on the Haverhill line, darn near getting frostbitten on my toes (despite pretty good shoes) waiting for the train that the LEDs say is only 10-15 minutes late, but actually arrives well over an hour late. Not only do the LEDs not work, but no service update email.

Anonymous said...

I don't know if any of you have experienced this issue before on the B line or any other line with the new Charlie Service. I board the B line on harvard Avenue and there are always some T employees with a wrist charlie machine where you tap your charlie card to board the train from any door.. I have tapped the card a few times on those machines and it always takes my entire stored value in my card.. the first time I had 6 bucks and took them all, second time I had 10 bucks and took them all.. what is wrong with those machines!! has any of you had this problem?

Anonymous said...

I am satisfied with the charlie service. If you get a Charlie Card its less expensive and makes life easier. Don't bother with the $2.00 tickets, get a Charlie card, it only costs you $1.75 a ride. YOu swipe your card against the thing and it opens the door and you whisk through no line no wait. (it also tells you your balance you have left on the gate on the right side. I think that's Wickid Pissah. Anyway, Its nice to no longer have to wait in those token lines all the time for one ride into the city! Also I found out the T is implementing a new system if you lose your card you can stop people from using it or something and also you can transfer balance from one card to another or will be able to in the near future (they are working on it)(too late for me as I lost one of my cards with 30 bucks on it.) Oh well. My mistake. Also you'll be able to eventually check your balance online. They are working on a website system registry. Anyway no problems. Much better than waiting in lines. Though I'd like to see a express lane (with "T") employees clearing the way for people who already have their charlie cards ) after major events. I almost got stuck after the Justin Timberlake show at the Garden (i 'm an employee there (usher) and they had this huge jammed crowd with now cops or T employees assitingin the crowd control.. it was dangerous,. People were crowded into the station waiting for the charlie cards and the stairs were packed too. I could just think about what might happen if there was a rush of people or a stampede. SO I left and went to Haymarket and there was no one there :) I got right on. If you do go to a concert or event at north station after the show go to Haymarket...it'll be worth it. But thre T staff should have had express lane for people with charlie cards ..and such and made sure people could get through. It was ridiculous you couldn't get through to the gates.
They need to work on that. a Charlie Card express lane at major events when they let out.
Like Red Sox and First Night, and the Pops. They need cops in the station to direct traffic and keep lanes open too.

Anonymous said...

I am satisfied with the charlie service. If you get a Charlie Card its less expensive and makes life easier. Don't bother with the $2.00 tickets, get a Charlie card, it only costs you $1.75 a ride. YOu swipe your card against the thing and it opens the door and you whisk through no line no wait. (it also tells you your balance you have left on the gate on the right side. I think that's Wickid Pissah. Anyway, Its nice to no longer have to wait in those token lines all the time for one ride into the city! Also I found out the T is implementing a new system if you lose your card you can stop people from using it or something and also you can transfer balance from one card to another or will be able to in the near future (they are working on it)(too late for me as I lost one of my cards with 30 bucks on it.) Oh well. My mistake. Also you'll be able to eventually check your balance online. They are working on a website system registry. Anyway no problems. Much better than waiting in lines. Though I'd like to see a express lane (with "T") employees clearing the way for people who already have their charlie cards ) after major events. I almost got stuck after the Justin Timberlake show at the Garden (i 'm an employee there (usher) and they had this huge jammed crowd with now cops or T employees assitingin the crowd control.. it was dangerous,. People were crowded into the station waiting for the charlie cards and the stairs were packed too. I could just think about what might happen if there was a rush of people or a stampede. SO I left and went to Haymarket and there was no one there :) I got right on. If you do go to a concert or event at north station after the show go to Haymarket...it'll be worth it. But thre T staff should have had express lane for people with charlie cards ..and such and made sure people could get through. It was ridiculous you couldn't get through to the gates.
They need to work on that. a Charlie Card express lane at major events when they let out.
Like Red Sox and First Night, and the Pops. They need cops in the station to direct traffic and keep lanes open too.

Anonymous said...

My experience has been mixed. I ride the 39 bus (the bus replacement for the now defunct Jamaica Plain end of the E line) and we have experienced a major loss in service since the new system went in.

The buses are very crowded, sometimes they are too full to pick people up, and sometimes they don't come for extended periods of time. There are many days, like today, when just give up waiting and walk the 1 1/2 miles to work at 8am because there are already 20+ people standing at my stop and I know we won't all fit on the bus when it comes.

My theory is that the MBTA has not been able to adjust for the extra time it takes people to board with the new system.

This morning on my very snowy walk to work, six out of order buses going the opposite direction passed me but not one passed going my way. That bus line is supposed to run every 8 minutes. As you can imagine, 1 1/2 miles in the snow took me a while to walk.

I appreciate that today the weather played a factor, but the problem has been persistant and we have had a mild winter.

D line commuter said...

On Thursday, March 1, my Charlie Card/Link Pass failed in two dimensions:

1. It became demagnetized and,
2. I'm told that the T did not upload March pass payments from my employer.

Here's the help I am getting:

My HR staff sent me a copy of my paystub showing my payroll deduction for my LinkPass. The T agent at the gate to the Green Line was (surprise!) not interested.

The T can't give me a machine readable card because they can't switch the account from old bad card to new working card. My April LinkPass will be uploaded to this same demagnetized card unless my employer issues me a new card.

When I asked for a working card, my HR staff offered instructions on correct swiping technique.

I can't figure out how some of the payments made on behalf of thousands of people failed to get uploaded into T files.

I am paying twice for my T rides so far this month, and there's no way to get a receipt to wave around to prove that I paid single fares.

Ron Newman said...

Your corporate HR department should be able to deal with this immediately. The Corporate Pass Program FAQ deals specifically with your situation:

What happens if an employee has a malfunctioning CharlieCard?

Companies should disable the malfunctioning card online, and if company has extra blank CharlieCards available, should assign a new CharlieCard and register the card under the employee's name online. If company does not have blank CharlieCards on hand, company can notify customer service to have a replacement card assigned and shipped immediately.

Anonymous said...

@Some Assembly Required

The handicap passes work in the handicap gates becausesomeone in a wheelchair can only use those gates.

As for "rudeness" of people exiting, if people are disembarking the train is already there and the chance that you'll be able to catch (particularly with the new system, even as a sighted person) is next to nil.

What's truly rude is people who try to descend stairs to get to the platform when a swarm of people are trying to go up them. The same logic as above applies, and they ought to just get the heck out of the way and wait.

Anonymous said...

I had my first experience using a Charlie Card this weekend, and everything went just fine. When I arrived at the Prudential station and looked at the machine in bewilderment, a T worker came over and walked me through the process of getting a Charlie Card and loading money onto it. Granted, it was a quiet Sunday afternoon, but I've never a T employee be so forwardly friendly before.

Jon said...

My thoughts:

* The monthly pass system is incredibly convenient. My employer charges me each month, and auto-refills my card. Couldn't ask for an easier system.

* Boarding the train at an underground station is simplicity itself. I just tap my wallet against the reader and walk on through. No more fumbling with trying to get a thin sheet of plastic through an old, broken machine.

* The T staff that have been deployed as ambassadors/helpers/fare-collectors have been, to a one, friendly and knowledgeable. (The woman who works at the outbound Boylston station in the mornings is particularly helpful, and is always patient with those learning the system for the first time.)

Roscoemix said...

Greetings from Western N.Y.

I just returned from Boston and would like to thank any and all MBTA employees for their hard work. I arrived at Logan with my family and we caught a bus to the airport T station, picked up 4 Charlies, loaded them up w/ $10.00 each and went downtown to our hotel in short order. The rest of the weekend we buzzed around on red, blue, green, silver & orange and had a great time. I've never ridden the MBTA in my life. It couldn't have been easier. Everyone we encountered who was associated w/ MBTA was helpful & courteous. The blue was under repair Sat. & Sun at our hotel yet there was always someone to help us.
Boston is a great city and its citizens should be proud. I'm already planning a return.

Thank you Boston & MBTA system.