Beware my power, T rider's might!

Man about to get on the T without a CharlieCardMan about to get on the T without a CharlieCard.Some MIT students (natch) say they've figured out how to build the guts of CharlieCards into stylish rings, which would let anyone, even a superhero in green tights, ride the T without fumbling for their plastic card.

They've set up a Kickstarter to raise funds for mass production of the rings via 3D printing - which they say will let them sell rings in a variety of colors and even with circuitry shaped into particular four-letter words (such as "EMMA" and "YOLO").

Having missed the train many times while fishing for our Charlie Cards (smart cards used for public transportation in Massachusetts), we looked for a solution in wearable technology. After months of hard work, we created the 3D-printed Sesame Ring, supported by the MBTA.

Now, you can walk right up to the gantry, use scientifically approved magic, and scoot on through!

The rings are actually RFID devices customized for a particular transit or ID system - the initial prototypes were built for a key system at a school in Singapore.

H/t Boston Tweet.



Free tagging: 


YOLO and the T

There is definitely a joke in there about riding the T and YOLO, but given the increasingly poor repair of everything T-related, it's not a funny joke.

On a related note, this 3D printing thing is going to be wild, particularly when it becomes cheap enough to be widely available to regular folk.

Is this true or speculation?

Is this true or speculation? The commuter rail accepts e-tickets from mobile phones using the Ts mobile payment app, so I don't see why the conductors would feel different about handheld readers than mobile phone screens, I was told it was a technical issue with the vendor but they could have been lying.

If it truly is an issue with the conductors, an easy fix is to mandate it in the upcoming contract.

Not the conductors

This isn't a conductor issue. Its an "access" issue. In order to convert the commuter rail to Charlie Card they would have to install Charlie Card machines/ticket dispensers at hundreds of commuter rail stations around Mass and RI so that people could buy the things/refill them. This, they believe, is prohibitively expensive (which is probably true). I personally don't understand this logic, because if they didn't install the machines, they could still accept cash for people who don't have Charlie Cards (or phone apps) but it is a big "access" issue every time it is raised, and I think there are genuinely a large number of people in the commuter rail realm who would demand that they be given a card kiosk at their station in Middleborough, Ipswitch,Campbello, etc. if the T chose to convert the lines to Charlie Cards.

Is this a fact or

Is this a fact or speculation? I don't see how the access issue differs from Charlie tickets, which are accepted, to Charlie cards, which are not. Who told you it was an access issue?



You can't buy charlie cards at all T stations. Why should you be able to buy them at all commuter rail stations? The great majority of commuter rail trips end at a station that sells charlie cards and you can refill them online. You can also buy them at retail locations. This is an imaginary problem.

And just how much money did the T waste

on the totally useless "Rail Radio" system they installed at all commuter rail stations?

And just how much money did the T waste on an idiotic mobile fare payment system that only works if you have a certain type of phone?

And just how much time and money did the T waste with their decision to have the public choose an absolutely hedious paint scheme for the new commuter rail locomotives.

And just how much money does the T continue to waste on the endless and pointless public hearings, neighborhood meetings, and "design groups" for projects like the Green Line Extension?

Yet this same management suddenly cites "costs" as the argument against putting CharileCard fare machines at all commuter rail stations, despite the fact such a move would actually benefit passengers and put the T much closer to thier originally stated goal of transitioning all passengers over to RFID cards - which would reduce their maintenance costs by eliminating the increasingly unreliable "dual-mode" faregates.


And just how much time and

And just how much time and money did the T waste with their decision to have the public choose an absolutely hedious paint scheme for the new commuter rail locomotives.

This didn't really cost anything. And the poll was essentially rigged for that option to win. The two other schemes were almost the same and the vote was split. The only thing lost is an opportunity for a respectable looking locomotive.

Whether the poll was rigged or not

SOMEBODY at the T had to spend time creating the poll, SOMEBODY at he T had to spend time disseminating the information about the poll, and SOMEBODY at the T had to spend time compiling the results of the poll. That's time, effort, and mangement salaries that could easily have been put to better use in addreessing issues that would actully improve the transportation service the MBTA is supposed to be providing its customers.

Given that the MBTA already has commuter rail locomotives in service that have very respectable paint schemes, yes, this indeed constitutes an unnecessary waste of time and money on maqnagement's part. And shame on people like you who try to justify such waste with attitudes like "it's not such a big deal".

Sorry I peed in your coffee

Yes, because I'm clearly trying to justify it as a brilliant use of time.

I never said they couldn't be doing something better.

Most likely they tossed this over to their web/IT team - which probably already sits around doing a very leisurely 40 hours of work every week - to set up, with automatic response tabulation.

This is hardly an outrage given the very serious problems with management and administration. But I never said for a second, "It's not such a big deal." I made a statement about cost, which is most likely true to an extent.


Your point about minimal cost is well taken

However, you (and others) have rushed to the defense of the MBTA when I mentioned the poll. To me, that is no different than stating "What's the big deal".

The "necessary" engine paint poll is simply one of the numerous diversionary tactics the MBTA has been employing of late in the hope that people won't pay close attention to the declining frequency and quality of service. Sadly, most people are too uncaring at this point that they easily fall for such gimmicks instead of demanding that the MBTA actully improve the level and quality of the transportation service they are supposed to be providing us.


What's a pointless gimmick to you is an improvement to someone else.

I think most people would agree that the commuter rail fare app isn't a pointless gimmick. Yet you consider it one for some strange reason.

The MBTA does dumb, tone-deaf things like any other government agency, but most of what you cite as wasteful is nothing compared to cost of real improvements (even if you add up all the 'pointless gimmicks) over the past two decades.


So, instead of installing fare machines

at all commuter rail stations, which would enable ALL passengers boarding the system to purchase fares WITHOUT the need to use specialized (and expensive) technology (i.e. iPhony or Adnoid), you support the T's short-sighted decision to introduce yet another system for fare collection.

As I've stated in other posts, providing Charlie fare machines at every commuter rail station would result in ONE UNIFIED means of collecting fares systemwide. Said unified system would enable the T to eventually standardize on RFID cards for all passengers, and do away with both cash collections and the CharlieTicket system. This would simply both the dispensing machines and the faregates, thus reducing maintenance.

But let's do something cheap and superficial (smartphone app) instead of thinking in broader terms. And if cost is a problem, how about constructing South Coast Rail without all the needless studies, public hearings, and community extortion - er - mitigation measures. And we could do without the gazillion or so cameras, message sign, idiotic "your next train is arriving now" systems, etc. etc. everywhere as well.

Been riding the MBTA on a regular basis since the mid 1970s. With the exception of the Boeing LRV fiasco (which they clearly didn't learn from when they bought the Breda Type 8s), the system generally ran much better before the current "customer service" oriented management decided it was more important to dazzle the passengers with needless technology "gimmicks" (and using a phone to pay your fare qualifies here) instead of actually running trains and buses on a frequent and reliable basis.


I +1'd it

I +1'd your post, I agree with your post, and made a simple comment on how the MBTA was stupid to rig a poll for a stupid paint scheme, and yet here you are. You're deriding me and telling me I'm fine with waste. What is wrong with you.


To be fair Roadman, that's

To be fair Roadman, that's assuming that guy who did the poll could put their time to something more useful. The poll sounds like something an intern would do. Even if it was a management guy with such salary and influence, that still assume there's no downtime and was delaying something that does help.

I mean look at the problems of the T: much of the solutions have to involve buying new trains, major signal projects, getting the Union to play, or something that I have doubts that person would to apply such time to a real discernible effect. Using the poll as an example to T corruption is a not one of the stronger examples.


I'm using the word corruption

I'm using the word corruption in the meaning of wastefulness and pointlessness. Not the best choice of words, but I think you get my meaning. Plus corruption and wastefulness tend to be pair quite commonly.

If you want to measure by something gained/loss. The poll may actually been good PR in effort of winning back a more positive attitude. Granted +1 positivism gets trounced by the next delayed train, but that's still more than zero for little investment.

What T stations can you not

What T stations can you not get a Charlie Ticket? Do you mean bus stops?

My understanding of the commuter rail issue was that the cost of the machines at 125+ stations and the cost of maintaining/refilling them was a lot more than they were expecting (which they were dumb to originally think it would be cheap/easy). I think the goal is to not have the conductors collecting cash fares and I'm not sure it's such an clear-cut solution.

I can foresee some issues if you didn't have a smart phone and lived out in Athol or something and didn't have a Charlie Card with money on it. Where would you go to get your fare to get on the commuter rail?


IIRC, the original implementation plan

for the CharlieCard was to have the fare machines in adjacent stores. This would mininize the potential for vandalism.

The carrot to the store owners was that the Charlie RFID system would eventually be expanded so that the cards could also be used to purchase goods in the stores as well.

To their credit, most of the store owners saw this proposal as blatant extortion (because the T wanted the store owners to pick up most of the costs with the machines) and refused to participate. Still doesn't justify the MBTA's idotic reluctance to expand the system to commuter rail.

And the claim that the conductors are fighting the proposed conversion is the classic "We don't want to do this, so we'll blame labor" response of MBTA management.

Have a cite? There was an

Have a cite? There was an early proposal for NYC Metrocards to be accepted as payment in stores, which was dropped years before the first cards were issued. But I never heard about such a proposal for the T.

The carrot should be that it gets customers in the door. If not enough store owners sign up, the T should lower their fees.

And I never heard T management blame conductors for the lack of CharlieCard acceptance on the commuter rail. (I never heard *anyone* do it, until this thread.) The excuse I heard was that they realized how complicated and expensive the project would be, and they had no funding.


I turned my phone into a CharlieCard

Step 1) Submerge CharlieCard into container of acetone (WARNING: acetone should not be handled by morons)

Step 2) Let sit for x hours (overnight?)

Step 3) Wearing gloves, gently remove the copper wire loop from the solution with tongs

Step 4) Dry it and pick away the dissolved plastic shreds

Step 5) Put the RFID and copper loop wherever you want it (note: handle with care, is it is fragile, and a broken loop is a broken CharlieCard)


Same here

I have an old ID holder part that came with a wallet I bought years ago. It folds and fits into my pocket.

When i was in SF... most stores sell "Muni Card" holders. its nothing more than what I have. Most have spots for key rings or string to become a lanyard.


Wow, talk about a first world problem!

Waaaaah! I have to take out a card to use the subway! Waaaaaah!

Hey, how about this - just let them put an RFID in your hand, or your wrist, and just wave it as you enter, or maybe a thin barcode tattoo? Then if someone wants to steal your T pass, they can cut off your hand.

The upside of this, is that you can then collect disability.

Seriously, what is wrong with you people?


Oh, please.

They're students. This was probably an assignment for class that they decided to turn into a real product because they thought others could use it.

They'll solve world hunger when they graduate!

No, seriously, what is wrong you, person?

You must be a joy at parties, if you ever got invited to any, which I suspect you don't.

If you were to stop and think for a moment, instead of going through life a permanent grouch, you'd realize that what these kids are doing have lots of potential applications that go beyond wearable CharlieCards: They're figuring out how to master 3D printers and RFID technology and authentication systems. Well, you probably don't care to think hard, but trust me, these are skills that will come in handy in other areas.


Actually, a ring WOULD be handy

My right shoulder is a mess, so if I'm carrying anything it is in my left hand, leaving me (count 'em) no available hands attached to bendy arms. Which makes it darn awkward to fish about for my wallet, or indeed anything in my pocketses when I've got no place to put anything down, like in a busy queue at a turnstyle.

So yeah, a ring I could slip on before heading out to the T would be darn, er, "handy".

Not just for it's gee whiz we're living in the future of its, but simple human convenience for those of us a little less able-bodied than others.

But that'd ruin your grump, wouldn't it? Clever kids making something nifty that is genuinely useful to some of the population?



To add to the responses, look at it from a business perspective. If it sells, then it sells. I don't personally want this as I am not particularly motivated as a fashion accessory and I'm already good functionally as Charlie Cards can go through wallets.

However, it is reasonable this thing can sell. Many do have the daily annoyance of fishing for the card. A good number of others may like it as a cute fashion accessory that is also functional.

This is not the world saving, but might be profitable with no harm with even some convenience to some on top. Why would you have a problem with that idea?

Heck, I can't believe I never thought of the idea myself.