Wednesday, January 03, 2007

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.

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Anonymous said...

On checking the value of your CharlieCard: the value is displayed on the faregates when one goes through. It may take some getting used to, but it's faster and more efficient to just try to go through with your card, instead of first checking the stored value at a faregate. If there's enough money, you'll know how much is left, if not, you can go reload at the FVM.

On delays when exiting through faregates: I found that waving my hand in front of the sensors speeds up the process.

Benjamin Ostrander said...

I have noticed the delay in exiting. I have to step up to the gate and stop, then it opens. I try to wave a bag or something if I'm caring tat but I still have to wait to exit. Fortunately, the T doesn't make us exit one at a time.

Fenway said...

couple of comments by email

Steve writes
so I had this idea on how to speed up the green line above ground,
especially the B line.

stop at every other stop.

sounds funny, but think about it.

you get on above ground and you know its every other stop. which is a
short walk, especially in places near BU.

at Kenmore the train can announce whether it will stop at the next
stop or skip the first above ground stop.

its like a built in express train.

from Mike
really love this blog, (and I really don't like

Between your blog, and the finally revised T web site,
I think I have the card figured out.
I appreciate the 'how to add value to on the bus or
trolley'. I do not go into the stations at all. Last
week a driver told me you could do this, but did not
seem to know quite how it worked.

You have pointed out a number of T shortcomings and
pluses on the program. I guess we should keep in mind
the difference between a roll-out issue and a design
issue (like no 2nd bus card reader). I don't think any
progress will be made on design issues for now.

The best track for now is to somehow convince the T on
what is very wrong with the roll-out:

1. No Spanish (or Portuguese) instructions! The
poorest folks are now left paying the highest fares,
and losing transfers.

2. Not touting the single biggest benefit of the
Charlie Card fair structure - Bus to Rapid transit
transfers! In effect the complete trip fare has
actually gone down for a very large group of people
(if they speak English). Rapid transit fares are
automatically a free transfer to a bus within 2 hours.
And bus fares are a $.40 fare to the rapid transit
within 2 hours. It is incredible that there isn't any
publicity on this.

The last bit of silliness is 'why didn't they make the
Charlie Cards first, then roll-out the tickets?' They
wouldn't have to wean folks from the tickets now.

Anyway, thanks for an excellent blog ( I first found
it from the 'Starts and Stop' link).

It is amazing that the T did not print a brochure in Spanish explaining the CharlieCard.

and looks at the T's idea to use Alta Vista's Bablefish to translate into other languages. In Chinese the following translations occur

“Official website for Greater Boston’s Public Transportation System” became “Official website for Even More Mighty Boston’s Public transit system”

“Simple sign-up is free and takes less than a minute” is translated to “Simple signs vs. one minute is freedom also adopts less.”

“Trip must be handicapped accessible” is translated to “Handicap traveling is definitely something easy to approach”

“MBTA Home (Home page)” -> “MBTA Family”

“Rider Tools” -> “Carman’s Tools”

BR said...

Here's my thought ... why doesn't Airport station have automatic doors? You know, the kind that open with a sensor? So many people going through there have bags and suitcases, and while the gates are an improvement over turnstiles (for this station at least), I still have to shove my way through the unwieldy doors. Which, I'm not sure, but I think are hinged oh-so-inconveniently not on the ends, but somewhere in the middle of the door.

Nawth Shaw said...

To determine card balance, you don't need to go all the way to the "Card Info" page (the existence of which, quite frankly, had eluded me). Just tap your card, and your balance will appear in the upper-righthand corner of the display screen; if it's sufficient for your purposes, hit "Cancel," and walk away.

Fenway said...

Nawth Shaw said...
To determine card balance, you don't need to go all the way to the "Card Info" page (the existence of which, quite frankly, had eluded me). Just tap your card, and your balance will appear in the upper-righthand corner of the display screen; if it's sufficient for your purposes, hit "Cancel," and walk away.

LOL having found the card-info page I never noticed what you mentioned.

The Card-Info section does tell you how much is on the card, if you have a pass and if you have a valid transfer.

Fenway said...

another e-mail comment from Maureen and it is a good one

Wouldn’t it be great to have a pre-existing slot on the Cards to attach a lanyard or put it on your keychain.

Katie said...

I know this is quite late for this post, but I really didn't think about Charlie while I was back home on winter break, and am only now just catching up on the action..

I figured out back in whenever-it-was that they put the faregates in at Boylston, going to and from school (Emerson) that I walk through with my hand out in front of me and put it in front of the sensor on the right side right next to the glass, and by the time it sees my hand I don't have to slow down or dead-stop in front of the glass. I just hope I don't eventually lose a hand to the damn things.