A few odds and ends as Day 3 of the new system on the T winds down.
I rode at midday on the C line out to Cleveland Circle and riders getting on outbound were not being asked to pay (even those who entered at the front door) This may have been this particular operator but at Coolidge Corner about 10-15 people boarded the train going outbound and all traveled free. I also haven’t seen a fare inspector now since Monday (January 1)
Got an email from a reader in Chicago who happened to be in Boston last week and they offered an opinion on Charlie.
I was just in Boston, where I am originally from, and my first experience with the Charlie Card was not pretty. I felt like I was from a foreign country trying to figure out what I was supposed to do when I got to the machine. The Budapest system was easier to figure out, and I don’t even speak Hungarian. We actually had a helpful CSA (it was the Wonderland stop in Revere) who patiently walked us and three Japanese visitors through the whole thing. We missed two trains in the process, but there is no instruction on the machine or in the station (that we saw) that tells you to go and get a Charlie Card from a CSA before you start, so we kept trying to buy a card at the machine itself. I felt like a maroon. The only good thing about it is that it takes credit cards.
Yes the signage in the subways is horrible. A CSA at Harvard Square helped the situation there by placing handwritten instructions about the new fare on each FVM ( fare vending machine). They make a good point about getting a card from a CSA and thus being able to get the lower fare. How long the T will make them available in the stations is any one’s guess. I know in Chicago to get the smart card you have to go to a retail location or CTA headquarters in the Loop which isn’t very helpful to a tourist trying to ride a train. The one big drawback in Chicago is the system doesn’t accept debit or credit cards at most stations so Boston got that right.
Now one thing that I have been asking the T to consider for months and have gotten nowhere is to have a simple card reader in each station that can tell a customer how much money is left on their CharlieCard or CharlieTicket. This is something that both New York and Chicago have and something Boston sorely needs. If they had a card reader it would not tie up a FVM ( and a customer wouldn’t have to wait for a machine to free up) The only way one can check a card right now is with the FVM and you have to go through a couple of menu pages to get to the card information screen. It simply would help speed things up in the stations and free up the vending machines.
I am curious if other riders have been having problems with the faregates when LEAVING a station. For me it seems that 30% of the time I approach a gate and have to stop dead in my tracks because the gate doesn’t open and then have to step back and approach it again. Originally when the T signed the contract it was supposed to be turnstyles but they changed it to the high speed gates.
It should be noted that subway systems around the world seem to be abandoning turnstyles in favor of the high speed gates. The company that got the Boston contract is now doing a similar project in Lyon, France. But many of these transit system require a ticket entry to leave the station which is something Boston thankfully did not embrace.
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