Sunday, February 11, 2007

The reality of the T's on-time guarantee policy

In the Sunday Globe Mac Daniel writes about "David" who received refunds for poor service on the #502 bus.
David, who rides the 502 express bus from Watertown to Copley, received refunds for two buses that failed to show last year.

He said he not only didn't receive enough money, he was given four Charlie Tickets, each with a value of $1.25, and found he couldn't combine them when taking his next trip.

When the fare box rejected his second ticket, the driver said he'd have to pay the difference in cash.
This afternoon I received an email at charlieonthembta@gmail.com from "David" who is actually Daniel......
MBTA Mac can't even keep his names straight. I was the sender of the
letter.... But the point of the complaint was more than the useless
tickets.

Issue 1. The fare of an Inner Express on a Charlie Ticket (which is
what they issue refunds with) is $3.50. Not $1.25, and not $2.50. I
expect to receive a total refund of $7 instead of $5.

Issue 2. There are NO fare vending machines anywhere in Watertown.
Redeeming these worthless cards into something useful requires someone
to take a trip to a location where there is a vending machine.

The on time guarantee makes no mention anywhere of guaranteeing me a
cash value of any type. It simply and directly states they guarantee
me a valid complimentary fare. Which they basically disregard. How
is a non-valid stack of Charlie Tickets a complimentary fare?

I really question what Mac's job is over at the Globe. I think a fax
machine would be able to quite handily do his job as all I saw in
today's article was more quotations from the mismanaged MBTA. Quite
honestly, it's far far FAR slower for these fare boxes to accept coins
or cash. Many drivers tell cash paying riders to forget about it
after the first bill it rejects.

I'm not holding my breath for a "letter" from the MBTA but should it
miraculously arrive, I'll let you know.
On the T website the wording is quite clear
T riders expect timely service and we promise to meet your expectations. If your service is delayed more than 30 minutes, we'll give you a complimentary fare.
The T then tells you how to "activate" your claim and then warn you about making a false claim

False claims for reimbursement are a crime under the Massachusetts General Law and the Federal Mail Statute. Please read the applicable laws below. False claims will be investigated and prosecuted by the MBTA. The MBTA reserves the right to deny any claim.
M.G.L Chapter 266, Section 30. Larceny; general provisions and penalties
18 USC 1341. Chapter 63. Federal Mail Fraud Statute

Then you wait for the T to resolve the problem.

Mac Daniel talked to the T and this is what he wrote on Sunday

T officials pledge to right the wrong.

The last batch of refunds were for December delays when it cost $1.25 to ride the subway and 90 cents for the bus.

But T officials forgot about the fare increase, as well as the Customer Bill of Rights, which states riders who are delayed are entitled to a free ride, not just a refund of their fare.

"We will make good on the free-ride guarantee," John McLaughlin, the T's director of systemwide modernization, said in an e - mail.

Late last week, T officials planned to send letters to the 220 people affected by the supplementary tickets to make up the fare difference.

As for David's inability to use multiple CharlieTickets on the Watertown express bus, those are the rules, says the T. The new system does not allow multiple CharlieTickets to be used on buses, which the T says slow s loading times.
Note to the T: inserting cash into the fareboxes will take even longer as any rider will testify.

Also give the number of passengers that use the Watertown Yard to begin their commute every morning it would seem to be a prime candidate for a fare vending machine.

We would like to hear from other passengers about their "On-time Service Guarantee" experiences.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Mac Daniel and the T seem to be missing the point.

It doesn't seem unfair to me to give people a round trip at last year's fares, if a T trip last year was late.

The problem is splitting the refund onto 4 tickets, each of which is too small to use. And they can't be combined, except at Downtown Crossing during the workday, and possibly at the Harvard pass sales window during the last 4 and first 4 workdays each month.

And yes, the T spokesman is correct that it is a rule (or maybe just a "policy" that has been created by farebox software -- does the T even have a written fare tariff?) that you can't pay a single fare with multiple small CharlieTickets.

So then WHY is the T sending them to people? What exactly are people supposed to do with a $1.25 ticket, when the smallest fare you can pay with a ticket is $1.50 for a local bus? Having a fare vending machine in Watertown would not help, since FVM's don't let you combine tickets.

It's also kind of annoying that people have to pay a CharlieTicket surcharge to use their refund. What's going to happen when the T finally gets around to refunding January claims that involve CharlieCards? Will those people also get tickets and have to pay the surcharge?

Brian said...

Given the language of the T's on-time promise, I actually do think they are under an obligation to offer a refund at the current rates. They promise a complimentary fare, not a refund. That means they need to offer you enough to get a ride at current rates. Especially if they cannot respond to a claim in a timely manner. As I mentioned in another thread, I'm still waiting on a refund from 2 claims I made in October and another in November. I've noted that more recent claims have been processed, so I assume the T simply reserved their right to deny any claim. Even the legitamite ones.

But obviously, sending 4 tickets is insanely wasteful and completely useless for the rider. The value could be sent on one ticket. That should be obvious to everyone except the T. Instead, they decided to just replace their mailed tokens with tickets rather than update the process for a new system. In doing so, they've only served their need for institutional deadlock. They don't serve the current fare system and they absolutely don't serve the riders.

Jon Roberts said...

I filed a claim for a botched subway ride back in October or November sometime. In January, I got two $1.25 tickets in the mail (miraculously -- see below). Then last week, the postman delivered another two $1.25 tickets.

I don't know if the doubling of refunds was general T mismanagement, or maybe their effort to give me a round trip fare at current rates. Who knows?

I know it was the same claim, because my address had the same major errors on both letters. (Street spelled wrong, missing apartment number.)