Charlie’s Mailbag – February 27th

checking the mailbag at

Kelly gets another “free ride” on the Framingham-Worcester line

Greetings Charlie,

This morning was the second time this week (and it’s only Tuesday!) that my ticket was not checked and fares were not collected on the 707AM train out of Worcester bound for South Station. Now, I am always happy to get a free ride, but isn’t the MBTA in major debt? Doesn’t every $7 fare help? Just food for thought…

I take it you don’t have a monthly pass.

I only take Commuter Rail occasionally and I know the train leaving Providence at 8:10 PM they NEVER check for tickets which is surprising since the ticket window in Providence is closed for that train. What is odd is that the conductors do sell tickets for passengers getting on in South Attleboro, Attleboro etc (The T has to use the coffee shop there to sell tickets as Amtrak will not sell MBCR tickets.) I am actually surprised a fare vending machine hasn’t shown up in Providence yet. I have also asked comductors when they will accept CharlieCards on the train and they shrug.

David is having problems with his LinkPass

I’ve been having problems with my LinkPass since entering at Charles/MGH on Sunday. The customer service person I spoke with this morning told me that the gates at Charles/MGH caused the problem and that for the next two days, I have to have an agent let me through. I’ve been told the problem should be fixed March 1st . I wonder how many people using a corporate purchased LinkPass are having the same problem?

It sounds like the fare gates are rewriting info on the chip. ( I assume you have a CharlieCard? ) I’ll see if I can find out anything more.

Bram passes on a link of what Virgin Vacations ranks as the best 11 subway systems in the world.
I’m shocked that Boston didn’t make the list 🙂

We’re (meaning Boston) definitely not on this listTop 11 Underground transit systems in the world (as ranked by “Virgin Vacations”)

finally Steve writes about “Student Charlie Card” problems

Ever since my father left for another state, I’ve had to rely on public transportation to get to and from my school. I am a student who uses carpooling to my local commuter rail station, then bus to my school. The afternoons are the reverse, with the exception that I must find a way from the station or nearby restaurant to my house — another few miles away.

I originally planned for my use of the bus systems with the acquisition of a Student Charlie Card from my school. I thought it would be a great idea, but the confusion it has caused among MBTA workers has made it a nightmare.

I originally tried to put money on my Student CharlieCard on that Monday, having the usual $20 big bills I get for lunch money and transportation for the rest of the week. I found out that you can’t add $20 onto a Student CharlieCard at once for some reason, and had to add the value to a CharlieTicket instead. This turned into future problems when I found out my bus operator has to press the “Student” button, and I have to provide identification every time I use the bus.

I’ve used my ticket for a while now, and its been OK, but I took the opportunity when I was in North Station to add value to my Student CharlieCard. My plaguing question for every MBTA worker has been whether or not the Student CharlieCard requires student ID to be used, and whether the operator needs to press the reduced fare button, or will the card automatically give the reduced fare.

The bus driver for my route that day told me that I need to do identification, even if I use the Student CharlieCard, in order to get the student rate. People on the phone line told conflicting information, and expressed confusion. Workers at North Station also expressed confusion.

I decided to try it myself, and found out that the Student CharlieCard automatically gives the reduced rate at the appropriate times, and does not require a student ID. This led me to another problem with the system.

I now have two cards for the MBTA system, a CharlieTicket, which is hard to use because of bus drivers who don’t press the student fare button for you, and a really convenient Student CharlieCard. I want to move my value from the ticket to the card, but I was told on the phone that I need to do this in Downtown Crossing, far out of the way from my neighborhood near Salem and Beverly.

Another related problem is that I cannot find any nearby automated machines to add value to my Student CharlieCard without using the systems on busses. I read an article about some busses who have the white “Add Value” button disabled for interest of smaller wait times. If my bus was disabled, and it was my only way to add value, I would be out of luck.

Overall, I really like the CharlieCard system, but there are certain flaws that could have been taken care of better. There needs to be more convenient ways for people to manage their card values, including merging tickets to the card. It’s great how all of these services are available in metro-Boston, but for people stuck in the North Shore and outlying areas, we really have the short end of the stick on this new system. Besides the waiting in the freezing cold for a taxi for 20 minutes because of the poor design of Salem Station, and CharlieCard troubles and mass-confusions, the system is somewhat OK for the average commuter. Besides, what’s cooler than waving your wallet next to a machine and watching doors magically open in front of you?

Does the student CharlieCard have your photo on it similar to the Senior/Disabled smart card?

I am also hearing that indeed some buses HAVE disabled the adding value to a CharlieCard because too many boxes have been simply eating the fare and the T doesn’t want to go to the bother of fixing the machines. If anyone has more info on the fareboxes please share it with us.



Filed under CharlieCard, Commuter Rail, MBTA, transit other cities

7 responses to “Charlie’s Mailbag – February 27th

  1. mkb

    That top 11 list is insane. The Paris metro is horrible. The cars are laid out in such a way that they become crowded way too fast which is especially a problem since they’re incredibly narrow. How such a system ranks above Montreal or London is a mystery, especially when much nicer system exist even in other parts of France and continental Europe (Lyon and Rotterdam specifically)http:

  2. Rob

    Hah… I looked the site about the top ranked subways. Moscow has a 90 second frequency. We could only dream.

  3. Anonymous

    Re: student charliecardMax you can add to a student charliecard is $10. you do not need a student ID to use it, the card can only be obtained from your school (just like the badges used in previous years). like a Senior ID, the student charliecard automatically deducts half fare when used. but UNLIKE senior card, students get half fare ONLY monday through friday 5 am to 8pm. if you use the student card on other times, such as weekends, it will deduct FULL adult fare. again, this is exactly the same as the old badges, which were only valid for half fare during the week. why are student charliecards capped at $10?? because the student charliecards belong to the school department, not the student, and will be returned before the end of the school year. schools dont want to get in the business of reimbursing students for left over money, so they capped it at a lower amount. you certainly get more half fare rides on a $10 card than non-students do. ALL of this informationn was provided to school departments when they received their card order.

  4. I will be interested to hear what you can find out about the LinkPass issue. I have also been having problems with my card, and the last station I entered before having problems was Charles/MGH.My pass did work on the bus today, but not at the subway gates at Kendall or North Station.

  5. Anonymous

    I’m a little confused about why we can’t use charlie cards on the commuter rail yet. Don’t workers on the green lines already have handheld validators? Can’t the commuter rail conductors use the same technology to verify people’s passes or charge fares on the train? I don’t understand why they can’t implement this change immediately. What are they waiting for?Meanwhile, the new commuter rail passes on paper charlie tickets get folded and messed up very easily over the course of 30 days, it takes much longer to board buses and green line trains, and some of the subway gates don’t accept charlie tickets at all. Seems like commuter rail passengers are really getting a raw deal here.

  6. Lou

    About the linkpass issue:David’s description of his pass as “a corporate purchased LinkPass” casts a little bit of doubt as to it being a Card. I know this is flimsy contradictory evidence, but I go to Northeastern, where they sell a discounted “semester” linkpass to students, which is essentially 4 monthly linkpasses at $51 each which you must pick up from the cashier’s office each month, and (unfortunately) they’re on tickets. So based on my one single experience, when purchasing a pass through some other group or non-mbta entity, they may be giving tickets, not cards.This then comes down to the issue of putting something from a ticket onto a card. As Steve said, you need to go to Downtown Crossing (the main customer assistance office) to do this. Since I get all of my passes on tickets by nature of my purchase, I have to make the trip to downtown crossing once a month. Of course i had to talk to 5 separate T employees, all giving differing responses, to even figure this out. Downtown Crossing is far more convenient to me than to Steve, but I would recommend going down there to do it anyway, unless your transit schedule is so tight as to never permit this. Regardless of anything else, I bet they could figure out a way to let you transfer value or passes from a ticket to a card using the machines anyway.

  7. Anonymous

    I don’t know what corporate program Lou is talking about but my CharlieCARD gets electronically preloaded every month. Its not a ticket I have to pick up at an office.

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