Thursday, February 01, 2007

Charlie's Mailbag February 1st (good driver and fare evaders)

More reader mail at

BTW we would like some feedback on the preview windows that allow you to look at a link without clicking. Should they stay or should they go? Please let us know.

Last week we heard from Charlie (no relation) who was having problems trying to reload his CharlieCard in Watertown. He writes back to us with a happy ending to his story.

Hi Charlie,

To update you on how my Watertown experience turned out... I intentionally boarded the bus last at Watertown Yard, held out my CharlieCard and a $20 bill, and said to the driver "I need to load value onto my CharlieCard". He then replied "OK just a second" and pushed a few buttons on his farebox keyboard. He then instructed me step by step to follow the instructions on the screen, tapping my card, loading my money, hitting the little white button to confirm it, tapping my card again to load it, and then finally tapping to pay the fare. It took probably 15-20 seconds total, and the driver was very courteous and helpful throughout the process. This was a welcomed experience given the stories of confusion and rudeness I've read about when people have tried to load value on their CharlieCard on buses.

That is great to hear. I truly believe the vast majority of T employees are good and this why the blog started the T employee appreciation thread.

Teresa comments on fare evasion


After being subject to a circuitous ride on a 70 bus to Central Square that thought it was a 47, I was a bit disgruntled when I entered the T station on the inbound side. As I waited for the next train near the main fare gates (with Charlie machines and T attendant), I witnessed one young female delinquent offer entry to her delinquent friend by opening the gate from the track side. She didn't even try to hide her behavior. Then, seconds later, the two delinquents loudly call over to delinquent #3 who was just entering the area. Delinquent #1 proceeds to open the gate for her as well.

A bit shocked that they would do this so brazenly in front of the T rep (rather than at the more inconspicuous entrance at the end of the platform) I had to say something. So I poked my head between the fare machines and asked the T attendant "Don't you even care that people are basically jumping the turnstiles right in front of you."

His reply was, "What can I do, I have to help these people" as he gestured to the masses that have yet to figure out the byzantine machines.

As I shook my head and went back to waiting on the platform, he called out after me "and yes, I do care."

Now if only the T management would care.

The T decided to change the order from turnstiles to gates to combat fare evasion in the system thinking the gates would make it harder. Just the opposite has happened. Honestly in all the years I have been riding the T I can't recall very many cases where I would see somebody jump a turnstile. You were much more likely to see someone plead poverty to the token clerk and usually they would get waved through something not likely to happen now with Charlie. What fare evasion I did see regularly was on buses where people would just waltz by the driver without paying. The driver might yell at them but most of the time it was just ignored and Charlie won't solve that problem on a bus. Since it is impossible to have T Police on every bus this will remain a problem.

In New York several stations have been converted to a newer floor-to-ceiling turnstile that is impossible to jump but city officials are concerned that it is a fire hazard as it allows only 20 passengers to exit a minute compared to 40 at a regular turnstile so Boston is not alone with this issue.

Now the Green Line has its own issues with fare evasion as Boston tries to introduce "proof of payment" (POP) to the street level trolleys. I asked users of a San Francisco transit blog how well POP works there and got some interesting feedback. Some examples
from Viscus: If you don't already have a pass, you buy a ticket either from a turnstile in a subway station, one of the vending machines that they have at surface station platforms, or you go to the very front of the train and buy a paper transfer from the train operator.

Randomly, Muni fare inspectors will show up on trains or station platforms to check everyone for proof of payment. If you don't have it, you're subject to something like a $250 citation.
Now that sounds exactly what the T is trying to do at least on the D Line. One major difference between MUNI and the T on the trolley lines is the second cars in San Francisco are not manned so when boarding the second car you must have some form of proof of payment. Fare evasion is a hot topic with riders in San Francisco
from factfarmer3000: I guess its safe to say its not handled that much

lots of people who want their POP go to the front after they board to get it.

there are lots of fare jumpers, unfortunately. However, I think it is only the Muni Metro that has police men come on board and check that people have their POP. Although, I think that fare jumpers are usually on the regular buses, especially those long crowded ones like the 14- Mission.

I'm just a commuter though, so you might want to wait for a professional response form someone else.
and indeed a MUNI employee did post
Currently there are only Fare Inspectors checking in the subway/light rail and the cable cars. Alas, the greater majority of fare evasion is done on the buses.

Muni has hired 47 new inspectors but they are slated to work in the same venues. I am constantly being told my managers that I speak to that fare inspection on buses are not in the near future.

Officially, when there is a fare evader, we are supposed to call Central Dispatch and wait for instructions. The vast majority of the time, operators don't call because it is a waste of time to pick up the phone and nothing happens to the same people; AND then it will make you even more late in your bus schedule. People have been evading the fares for generations. Grandmothers tell little grandson how the MUNI UNIVERSE works and the knowledge is handed down thorough the generations. Even kids of MUNI bus drivers do it. Why? Because they know nothing will happen from asking their parents.

To me, the paper transfer is one of the many reasons why MUNI is losing so much money. There is so much room for abuse of the system. I would say that only 30% of the time, people would show clearly what the date is and what is the expiration date
which prompted more posts
Well, about half of the time that I've been around when the fare inspectors showed up, one or two people got busted for fare evasion. As others have said, most of the fare evasion probably happens on the bus lines, where people jump on through the back door, only show half of an expired transfer, etc.

A lot of people in San Francisco have a really sick sense of entitlement when it comes to mass transit.
Fare evasion on the T will continue to be an issue until the fare inspectors start writing tickets or the MBTA Police arrest people. Then the word will spread on the streets that it isn't worth it.

That is how cities operate.


Dani B. said...

Please get rid of the preview windows! They are so annoying and slow down everything.

Adam said...

i hate those previews. They link to other sites if your mouse moves during the click, it causes lag, and they aggravate me more than popups.

always thinking about papelbon said...

The main problem with the Fare inspection is that at least on the Green Line, operators are not routinely providing proof of payment. Unless you ask for it, they are not giving reciepts to those who pay with cash and I don't think that many people know to ask. I worry that if they start inspecting and issuing citations it may result in some paying customers getting a ticket. We'll see what happens, I guess.

Ron Newman said...

I agree fully with Dani B and Adam. Get rid of those things!

Charlie said...

Ron Newman said...
I agree fully with Dani B and Adam. Get rid of those things!

They are gone for now

but of course now I will hear from the people who liked them

Anonymous said...

Another vote against the preview windows. They get in the way.