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CharlieCard on the MTA

In the midst of all the other frustrations in my life at the moment, and in lieu of a real update or a post on writing, here's today's rant about the T.

Last Friday, my CharlieCard stopped working. As the Card was programmed with an April LinkPass, this was suboptimal. A very nice T attendant at Copley Square helped me check the Card, and advised me to go to the Downtown Crossing office anytime between Monday and Friday from 8-6 to get the Card replaced or my LinkPass restored.

On Monday, I was in NYC dealing with estate issues, so I wasn't able to go to Downtown Crossing. gnomi graciously offered to go to Downtown Crossing with my Card and receipt instead, to get the problem resolved.

Unfortunately, the office was closed yesterday due to Patriot's Day, a fact they apparently neglected to tell kindly T attendants who are supposed to tell customers how to get CharlieCard problems fixed.

So gnomi went again today, in the rain, and while she was at it she brought me lunch from Milk Street as well. She almost wasn't able to get me a replacement card, though. We order our LinkPasses online and have them mailed to us, and so apparently we're supposed to complain to the online vendor, and not to the Downtown Crossing office. They also expressed incredulity because the online vendor keeps mailing us new CharlieCards instead of loading new LinkPasses on our old Cards; as I believe Nomi tried to explain to them, the online vendor doesn't seem to be offering that option yet.

In the end, they gave her an April LinkPass on a CharlieTicket for me, which means that I now actually have printed evidence on my Ticket that it's an April LinkPass, just in case it somehow fails again. But I still had to spend an extra $2 to get to work this morning, and I doubt the T plans to refund me for it.

I continue to think they should have worked out all the bugs in this system before going live with it.

Comments

Well, they should have worked out *more* of the bugs, certainly. On the other hand, just as no battle plan survives contact with the enemy, no plan to revamp this kind of system survives contact with the real world. So there would have been some bugs in any event; they should have had a better system for reporting and fixing them (so you didn't, for instance, have to go downtown to fix your problem; you should be able to do that at your T station, IMO).
The bug in the system that I really think they should have worked out was the one that doesn't allow you to put next month's LinkPass on your CharlieCard while it is still holding this month's LinkPass.

To explain, if I have a March LinkPass on my CharlieCard, I can't load April onto the CharlieCard until March is over. But then I can't use the CharlieCard to get to the station where I can load the LinkPass; I'd have to buy a $2 CharlieTicket first to get there. That's why we're still buying our new LinkPasses online, and why they keep sending us brand new CharlieCards each month.

If the T wants everyone to own and use one and only one CharlieCard, they should have worked this out before activating the system.
Could you use 2 cards and alternate?
I'd already considered doing that. But the point is that I shouldn't have to, as the T doesn't want me to do that. They want me to use one, and only one, card for all my needs.
Makes me appreciate the fact that in the nearly 5 years I've had my SmartTrip card for the DC Metro, it has never once failed me.
Except Metro still can't figure out how to make the cards work as a 7-day pass; so I need a new paper card each week to get to work and the plastic one to exit the parking lot.

A zillion years ago (before SmarTrip) Metro had calendar-based 2-week cards that could be used on varying combinations of the local bus systems including MetroBus and Rail. There was a similar monthly pass, too.

I wonder why that feature hasn't been implemented here.
The bug in the system that I really think they should have worked out was the one that doesn't allow you to put next month's LinkPass on your CharlieCard while it is still holding this month's LinkPass.

To explain, if I have a March LinkPass on my CharlieCard, I can't load April onto the CharlieCard until March is over. But then I can't use the CharlieCard to get to the station where I can load the LinkPass; I'd have to buy a $2 CharlieTicket first to get there. That's why we're still buying our new LinkPasses online, and why they keep sending us brand new CharlieCards each month.

If the T wants everyone to own and use one and only one CharlieCard, they should have worked this out before activating the system.
This is generally known as "Broken As Designed," or more succinctly "BAD."
This is incorrect. You do NOT have to wait until March is over before adding your April pass to your CharlieCard. The card can hold more than one pass at a time. I know. I've done it.
That's not what they told us in January. Hmm....
Really? Who told you that? There are discussions of the issue at http://charlieonthembta.blogspot.com/2007/01/hopefully-this-is-isolated-case.html and at http://www.badtransit.com/index.php?/site/comments/another_way_that_the_mbta_just_doesnt_add_up/

At both URLs, the same individual reported as follows:


According to the MBTA (and the Globe on January 28), “T officials are encouraging folks to put their February passes on their CharlieCard now to avoid lines. You can do this for any month, beginning on the 15th of the preceding month. There's no need to wait until this Wednesday, the 31st.”


He then goes on how to describe how he did this before the end of January, but then was denied entrance by the faregates. In both ensuing discussions, a number of people reported the opposite experience, and the original poster reported that the next day, his January pass was working fine, so the original incident seems to have been a one-time glitch.

But in summary, you can add the new month's pass before the old one expires.

data point

The vendor that supplies T cards to my office sent a CharlieCard at the beginning of the year and has successfully reloaded it each month.

Not that this helps you, of course.
The whole cutover was completely mishandled from A to Z. About what I expect from the T, frankly. There are stations where it's impossible to recharge a Charlie Card (like Government Center, for example) so if you show up there with an underfunded card, you have to buy a Charlie Ticket (and pay the surcharge) instead.
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