more on CharlieCards, Fare Vending Machines and the Framingham-Worcester line

other items of note from Mac Daniel’s weekly commuter column in the Globe

Registration plan
“When CharlieCards first came out, [this column] reported that we would be able to register our card with the T so if we lost the card, it could be canceled,” wrote Joan of Jamaica Plain. “I didn’t find a place to do that on the MBTA website and e – mailed the T, got a standard reply e – mail and haven’t heard from them since. Do you have any news on this?”

We do. As part of the second phase of the CharlieCard rollout this spring (T folks were vague on the exact month), registration of CharlieCards will begin, along with the ability to store value on a CharlieCard via the Internet.

In addition, T officials said this week that based on customer complaints, they also plan to clarify the language on the screens of fare vending machines this spring.

We took the T to task a while back about the screen term “Stored Value,” prodding them to add the words “Bus/Subway” to make it clear to customers what button they need to press to buy a bus or subway ticket.

It is good to see the T now plans to improve the start menu on the FVM’s which has been talked about often here. We also noted a couple of days ago they now have fare charts on the machines. So it appears the T is listening to us at least a little.

As far as the registration of CharlieCards I personally don’t expect to see that available until the Commuter Rail is converted but this is simply a guess from me.

Daniel also had news for the Framingham-Worcester passengers

The CSX zone
There’s good news for commuter rail riders on the bad news Framingham-Worcester line.

Currently, from Back Bay to Worcester, Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad trains are under the control of dispatchers in Selkirk, N.Y., because freight giant CSX controls the rails not only for its trains, but also for the commuter trains.

Train crews are required to maintain radio contact with CSX dispatchers, not commuter rail dispatchers. This means that between Back Bay and Worcester, the trains are off the local grid.

Dispatchers for Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad, the company that runs commuter trains for the MBTA, have had no idea where the trains were.

That changed Jan. 25, when the commuter rail dispatchers finally got a CSX computer display of train positions on the line.

“For the very first time ever — ever! — we can see where our trains go,” said Steve Jones, deputy director of railroad operations for the MBTA, whose job is to oversee commuter rail service.

Jones said the new display isn’t a cure-all for the line, which is the most delayed commuter line, but it will help.

“This is significant only in that we can see the train and its location,” Jones said. “We can’t do anything about it, we may not know why it’s late but we can tell how it’s operating.”

Now it appears we know the answer on why the T never updated passengers on the Framingham-Worcester line about late trains as they admit they didn’t know where they were. The harsh reality of that line is if the T misses a slot that is assigned CSX will put a freight train on the tracks and couldn’t care less about the MBTA’s passengers. Strange things happen on the tracks west of Framingham and the T is powerless to do anything about it once they miss their slot. Of course WHY the T’s misses their assigned slot is another matter entirely.

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

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