Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Charlie's Mailbag - February 7th - T refunds and commuter rail woes

from the mailbag at

Kelly wonders why the T gave her too much money back


And we wonder why the T is bankrupt?

About two months ago (before the new fare increase,) I filed an on-time complaint about a D-Line inbound train during morning rush hour. I got my refunded fare in the mail yesterday, and it was … $5. Isn’t this a little much to be refunding? Not that I’m complaining, but … all I needed was my $3 fare back. If they are giving everyone more than they deserve, isn’t it a waste of money?

Also, a side note: during all the fury and madness on 1/31/07, I tried to log onto the new MBTA website to find out if my commuter rail train was going to be delayed. Surprise, surprise, I couldn’t load the webpage. And my internet was working just fine. Are they ever going to be able to handle many hits at once?

Love your site! Thank you for always watching out for us!
Hi Kelly and thanks for the nice words.

You are not the first person I have heard say this. I wonder if the refund department is simply sending out minimum refunds of $5. I have heard of some riders getting back CharlieTickets for their trouble. Does anybody else have a similar tale?

Why the T doesn't have a way of quickly adjusting their website to a text only when there is a high load factor I don't know. I know of many websites and message boards that do this regularly. It wasn't a good sign when announced the new website and 15 minutes later it crashed back in December and then what happened during the emergency last week shows they need to do something in peak times.

Peter wrote in on Monday morning about the Commuter Rail that day and I missed the email.

normally take the 8:21AM train from Swampscott. Due to the weather
this morning my wife gave me a ride to the station. We were sitting
in the car when all the sudden a train rolls in at 8:16. I quickly
hop out of the car and run to the platform and on to the train. What
I discovered resembled something that you would normally see in a
documentary on 3rd world country railway systems. People were packed
into the train worse then a 5PM E Green line car. I wound up standing
in the vestibule between cars packed with others unable to even turn
around. Others were in the space directly over the coupler. The
conductor did not even lower the stair cover and close the door. We
rode to Lynn with the door open and people hanging on for dear life.
When the train stopped we were finally able to get the stair cover
down and door closed for the rest of the trip. A dozen more people
tried to cram at Lynn in our door. All we needed was a few people
riding on the roof and hanging on the side and the 3rd world
transformation would have been complete.

I can only imagine the people waiting in the frigid temperatures this
AM for trains that never came or already passed (nobody really knows
Sadly like death and taxes you know the Commuter Rail falls apart when it gets cold. You would think the T would be prepared for this after all these years but it continues to happen. We all know the information signs are useless but the T "promises" they are working on a new system.

In any event service has gotten worse since MBCR took over the operation of the Commuter Rail from Amtrak. Keep in mind the T didn't fire Amtrak, they walked away from bidding on the new contract.

MBCR's website proudly says

MBCR is a partnership among three leading transportation companies: Veolia Transportation, Bombardier and Alternate Concepts, Inc. It was chosen by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) to manage and operate the Boston commuter rail system, effective July 1, 2003.
What it fails to mention is how members of this partnership have lost rail contracts in Europe over poor performance.

It should be very interesting at South Station this summer when the Greenbush line starts operation. While the T has put out a bid for new locomotives and passenger cars they won't be here for years and MBCR had trouble last summer keeping enough locomotives and cars in service.


Daniel said...

Please don't be a Mac Daniel tool.

The MBTA fare refunds are utterly useless. When that person who wrote
in goes to use their stack of cards they will find that they aren't
accepted. I know because I have a stack of them. The MBTA issues
$1.25 refunds. You can only use 1 charlie ticket per transaction.

Further, I ride the express bus which has a cash fare now at a
rediculous $3.50. My refund, or what is supposed to be my
complimentary round trip was 4 charlie tickets at $1.25 each.

Ron Newman said...

The few times I sent in refund requests for late buses, I always got back two tokens (worth $2.50), even though my bus ride had only cost 90 cents.

For a commuter rail refund, they always sent two tickets for the appropriate zone.

Kelly, did you get your $5 refund as a CharlieTicket or as cash?

Anonymous said...

As the previous commenter said, refunds come in the form of multiple $1.25 CharlieTickets.

Which explains why Kelly's refund was $5 -- it was a round trip refund for the Green Line D branch in Newton.

If daniel's refund was for an express bus that used to be $2.20, then $5 is a reasonable round trip refund.

But it is really annoying that they send $1.25 cards that can't be combined (except at Downtown Crossing during the workday), and you can't use more than 1 ticket to pay a bus fare, and you have to pay the surcharge when you use your refund.

Adam said...

I find it pathetic that refunds requests from late December are being filled in January and mailed in February -- at DECEMBER prices. Nothing is a bigger slap in the face than being delayed and being sent a refund to only cover a partial amount of the round trip -- as opposed to what was promised. Even more interestingly, the refund in question here was for a delay that occurred on New Years Eve inbound at around 2pm, when the D line was getting full of revelers who didn't understand the new fare boxes, but the FVM's at stations were (idiotically) not turned on yet.

Anonymous said...

Welcome to my world. Speaking of crowded E line trains... it sure stinks when you are late because two trains go by that are too crowded to even get on at Park Street. So crowded that people are pushing each other out of the way so they can try to squeeze into the 2 square inches of space between people, and so crowded that the train conductor has to announce rudely "Clear the doors. there's no more room for anyone else. you have to wait for the next train" over the loudspeaker. Of course, the next train is just as bad. When will the T learn that they need more frequent trains? I shouldn't have to fight with people in order to get to work every day. It shouldn't be a physical struggle.