ahh yes the user friendly NOT ( Fare Vending Machines)

This was a comment left on the board in another thread. The visitor from Chicago wrote:

as 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.

One week ago I wrote an open letter to Boston Globe transit columnist Mac Daniel in which I suggested that he might venture out into T land and observe. It appears that perhaps he took the blogs advice and did so as his column points out problems happening at the stations.

He pondered about a visitor from Montana arriving at Logan and seeing Boston’s fare machines. The following text comes from Mac.

OK, you’ve just come in from Montana to visit Boston and you’re gonna use this railway called the T to try to have some decent barbecue your cousin told you about in some place called Slumberville. But first you have to get one of these passes you think are called CharlesCards and put some money on it, whatever that means.
So you tap the touch screen and the first options you have are: passes, commuter rail, and something called “stored value.”

Stored value? Where do I buy the subway ticket? And what’s this here? Commuter rail? Maybe that’s it. *beep*

So you hit commuter rail, and then there is the list of zones but you think they’re the number of tickets requested, and it says $1.70 and that’s the price of the subway, according to the hand-written sign taped to the machine. So you hit it. Then you go to the fare gates, and they don’t accept your ticket because it’s the subway , not commuter rail.

Sound far fetched? It’s happening. A lot.

Our suggestion to the T? Fine, fine, fine. Keep the stored value choice (which T officials want to sear into your brain) but add the words “bus/subway” to that first touch-screen button.

After some resistance, T officials last week said they’d consider making the change. Stay tuned.

I saw this scenario play out at Lechmere last week and since I have a monthly pass I haven’t looked as closely at the FVM’s as closely as I should have.

Ok first obvious question. A visitor to the city or someone who takes the T only occasionally will wind up selecting CharlieTicket. Ok fine, but then it asks for “stored value, commuter rail or passes”. Stored value???? All the person wants to do is buy a subway ticket so they assume “commuter rail” is the option. At no point does the machine give an option to buy a round trip subway or bus ticket. If you hit the “stored value” option the machine suggests buying tickets for $5, $10 or $20. It does not mention that all you need to do is buy a ticket for $2 for the subway ( or $ 1.50 for bus ) A buy one ride or round trip button would be very useful. What is happening is people are buying “commuter rail” tickets by accident that can not be used in the subway gates.

Since there are many accidental purchases of commuter rail tickets it begs the question on why does every FVM have to sell commuter rail tickets???? Yes for a rider who knows how the system works and wants to save 45 seconds at North and South Station it is a plus but for the new visitor to our city who has just bought a R/T ticket to Fitchburg by mistake is it worth it?

This is NOT rocket science. Simply make the first screen an option for bus, subway, ferry or commuter rail and then at the next menu give a variety of options. The way the FVM’s are now programmed actually encourages users to buy a higher priced CharlieTicket which will cost the rider in the long term.



Filed under CharlieCard, CharlieTicket, Commuter Rail, Fare Vending Machines, MBTA

2 responses to “ahh yes the user friendly NOT ( Fare Vending Machines)

  1. Anonymous


    Every week Worcester Magazine scours the web for the best of locally meaningful blogs, and reprints excerpts from these entries in our Blog Log column. It’s sort of a blog in reverse, if you will.

    We wanted to let you know that one of your entries has been chosen to run in the coming week’s issue and will appear with full credit given to the author and blog we got it from.

    Be sure to check out this week’s issue, and feel free to contact us at editorial@worcestermag.com


    The staff

  2. The most useful thing a tourist could buy from a Fare Vending Machine is a 7-Day LinkPass, which costs $15. The machine should promote this much more prominently, on its initial screen.

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