Sunday, February 18, 2007

Charlie's Mailbag - February 18th

catching up on reader mail at

I was sent a link where you can view the new Blue Line cars being tested on the Orange Line

Bruce from Cambridge has a GOOD customer service story

Last Thursday I tried to add $5.00 to my senior card on the #1 bus and the driver was very helpful but the farebox did not add the value to the card. The driver gave me his route number, badge number and the farebox number and a phone number to call the T. He was very nice and was sorry it happened.

I called the T and the person on the phone says "We owe you $5.00. If you were here I could add the $5 to your card but I will send you a check. They cut the checks on Friday and with luck this will get to them on time."

I am happy to report that in Saturday's mail a check for $5 from the MBTA arrived in my mailbox
Thanks Bruce for letting us know. Tip of the hat to the T on making things right quickly.

Wendy has a couple of gripes

Hey, I really like your blog!

I have a general complaint. It's basically about the employees of the MBTA.
I'm sure all they hear day in and day out are complaints and whining, but I
really can't stand it when they show absolutely no sympathy, or even
contempt, when you ask them a legitimate question. It's like they can't be
bothered, or "hey, I'm underpaid and overworked, don't bother me!". Well,
we are all underpaid and overworked.

My very specific complaint is this: I work at the Garden for all the Bruins
games. I get out of the place about 15 minutes after the game is over and
walk over to the North Station T stop to take the trolley two stops to
Lechmere. I can't tell you how many times I've waited 10-15 minutes for a
trolley that's going all the way through to Lechmere. There's plenty of
trolleys coming by, but North Station is their last stop. Why can't they go
two more stops? Especially when it's after 10pm. Don't they plan for events
at the Garden and the extra riders? I'm a woman and I'd like to get to my
car as early as possible so late at night. I don't understand the reasoning
of stopping two stops short of the end, letting everyone off and turning
around, when they can just go two more stops.

I am showing my age here but when I was a kid I used to leave Bruins games for Lechmere and you never had to wait more than 3-5 minutes for a trolley. The T always put extra cars on duty to handle the post game crowd.

The T has never adjusted to the fact that far more people use the Lechmere branch than ever before in the history of the line. On weekends the line is heavily used by riders going to the Museum of Science and the CambridgeSide Galleria Mall. In the late 1990's when the T closed the lower level Green Line stop at Canal Street they then did route 2 lines to Lechmere and service was much improved, but when they opened the new Superstation at North Station routing went back to the way it was in 1997. Truth is the T spent a small fortune in building new crossover tracks under Causeway Street and thus feel compelled to use them.

As far as rudeness by T employees? I don't know why but they certainly have more than any other transit system I have been on. In Seattle for example bus drivers are always smiling and cheerful. Even in Philadelphia you don't see the rudeness that SOME T employees have towards customers.

I think we can agree that the vast majority of T workers are good but there are some bad ones out there that the T seems powerless to get rid of.

Matty from Cambridge is not a regular T user

Because of the ice storm and my car being frozen solid to the street I took the T into work on Thursday. I usually drive to work. I almost fell down the stairs at Central because of the ice on the steps. What amazed me was the T had workers there sanding from the bottom up.

Then I had 2 Charlie Tickets each with $1 on them and found there was no way to combine the 2 cards. I was told I had to go to Downtown Crossing to do so. I did so and now have a Charlie Card with $20 on it but there has to be an easier way.

I understand your frustration. At the very least you should be able to put any remaining stored value from a CharlieTicket onto a CharlieCard at a machine.

KMP writes about the faregates

I was thinking to myself that it would likely be only when the fairly
complicated mechanical "Charlie Ticket" handler was broken...

This morning(Friday), I noticed a faregate with the "Smart Cards Only" message.
I looked a bit closer, and saw in small type below that message another
one reading "Terminal 1 Card Reader Jam".

So, in this case (Central, Outbound, center entrance, right-most gate)
it was just the ticket reader was jammed. I only looked, though,
because I was wondering if there might be a clue.
I finally saw a "smart card only" message at Harvard on Saturday evening. There does seem to be a lot of ticket readers out of service the past few weeks.

Oddjob60 has an idea

Since the T can't seem to post service alerts to its website quickly,
it sounds like a job for Web 2.0, specifically a wiki where any user
can post an update (maybe even by email? not sure what a wiki can do
easily, or how susceptible that would then make it to spam).

Do you know of anything out there that already does this?
Not that I know of but it is something worth exploring.

I suspect the T itself maybe having trouble accessing the website during heavy demand times to update information. The server appears to be located off-site from the T in Cambridge. The website issues are a main reason we suggested a "transit camp" to the T and I hope to know more this week.

1 comment:

Adam said...

a few replies:

1) most of the stuff that must be done at the DTX office we should be able to do on our own at a full-service FVM. Why we can't I really do not know -- but this includes transferring value and combining tickets.

2) T workers are not underpaid and overworked. In fact, dollar-for-dollar and hour-for-hour of experience, they are possibly the best-paid non-college graduates in the entire city.

3) -- this site lets you sign up for alerts on your cell phone/email (something the T has yet to do) whenever one of your favorite routes (or trains) is delayed. You can also call/email/SMS in your own reports "from the field" and these are distributed as well. All frequent T passengers should be signed up with this site.