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Goodbye to the Boston Subway Token

As the Boston Globe and other media outlets are reporting, sometime today the last MBTA subway token will be sold at one of the 68 T stations. Tokens will still remain in circulation for some time, but with the new turnstile machines, everyone will have to start using the CharlieTicket or the CharlieCard.

I will miss the token. I grew up in New York City, not in Boston, but I remember the look and feel of the various subway tokens that the MTA issued as I was growing up. I loved looking at older tokens, ones that were no longer usable, as it was like looking at a piece of history. Somewhere, I've kept a collection of older tokens, both from New York City and Boston, and it saddens me to think that we'll no longer see new designs.

But the token wasn't just aesthetic. It was also useful. Instead of having to gather together a bunch of coins or bills to enter a subway system, tokens allowed for simple, efficient entry. New York City has already moved away from the token, to the Metrocard, and when I've been back there I've often found that the cards don't work properly. People have to swipe more than once to get the turnstiles to accept them, and sometimes they get charged more than once by an overzealous machine.

I do have my spiffy new CharlieCard, which I'll begin to use next year, and I am looking forward to the ease of having turnstiles and fare boxes that can read the RFID tag. But I am worried about some possible bugs in the system. We have to "charge" the card once a month for the monthly pass to be registered to the card, and I can see the system going wrong. The old passes had the month printed on them, so even if the magnetic strip didn't work, the Green Line T drivers or the token booth attendants could wave you by. But all the new CharlieCards look the same, forever, no matter what amount of fare is placed upon them. What if something goes wrong and the reader doesn't register that my Card is holding my monthly pass? I suspect I'll have to get into the habit of carrying my receipt with me too, just in case.

But I digress. Farewell, simple but elegant subway token. You will be missed.

Copyright © Michael A. Burstein

Comments

In the old days of the larp, NERO, there were three kinds of coins. The copper piece, the silver piece, and the gold piece. Out of all of these, the copper was worth the least, but was also the rarest coin.

It was the rarest coin because it was quickly discovered that it was the exact size and shape of a T token.
i have an ornament a friend made me, simply one of the last NYC tokens (cleaned) strung on red silk cord. because it's so small, it's right up near the top for all to see.

chicago went from tokens to farecards several years ago, and now they've moved even further to touch-and-go ones. they have a version that you tie to a credit card or bank account and set to refill automatically howevermuch you like (or even one of the monthly plans). i like it. tokens were nice, but i don't miss getting "stuck" without trainfare.
I have a bunch of T tokens left over from worldcon. I guess I had better bring them up and use/redeem them while I'm in Boston the last week of the year.
Or sell them as souvenirs?
You'll be able to use them to purchase/recharge CharlieTickets/CharlieCards even once they're no longer in circulation. The new fare machines accept them at a value of $1.25 each.
That's good to know. Fortunately, I don't have any on hand. The last few times I've been in Boston, I've given leftover tokens to local friends before leaving so I didn't have to lug them home.

Still, I'll miss T tokens.
But all the new CharlieCards look the same, forever, no matter what amount of fare is placed upon them.

Yeah, that's a drawback of the MetroCard too. All subway stations have card-readers, though, so you can swipe your card and see how much you've got on it.

(*grump* Of course, I'm jealous that your card's got a better name.)
A better name? I suppose. They gave our card a name that reminds people of the fare increase. I'm not sure why they wanted to do that...
Still, it's a name that invokes a classic song. MetroCard invokes..the former name of a soccer team? We don't call the subway here the Metro - that's in DC!
A possibly useful note:

The Zone 1A commuter rail pass is the same price as the "LinkPass", and is issued as a CharlieTicket instead of a CharlieCard.

It is valid everywhere the LinkPass is, and on the commuter rail and Inner Harbor ferries. The LinkPass isn't usable on those, for exactly the reason you mention: it's not verifiable by eye.
People who live around Porter Square, or travel to that area, should take special note of this. This situation is supposed to be temporary, until the T provides commuter train conductors with hand-held CharlieCard readers.
That's the name?!?

As in "he never returned, no he never returned and his fate is still unlearned" Charlie?

What next, the Long Island Railrot naming a commuter plan after Colin Ferguson? (Getting you to your destination.... your FINAL destination.)
Was this also done to make the passengers more trackable?

(Yes, my normal cautiousness or overcautiousness is coming into play here. :) )
There was actually some discussion of this in the Boston blogosphere not too long ago. See http://www.universalhub.com/node/6594 .
We have to "charge" the card once a month for the monthly pass to be registered to the card, and I can see the system going wrong. Oh, you mean the way it reportedly did on December 1, charging possibly hundreds of commuters but failing to issue the card? Don't you understand that automation is always superior? Luddite. :>
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