New MBTA fare collection system isn't so friendly to people with disabilities

I just got my January MBTA pass, which are now Charlie Tickets instead of the old type of monthly passes. Right now, only a few stations (on the blue line and silver line) have the new fare equipment, so for now, I'll use the Charlie Ticket just like an old T pass, by swiping it through the reader before going through the turnstile.

However, once the system is converted, every station will be using fare collection equipment that sucks the ticket into the reader and then spits it out. This means that the passes can't be attached to keychains or lanyards and swiped while attached. For me, as someone with poor balance and low-grade seizure activity, this is just annoying, because it means I'll drop my pass a lot just as I do with keys and other things. For other people, this is going to create a major inconvenience. The people who especially come to mind are people who can't easily retrieve a dropped pass, people who can't see where their pass went, or people who have cognitive and/or psychiatric disabilities and are prone to losing things. This could get expensive for a lot of people, not to mention slowing down trips on a system that is already alarmingly inaccessible for people with visual and/or mobility impairments.


Mass Marrier said...

Good overview. (What are they thinking and are they testing this on real people?)

From a simple experiential view, I dread the delays too. From other metros that use such systems, I have seen much slower entry and greater backups. Swiping and tokens are a single motion and go. This adds 1) wait, 2) retreive, and 3) store. Grumble. Grunt. Grouse.

Jodie said...

As someone with nerve damamge that causes me to occassionally drop things without feeling it, I worry about this. If I had a monthly pass, I'd be very prone to losing it and not even knowing that I did until it's too late to get it back.

That's really not good.

escargot555 said...

I assume that if your T pass is on a keychain or lanyard, someone in the booth (or one of the T's roving "ambassadors") is going to have to let you go through the gate. If this happens enough, the T workers will demand swipable turnstiles. So don't give in!

(Maybe a couple of lanyards "accidentally" inserted into the turnstiles, causing jammed machines, will also get the T's attention.)

Gray said...

I just got my commuter rail pass and was a little shocked to find that it had morphed into a "Charlie Ticket." Sure I knew it was coming, but the reality was unpleasant. I hate the thought that eventually I won't be able to swipe. The new machines are MUCH slower and cause lines. You can't just walk through with little change in motion where they have the new machines.

For those of us out-of-towners who keep them for tax purposes, we can no longer keep them bound together.

I hope that the busses let us simply show the passes rather running them through the slow machines. The lines can be terrible when you get a driver who insists that all cards are run through. If the do let us flash them, it will be much harder on the driver because the white featureless side showing the zone and date is much harder to check quickly than the traditional color coded face. The date side is ugly, besides.

Bad move, MBTA!

eeka said...

Yep, Gray, so true. I like escargot555's suggestion of flashing it anyway. The operator says anything, you just say you're not physically able to. I find that MBTA employees generally treat people with obvious disabilities decently, but are often total asses when it's not obvious. One day when there was no way I could walk stairs and I found an elevator switched off (no sign saying it was out of order or anything -- just keyed off) and I asked about this, the station operator was downright rude, told me "you aren't in a wheelchair" and when I said I couldn't walk up stairs, asked me "why not?" Oy. Given that it's, uh, a type of transportation that doesn't require driving and is low cost, the percentage of people on the MBTA with disabilities versus, say, the percentage of shoppers in a grocery store is significantly higher. You'd think T operators would have seen people with disabilities a few times.

I once got to go to a hearing at the transportation building where I got an operator fired for being completely rude and discriminatory toward a client of mine I was traveling with who presented as obviously having Down syndrome.

Anonymous said...

Not the discussion in the Sunday Globe about the new passes.


transport avenger said...

"Swiping and tokens are a single motion and go. This adds 1) wait, 2) retreive, and 3) store. "

Your logic is flawed only in that you have placed "store", well after:

3) move out of the way
4) move further out of the way
5) place your pass back in your bag/wallet/pocket
6) continue on to the train

I've used the new gates for weeks. it's maybe a fraction of a second for the card to pop up, and shorter than the invariable delay cause by the many non-functioning swipers, where people end up swiping their pass over and over again.

eeka said...

It might be a second longer for able-bodied people. It's a lot longer for people who need to put it away before they can get going, people who can't see the pass very well, people who have trouble stashing it. It's so much easier when it's on a lanyard or keychain and you can just drop it afterward.

Edgar T said...

It is painfully obvious that you haven't done your research on new fare collection systems in place in New York, London, Paris, Chicago...and now Boston. The new smart card will be available to all monthly pass holders which means that you won't need to swipe but have the card in proximity of the reader. Its much faster than any swiping and it doens't have to be removed from a wallet or lanyard. Do your research people...

eeka said...

Edgar, do you actually take the T? Right now, the pass is swiped in stations with old fare collection equipment and is sucked in and shot back out in stations with new fare collection equipment. The collection equipment that sucks the pass in and gives it back REALLY SUCKS for people with disabilities.