First is worst for replenishing CharlieCards

Lines at Forest Hills on the Orange Line

Sebastian Zapata shows us the long lines at Forest Hills this morning as Orange Line riders try to add a month of value to their CharlieCards. It's not just that so many people do that as the fact that, as Kyle Geiste explains:

Weirdness on the MBTA machines at Forest Hills. Can't process credit cards. Long lines, employees tapping people through.

Naturally, this isn't just a Forest Hills problem - it happens wherever a fare machine exists.



Free tagging: 


If only

...the MBTA were able to predict that there might be a crush of people needing to use the fare machines on the first of the month, and make sure they aren't going to crash. If only they could predict that this might be an issue every single month.


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People don't just add their month at the first of the month. It's entirely random when some people add their month of value because their start of their monthly rotation is completely random. Like if the first time you used your card for monthly fare is the 15th of the month, then you renew on the 15th instead of the 1st. So, using the fare machines to get your month of value added is distributed pretty evenly throughout the month because people randomly buy their months as they decide to go to a monthly system of payment instead of per-trip. what I *would* have said had anyone realized that when we went to a smartcard system there was absolutely NO reason for the system to require payment on the first of the month any more. When it was a paper card and the color and design of the card quickly denoted whether you had bought the current month or not, this was a necessity, but there's ZERO need for the system to synchronize everyone any more when you could just buy a "month" from any given date and it would give you until that same day of the following month until you expired. But, hey, no, this is way better this way. Good thing the system perfectly emulates the old way of doing things instead of using its technology for good instead of dumb.


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This newfangled smart card technology is not accepted on the commuter rail or ferries. And the T apparently has no plans to make it so.

And T management has reneged on promises to tie the mobile ticketing app to a CharlieCard.

So a decent portion of T riders (personal bias: myself included) will be stuck with a magnetic stripe card whose back they flash to a conductor.

True, but

Many of us who get the monthly designated cards get them through other means (I get my Zone 1A through work), and the reduced crush would make it much easier for the system to handle the commuter rail passes.


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There are very few commuter rail riders at Forest Hills, and the ferry stopped running there in the 70s, I think.

That said, yeah, why can't they use smart card technology, as promised, on the commuter rail? I would make counterfeiting tougher (though what do I know.)

On the main point, I do recall dreading buying my pass on the last or second to last day of the month due to the crazy long lines at Back Bay, and I wouldn't think of the first due to the even crazier lines. The difference would seem to be that the crush is more spread out, and they don't seem to have the computing power for this.

Monthly passes don't work like that

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They are still month-specific. You buy a July monthly pass, an August monthly pass, etc, that only works within that month.

What does work is that you can load up to two monthly passes on your CharlieCard at the same time and you are able to buy the following month's pass starting two weeks early. So if you have a July monthly pass then you can go to a fare machine any time in the last two weeks of July and buy the August monthly pass, then have it work seamlessly on August 1st. That should be plenty of time for most people, if they were aware of that fact. Although, as Swirly pointed out, there might be some people who cannot afford it until the paycheck at the end of the month...

You should also be able to buy a monthly paper ticket for the following month within a certain range of weeks, but I don't recall what it is, since I haven't used one for many years. I've been using online renewal for a long time, until this month actually, when I've finally decided to cancel it because I'm using my recently acquired bike more and more.

By the way, if you are using online renewal, and you don't live near a subway station, you can find yourself a retail CharlieCard vendor (like Star Market), go to their customer service booth and ask to tap your card on the machine. It will update. Or you could just buy your monthly pass there. You can also load weekly passes using the retail vendors onto your CharlieCard, something you cannot do at a regular fare machine (go figure).


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I think you ought to read his full post again. Especially the para that starts with " what I *would* have said if..."

Whoops, you're right

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I blame not having coffee yet.

Still, the fact that people can load their monthly passes early is not something that is mentioned elsewhere in this thread.

In a perfect world people

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In a perfect world people would remember to load up early. In the real world people like me don't load up until they get the Not Enough Value message when validating on the first of the month. I freak out for a second every month before realizing it's the 1st.

I was once

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going inbound to work during rush hour on the B line, when a bunch of people's passes didn't work. The conductor let everyone on the train, and before pulling away, announced, "Hey, it's July 1, people."

Everyone was like, "Oooppssss." Lucky he let everyone on, instead of forcing them to cough up the cash and be late for work.

They need to advertise more

They need to advertise more than you can just do it online, or have recurring payments.

It is, however, dumb that even if you do add credit online, you still have to "activate" it at a fare machine by tapping it once. Very frustrating if you take the bus from a stop that doesn't have a machine nearby.

They have the tech to do otherwise.

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Is this still the case? I get my charlie card replenished through my work (auto deducted from paycheck) and I do not need to tap a machine for it to be "activated" between months.

Tapping it at a subway gate

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Tapping it at a subway gate does the trick. You needn't go to an actual fare vending machine.

So your refilled card is activated the first time you use it in the new month.


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This would explain the swarm of people at Maverick doing cards.

I've never understood why people wait until the first of the month (or the last day of the month) to refill their cards. I always do it a few days ahead of time to avoid the crunch time like this.

I'm also sure the MBTA IT Department is well aware.. a lot can happen to make cards not auth. (typically the gateway goes down). It may not be the T's fault, but a fault with their processor.

I am also sure (if their IT department has a brain), they have a 'all hands on deck' around the 1st of the month because of the high volume of transactions.


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I get paid once a month, on the first. by the end of the month, I'm usually too broke to buy a monthly pass. I make a decent salary, but I'm still living paycheck-to-paycheck. I think a lot of 9-5ers are in the same boat, so everyone buys their passes on the first.

People need to learn to plan ahead

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People need to learn to plan ahead. OF COURSE there will be a crush on the first of the month. Do it a few days ahead of time and there will be no problem.

Ever been paid monthly or semi-monthly?

Ever have to live hand-to-mouth?

A surprisingly large number of people need to wait to get paid first in order to be able to afford their monthly pass.

I wonder if the crush is worst when the first of the month lands on a Friday (meaning that everyone who is paid weekly, biweekly on Thursday or Friday lands on top of those being paid semi-monthly and monthly on the last or first day?).

If only the incompetent

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If only the incompetent company that the T was forced to use for their fare system could actually deliver a working system for 100 million. Still waiting to be able to use my charlie card on the commuter rail, instead of having to carry a card for the T and the ticket for the occasional commuter rail.

Correct, if you only take the

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Correct, if you only take the commuter rail. But you can't use mTicket if you also want subway or bus access with your monthly pass.

He said occasional Commuter

He said occasional Commuter Rail, not monthly. I agree that it is awful how disjointed all the pass programs are, like how I have a LinkPass on my CharlieCard, but it doesn't allow me to board a bus in the rear like the people with the paper LinkPasses. The people with paper LinkPasses are privileged simply because the T official at the rear doors doesn't have a card reader like they use on the E-line during the evening peak. I and my fellow riders are punished for being eco-friendly.

mTicket doesn't work for

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mTicket doesn't work for subway, so it still means people that have a monthly link pass have to keep their ticket and not use the charlie card. I use a monthly link pass and sometimes take the commuter rail on zone 1a (Porter), so I have to either get my link pass on the charlieticket which slows down boarding on buses, or use a charlie card and pay for the zone 1a fare even though it should be included, since the system can't take charlie cards on the commuter rail (though promised to do so by 2006).

cool, so now i need to get a

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cool, so now i need to get a smartphone and pay for a data plan to buy commuter rail ticks instead of what was promised in 2006.


So easy. Set up a recurring LinkPass & add stored value...

*Good point from Swirly above about this method only being useful if you have a stable income. Don't want to set up auto-payments or anything if you are living paycheck to paycheck. I've been there.

Actually, speaking of, I know

Actually, speaking of, I know of at least one 7-Eleven on the B line that lets folks load charlie cards. Is there a list of other places that do this anywhere?

If you add value to your

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If you add value to your CharlieCard online, can you actually transfer that value onto the card at a retail store? says you have to go to a subway station, or a T sales office at Back Bay, Downtown Crossing, North Station, or South Station. (It also mentions Harvard, even though that pass sales office closed several years ago.)


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I have personally done so at a retail sales location.

You have to wait until the next day for the system to distribute the updated information, though.