Thursday, February 15, 2007

Charlie's Mailbag - February 15th - where is the salt? and T refund change?

from the mailbag at

Heidi says things were a little slippery at Chestnut Hill this morning


Just an FYI - there was no sand or salt anywhere at this stop. There
was some in the parking lot and a tiny amount on the stairs. Nothing on
the area where you cross the tracks or on the platform.

Thank You,
Sue also reported the same thing at Newton Centre this morning saying the platform was like a skating rink and even sent pics. There is no excuse for this since it was going to be obvious that everything froze over last night.

Adam writes about "T supplementary refund letters"

Dear CharlieontheMBTA,

The Boston Globe recently printed an article about MBTA riders being
shortchanged on refunds that were for delays before the fare increase but
issued after the fare increase. I was one such patron, who had a 1-hour
delay on the D branch of the Green Line inbound at around 2pm on New Year's
Eve due to the tremendous number of people boarding unfamiliar with the
cash-only (machines not active yet) new fareboxes on the train.

Last week I received a letter that containined two $1.25 stored value
CharlieTickets. The letter was pretty much the same as the old letters I
used to receive when I received tokens in the mail. Nevermind that I have a
Zone4 Commuter Rail Pass so tokens and CharlieTickets are of little use to
me, especially since the letters said that "Stored Value
CharlieTicket/Tokens are not redeemable for cash."

Today I received a letter that said the following:


Recently you received a complementary [sic] stored value CharlieTicket in
the amount of $2.50 for submitting your "On-time Service Guarantee Claim" on
January 1, 2007 [sic] the MBTA Board of director's [sic] voted to accept a
proposed fare increase, [sic] this increased the round trip subway ride from
$2.50 to $4.00 on a stored value ticket.

Consequently we are supplementing your original $2.50 refund with an
additional complimentary stored value Charlie Ticket [sic] for $1.50. You
may use these tickets for travel on the MBTA service. Stored value refund
CharlieTickets are redeemable at the Downtown Crossing Customer Service
Office with the presentation of this letter and a valid photo ID during
regular business hours. You will be asked to sign the letter below and
deliver this letter at that time [sic]

We apologize for any inconvenience and frustration you may have experienced.
We are committed to customer service excellence and to the delivery of
quality public transportation. You are a valued customer and your continued
patronage is greatly appreciated.


In a major departure from previous "complimentary round-trip fares" I am
actually receiving a refund here. This is done commonly on the commuter
rail, but I have never seen it before for the subway/bus guarantee claims. I
wonder if this is a new development with all claims, exclusive to this
mess-up here, or something in place for passholders who make claims (as
opposed to cash-payers who could actually derive some benefit from a
non-redeemable stored-value ticket).

The ticket looks the same as the others used to, but as opposed to the other
two, which I moved onto a CharlieCard during my last trip through DTX, these
I'll be redeeming.

Adam in Natick
Just a thought I have on the refund procedure. Would the T consider sending TOKENS as refunds since they are still worth $1.25 in the fareboxes and fare vending machines? I think that would solve a lot of the problems as you could use the token along with an existing CharlieTicket.


Anonymous said...

That is an excellent idea. Unlike CharlieTickets, tokens can be combined with other tokens and with a CharlieTicket or Card to pay a fare, can be loaded onto a CharlieCard or CharlieTicket at any station, and can even be used to pay for a monthly pass if you're paying with cash.

Sure, they'd limit refunds to integral multiples of $1.25, but that doesn't seem to bother the T since they keep sending multiple $1.25 tickets as refunds.

Ron Newman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ron Newman said...

A good idea, but they'll need to include a letter explaining how to use the token. As time goes on, more and more riders will never have seen or used one.

Speaking of tokens... what is the T doing with all the tokens they receive? They haven't sold any since early December, and they must be getting a steady inflow from fareboxes and FVMs.

Anonymous said...

Another stellar piece of prose by the MBTA. I enjoyed the "complementary" mistake; the punctuation errors; the misplaced apostrophe. These are principles taught in basic High School English courses, are they not?

A real class act.

Sioux from Newton said...

Don't let them tell you they can't shovel, salt and sand the platforms because they can.

They actually did a pretty decent job at it last week. When the inch and a half of slush froze solid over the rest of Newton Centre last week (many of the the fair citizens who own houses along Beacon Street only shovel enough to leave a Zamboni-slick sheet across their driveways), the ramps and platforms at the T had been shoveled (mostly) dry and well treated with salt and sand.

And last year and the year before I saw crews all the time at Newton Centre and Newton Highlands, shoveling, sanding, salting and moving onto the next stop. They deserved (and on my train anyway got) an enthusiastic round of applause.

And considering the miniscule amount of snow we've gotten this year, I refuse to believe the T is out of sand and salt. (There are at least two nicely-painted green salt boxes at Newton Centre but I didn't want to risk breaking my neck going over to either of them to check and see if there was salt in them.)

So obviously the T is capable of doing the job. It's just that the people who decide to dispatch the crews were completely asleep at the switch.

It was obvious that no one had shoveled, salted or sanded any of the T surfaces, so this morning they were covered with a slick, thick, lumpy, uneven and treacherous sheet of ice. Shame!

One more comment: I like a lot of the drivers and sympathize with them. Sour-tempered riders vent at when the T screws up. But to that idiot who stopped the train so that it blocked the track crossing when I tried to catch the train at Newton Highlands -- what can I say? Apparently it's not the only such incident over the past day or so.