Thursday, March 15, 2007

Charlie's Mailbag - March 15th

trying to catch up on the mail at

Stephanie writes about Charlie refunds

In November, I bought a Charlie Ticket for use on the Green line so I would not have to use tokens. Unfortunately, no one had told me that tickets were not accepted on the green line. By advise of a T agent, I sent a charlie ticket in for a refund in November so that I could buy tokens. After numerous calls (and rude responses including "too bad, people who sent their tickets in June are still waiting for refunds"), I reached the "proper" person. Someone named Barbara? She said that tickets were non-refundable and that T agents were making things up by telling people that they could get refunds. After that, it was announced that Charlie Cards were soon to be released. I found out that Charlie tickets could be changed into Charlie cards. After numerous tries, I reached her again and requested by Charlie Ticket back so I could turn it into a Charlie Card. She told me to call her back on January 31 if I still had not received my charlie ticket. I also tried the MBTA "write to the top". After an apology letter for not returning my email for several months, I get a response saying that my email has been forwarded. Since then, I have not heard anything from the "write to the top" and I have not been able to reach Barbara. She never returns phone calls and she never picks up. Sometimes her answering machine is completely full. It is now March 14 and still nothing. I was wondering if anyone might be able to give me the contact information of someone who might be able to help me get my refund or my charlie ticket back. It seems that other people on the website are more successful than I am at getting refunds. I am owed $16.25.

Since this fiasco started the T has opened a new Customer Service Department so you might want to contact them and see if they can figure out what is going on. I know the T watches the blog so maybe that will help as well. Let us know what happens

Paul writes

tried to search for these answers on your site, as an FYI.

I was wondering if anyone has posted in regards to the new CHARLIE gates not opening very well or quickly when people come up to them.


has anyone ever commented on the escalator etiquette (stand on the right, unless you are passing) and how the MBTA subways cars could actually fit more people on them, if passengers removed their bags and backpacks from their backs/shoulders?

The slow faregates have been mentioned several times. There doesn't seem to be a uniform standard on how they open.

Your other points are common sense which sadly is lost on many riders.

Mike wants to pass on a link

Saw your recent posts about SF, Chicago, and Boston… and thought I would send this link along.

Think of it as mapquest for public transit.
Thanks Mike. I am sure many will find it useful.

and David has some concerns about the blog

I like your Charlie on the MBTA blog, but lately the entire tone has just become nothing but complaints. When I first started reading it I was compelled by the fact that it wasn't just the classic Boston/MBTA blog where people write in and relentlessly complain about their commutes, etc. If people are so fired up about issues that they think should be fixed on the T they should write the T and if that doesn't work, their elected representatives, the governor, etc. Get results oriented, or quit complaining.

I liked your piece on the trolley cars you saw in San Fran, and some of the other pieces you have done on the history of the T, how the T runs, etc. Those tend to get responses from people who want to discuss transit, rather than just complain. I know a blog is just somewhere people can post their opinions, but maybe there is something that can be done to set the tone. Alternatively, if the blog is designed to solicit opinions for public action, perhaps you could incorporate an element to actually facilitate that happening, such as on-line petitions, that could actually be conveyed to a public official. Again, I like your blog and appreciate the hard work you put into it. I just hope it does not deteriorate into a message board of complaints that no one follows up on.
Thanks David for the note.

Obviously people tend to write more when something goes wrong but we have encouraged people to tell GOOD T stories as well.

I hope as we evolve that some of your ideas will start to happen. One reason I have been reporting on other cities is to show the MBTA is not alone with problems but perhaps they can learn from how other cities cope with moving people around.


Ron Newman said...

A CharlieTicket is accepted on the Green Line and everywhere else on the MBTA system. I don't understand why you weren't able to use up your ticket on the Green Line. Using it costs more than using a CharileCard ($2 vs. $1.70).

Matt said...

It's NOT common sense. The London underground has signs reminding its
riders of how not to block an escalator, how to fit more people on
the subway, etc. etc. Even kids who are taught how to be polite in
public often aren't, and NOBODY is taught subway etiquette in school.

Well, maybe in Boston, but how many people move to Boston from places
without a subway?

Patrick said...

For what it's worth, I see escalator etiquette being observed far more often than not when I take the T. I rarely have a problem with that aspect of things. Sometimes people are in a rush at places like North Station and it gets messy, but that's generally the exception in my experience.

Atomic40 said...

It's Boston dude, people make a living on being rude to one another. People are too concerned with their own agendas to be polite it seems. Pretty sad.

lou said...

sorry matt, but nothing you said really helps convey the idea that car packing and escalator etiquette arent common sense. regardless of what they teach in schools, you cant teach common sense. but that doesnt mean it can't be learned. signs would help, but just because the underground has them doesnt mean that things like that shouldnt be common sense. Many of the T's riders are just selfish and show a real lack of consideration when it comes to others (letting elderly take their seats without being asked, moving into the train on the green line so people can get on, letting people off when its a packed train, etc) Of course most of them really just arent paying attention/not thinking about it. which is a shame

Oh and ron, i think stephanie said it was in november, not now. Green line didnt start using charlie tickets until around november, but it was only on a couple of cars, and that number increased through december until it was on all cars when they debuted the charliecard.

Anonymous said...

I heard an explanation for a lack of "stand right - walk left" signs on escalators in New York: the MTA is afraid of being sued by people who trip while walking.

nkp said...

I think the lack of "stand right - walk left" signs like you see in London are indicative of our litigious society (the MBTA doesn't want to encourage anyone to do anything but stand perfectly still with one hand on the rail). However, I'm sure I've seen the same signs before in the US - it may have been the moving walkways at O'Hare. To most of us who ride the T every day it's common sense to stand right but it's the occasional users who most often clog up the escalators - and it's infuriating when you're trying to make the commuter rail after dealing with two sluggish subway connections...

Brian said...

I'd suggest to David that many of the people who write in to complain are contacting their representatives. But contacting the media is also a means of being "results oriented" and that is precisely what Charlie on the MBTA is. Unfortunetly, many of us have been brushed off when complaining to our legislators and flatly ignored when complaining to the T, so taking these problems public is a very reasonable effort to bring attention to these problems.

While I always step to the right on escalators, I don't think that is nearly as common knowledge here as it is elsewhere. I don't think signs would be a bad idea at all to try to better train riders to allow some room on escalators.

I also don't think taking off bags is necessarily the panacea it is often made out to be. Those bags still need to take up space somewhere. Whether being held at the side or placed on the ground, they will still be taking up room and perhaps being much more awkward in doing so. Holding them in front of one self might have been an option, but given the way seated riders tend to have Metros flown out ahead of them, one hardly has room to stand in front of them, much less hold a bag in that space. On a genuinely crowded train, I honestly don't think taking bags off one's back will do much good at all.

Stephen said...
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