Friday, February 09, 2007

UPDATE: 11:50 AM Metro may have the figures correct

UPDATE 11:50 AM

Christina Wallace in the Friday METRO may have a more accurate read on the numbers released by the T yesterday.
Since the beginning of January, 1.2 million CharlieCards have been distributed and approximately 86 percent of boardings during that month have been with the card or a monthly pass as opposed to the Charlie Ticket. That means, out of 22 million boardings in January, 19 million were made with CharlieCards or passes. “To get this result in 30 days is pretty remarkable,” said MBTA General Manager Daniel Grabauskas, during yesterday’s board meeting.
Ok that is a big difference in what the Globe reported as it does account for the CharlieTicket monthly passes. Wallace however came up with a much higher number of CharlieCards being in circulation saying the number is 1,200,000 over the Globe's number of 575,000. This would indicate that over 50% of the cards that have been handed out since December 4th are not being used.

However I still find the 86% boarding number cited by the T as being high simply from the number of passengers using the vending machines on a daily basis.

UPDATE 10:30 AM
The T has taken the Mac Daniel story off their website.


UPDATE 9:45 AM Friday

The print edition of the Globe has a more in depth article on the first month of the Charlie system and there is a significant change in wording from what first appeared on boston.com on Thursday and is still on the T website. Mac Daniel now writes



Based on the statistics released yesterday, by the end of January, 86 percent of T riders were using CharlieCards and 14 percent used CharlieTickets or paid cash and had to pay the surcharge. Grabauskas hopes to lower the percentage of people who rely on the paper tickets in the next several months.

The 86% figure still seems to be too high given the fact that many monthly passes in January were still CharlieTickets and all Commuter Rail and Express Buses passes still are tickets.

The article in the print edition also focuses on the T's claim that fare evasion is being stopped by the new system



The T, which previously projected that the new system would boost revenues 3 percent, now expects a jump of 9 percent -- or about $21 million -- in fare collections by the end of this fiscal year, June 30.

That increase is over and above the 25 percent fare increase that took place Jan. 1, MBTA General Manager Daniel A. Grabauskas said. "The numbers that we have seem to indicate strongly that fare evasion was greater throughout the system than we thought," he said.

The effort to curb fare evasion is being helped by additional security cameras , new, higher fare gates, and more T "ambassadors," who assist passengers in learning the new pay method but also are alert to people trying to jump the gates


I showed this article a few minutes ago to workers at Harvard Square and their reaction was laughter.

I think the system is collecting more revenue but fare evasion wasn't the problem. One of the main reasons the T wanted "Automatic Fare Collection" was the documented fact that T employees were robbing the system blind at the T's counting room in Charlestown. Also with the new fareboxes on the bus and trolleys dollar bills can actually be recorded which was not possible with the old fareboxes.

As far as fare evasion is concerned I have seen more people pass through faregates without paying in the last month than I have ever seen before. It is much easier just to follow somebody through a gate. A CSA isn't going to do anything unless the Transit Police happens to be there.


Original post from Thursday night 2/8/07 11:45 PM
The T is using a story by Mac Daniel on boston.com as an official press release

This story, written by Mac Daniel, appeared in the Boston Globe on February 8, 2007.

Numbers for the first month of CharlieCard usage show that despite fare increases the T's new automated system is being quickly adapted by riders, with 575,000 of the plastic cards in circulation after the program's first 30 days.

By comparison, the Chicago Transit Authority's ChicagoCard had 372,000 in circulation as of December, nearly four years after its introduction for bus and subway service.

The use of the CharlieCards has also seemed to change the way people pay to ride on Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority subways, buses, and trolleys. For the first time in the authority's history, the new fare card has made credit and debit card transactions account for more than 40 percent of the T's revenue.

"We have exceeded our expectations for the first 30 days," MBTA General Manager Daniel A. Grabauskas said today in a telephone interview.

In January, 86 percent of T riders used CharlieCards and paid the lowest amount under the new fare structure. About 14 percent of riders paid a new surcharge by using CharlieTickets or paying cash, a number Grabauskas said he want to lower in the next several months.

In addition, 87 percent of all bus passengers used the low-fare CharlieCards, while 13 percent of riders paid a surcharge. On Green Line surface stops, 96 percent paid with CharlieCards and 4 percent paid a surcharge.



OK what the article DOESN'T tell you about Chicago.

Chicago Cards cost $ 5.00 and are only good for Pay-Per-Use fares or a 30-Day Pass.

While the Chicago Card does offer a .25 cent discount on the 'L a regular farecard ( similar to the CharlieTicket) has the same value on a bus and transfers are issued. Chicago bus riders have not warmed to the Chicago Card since a trip and transfer is still $2.00 when boarding on a bus ( it is $ 2.25 when boarding at a rail station )

Chicago Card info


Reading the Chicago blogs the problem is the Chicago Cards have an alarming failure and it takes about a week to process a replacement unless you travel to the CTA office in the Loop.



Plus the monthly and weekly passes are still offered by CTA Transit Card for the same price so there is no compelling reason to switch to the card.

This statement from Grabauskas can not be true



In January, 86 percent of T riders used CharlieCards and paid the lowest amount under the new fare structure. About 14 percent of riders paid a new surcharge by using CharlieTickets or paying cash, a number Grabauskas said he want to lower in the next several months. In addition, 87 percent of all bus passengers used the low-fare CharlieCards, while 13 percent of riders paid a surcharge. On Green Line surface stops, 96 percent paid with CharlieCards and 4 percent paid a surcharge.
It can't be true for the simple reason that many January passes were issued on CharlieTicket stock as the retail locations had not been converted. I think anybody who has ridden a bus or the subway in the past month would find these figures out of whack at least for January.

Of course the T is being cute with this. Instead of issuing a press release on their own they simply republish the Globe article by Mac Daniel.

Mac you have been had. Any commuter will tell you these figures are not correct.

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

86%? Really? What about all of the people that have commuter zone passes (not available on CharlieCards)?

The figures seem way off... and out of the 565,000 cards-- how many are actually being used? I have to tell you, we have 5 or 6 laying around our apartment but only use two on a regular basis.

Howard said...

No way are those figures are correct.

Mr. Daniel you wrote a few weeks ago that the T never lies to you?

Well they just did.

Ron Newman said...

maybe those figures cover only pay-per-ride users?

Express-bus passes and 1-day and 7-day passes are also still only on CharlieTickets.

Also, today's Herald reminds us why it's important for any city to have two competing newspapers: CharlieCard users: T took us for a ride

DF in JP said...

The numbers are obviously a misrepresentation because Commuter Rail passes, which included unlimited subway and bus use, are on CharlieTickets.

Add commuter rail passes to the one and 7 day passes (which are also on CharlieTickets) and it's just not possible to have the kind of numbers Grabauskas is claiming.

Surprised Mac Daniel accepted at face value without any questioning the T's claims. It would be disappointing if Mac Daniel was content simply to be a press spokesperson for the T.

Aaron said...

I think the numbers are based on surcharges; I can believe that only a small percentage of people paid a surcharge, but my guess is that included in that 86% are folks with passes on tickets. Hard to see if it's a lie or a stupid mistake, but it's clearly wrong.

Sheila said...

At Forest Hills every afternoon I see teenagers just going through the gates like a cattle stampede without paying. The T Police are usually there and do nothing.

These gates are too easy to beat. Maybe they work in Europe but they are a disaster in the USA.

Josh (Somerville) said...

Somebody should tell Joe Pesaturo what "fair use" means.

Not only did he just cut and paste the entire article from boston.com he didn't even provide a link.

Charlie I wouldn't have believed the T would do something that stupid but you did provide a link to the T's website.

Daniel really looks like a stooge on this one as I agree those figures are a boldface lie.

Ron Newman said...

And how much of the increased revenue is from either riders being overcharged (passes not working properly, cards being charged twice) or riders discarding CharlieTickets that still have value?

Charlie said...

badtransit.com has chimed in on this article.

The MBTA’s “most responsive employee”

Brian said...

The idea that the new system stops fare evasion is absurd. By any reasonable standard, it makes it far easier. What it does block is T employees from raiding the fare boxes. I'd be disappointed to hear that this was a major problem, but the T should at least be honest about it rather than blaming riders. The new fare gates and the trolly boarding system makes fare evasion simple and virtually impossible to track. The Charlie Card does nothing to stop that.

Charlie D. said...

Well if they collect fares like the bus driver I had yesterday did, then we should be at 100% CharlieCard usage in no time! She waved on everyone that wasn't paying with a CharlieCard. "Look, everyone on my route uses CharlieCards!"

Charlie said...

Brian said...
The idea that the new system stops fare evasion is absurd. By any reasonable standard, it makes it far easier. What it does block is T employees from raiding the fare boxes. I'd be disappointed to hear that this was a major problem, but the T should at least be honest about it rather than blaming riders.


The big scandal was in 1993 but there was another one 2 or 3 years ago. It has been a major problem for the T.

T accounting scandal 1993

It was this series of events 14 years ago that pushed the T into looking into modern fare collecting.

Charlie said...

details of a later accounting scandal at the T



Ex-MBTA supervisor admits to tax evasion


Fare evasion was never the problem, it was the T's inability to get the money to the bank. The new system should help solve this problem for them

Ron Newman said...

If the Metro's figures are correct, it's still pretty impressive. Too bad that this "good news" got obscured by inaccurate reporting.

The T now needs to push forward in converting the commuter rail and boats to CharlieCard. This should greatly reduce wear and tear on the ticket-reading mechanisms in both FVMs and gates.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the previous posters that fare evasion is common with the new system. I used to witness people evading before with the old turnstiles a few times a month. Now it is almost every time I take the T. I have even had people I did not even know rush through the gate behind me. The T employees just watch and do nothing. Clearly any T employee who actually used the system could witness this firsthand.

Sheila point out that "Maybe they work in Europe but they are a disaster in the USA." In Europe and Japan, they system works on the honor system. But they have people patrolling the trains, checking tickets, and if you get caught the fines are quite expensive. So people are far less inclined to cheat. For the MBTA to do this, it would mean that their police force and employees would actually have to get on a train, not just stand about doing nothing.

Anonymous said...

There is no doubt fare evasion is easier with this system but do you expect the T to admit that?

Do the people who run this system ever take it?

Tom said...

I think the T trains their public relations people at the same place the owners of the Titanic did

Everything is fine, the ship is being towed to Halifax

Who the hell are they trying to kid? Certainly not anybody who rides every day.

The Globe should be ashamed that the Metro got the story correct.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't be surprised if the 1.2 million number is accurate. My partner and I both have Link passes but we have 5 Charlie cards for guests. Why should our out-of-town visitors pay the surcharge?

Ron Newman said...

I have a bunch of extra CharlieCards too, but if I had a visitor for any length of time, I'd probably steer her towards the $15 7-day pass (which is still on a CharlieTicket now).

Anonymous said...

http://www.boardzero.com/mbtaforum/mbtaforum-about343.html

http://www.mbta.com/uploadedFiles/documents/February_Board_updated.pdf

Perhaps a retraction or edit is in order?