MBTA issues 33,000 defective commuter-rail passes

The T is e-mailing companies with large numbers of employees who have commuter-rail zone passes today. One of those workers forwards this copy of the e-mail:

Dear MBTA Commuter Rail Zone Pass or Charlie Ticket Holder,

There is a problem with the encoding of some September monthly passes on Commuter Rail and CharlieTickets. This does not affect the CharlieCard/Link pass for the bus and subway.

What happened and to how many tickets?

The ticket manufacturer encoded and tested the magnetic stripe on 33,000 September tickets incorrectly. These tickets will NOT work at faregates or fareboxes. The pass printed on the back is correct. Only tickets sold through the corporate pass program are impacted.

How is the MBTA making things right for customers who want to use the bus and subway?

For the afternoon of Sept. 2 and morning of Sept. 3:

  • The MBTA AFC Revenue office is pre-encoding CharlieCards with monthly passes to be handed off to customers. These will be distributed starting at 3 pm on Sept. 2 to the CharlieCard Store and the ticket offices at North Station, South Station and Back Bay.
  • Those locations will verify that customers have one of the impacted tickets, record the serial number of the ticket, give the customer one of the pre-encoded CharlieCards and record the serial number from that CharlieCard. The customer will keep the pre-printed monthly pass for use as a flash pass and the CharlieCard for use on bus and subway.

How can commuters identify one of these tickets?

The impacted tickets are those with rounded edges and crisp/smooth printing of text on the ticket. Here is how they can be identified, when compared with other tickets:

  • The black magnetic stripe on the front of the ticket is thinner than others, and there is a green bar printed just below the magnetic stripe.
  • There is a watermark that says “MBTA VALID PASS” repeatedly on the back of the ticket (the side with the month printed).
  • There is a serial number printed in the top right corner on the back of these tickets.
  • There is no ticket number printed on the front/artwork side of the ticket.
  • There is no outline printed around the orange arrow on the back of the ticket.
  • A variety of pass types are issued on this media including Boat, Inner and Outer Express Bus, and Zone passes.

We will keep you posted with any updates.



    Free tagging: 



    Just got this email at the large institution where I work.

    Haven't seen the e-mail

    But I am absolutely not happy.

    My son has been depending on this to get around in his first commuting days as a college student and it has been a royal pain. I get the pass through work and he uses it, but I had it mailed to me this time as I am out of the country for another week.

    Tailgating is not an option for a teen male even if he has the right pass.

    At least, thanks to Adam, we know what the deal is!

    The dread builds...

    By on

    I also got a bum pass, and am truly dreading tonight's wait in line to get a replacement. Here's hoping for a pleasant surprise!


    Well this explains it

    By on

    I got stuck this morning at North Station behind quite the back up as person after person tried their ticket and got bounced by the gate. This was at 8:45ish. I'm surprised they hadn't figured it out by that point and stationed someone at the turnstiles to wave people with passes through.

    Simple solution

    A coworker has one of the duds. He asked the CSA at Porter what to do, and the guy suggested tailgating someone else to get on the subway.


    this is the stock response...

    By on

    This is the stock response to any faregate problem. You get the same response from the CSAs in the stations, the folks at the end of the line of the call boxes in the stations, and the folks at the telephone help line. You'd think that with fare evasion rampant that they would be more responsive to helping people fix the problem.

    One month a while back, my commuter rail pass got damp in a rain storm and stopped working. I went to the customer assistance center in Downtown Crossing hoping to get a replacement since there was still 3 weeks left on the pass. No such luck. They told me to piggyback on someone for the next 3 weeks. Maybe things have changed, but I did not feel that was an appropriate response to a customer whose monthly pass stopped working.

    Frankly, I would prefer to have a paper flash pass to show on the commuter rail and a CharlieCard to access the subways and buses. Trying to feed those damn Charlie Tickets into the fare machines is a pain in the ass and all too often has problems, forcing me to spend more cash to to my destination. This is essentially what they are doing for this snafu - why not do it all the time?


    MBTA is clueless

    By on


    I tweeted you this morning about this issue

    I have had to jump the faregates twice today because MBTA employees don't want to leave their huts.


    Well, this is an improvement

    Well, this is an improvement over what was done the last time some bum passes got issued. This was pre Charlie card, back in 2003 or 2004-ish. The magnetic strip on some cards didn't work one month. Instead of replacing the defective cards, the T told everyone to wave your defective card at the ticket booth, and someone would let you in. It sort-of worked, but it was a pain for that month.

    And, what if you can't make it to any of those locations during this two-day amnesty period? Are you SOL?

    July 2, 2012?

    By on

    That was when thousands of bad-batch July T pass holders were told to just "duck or piggyback." Yes, this is an improvement!

    Even regularly-staffed

    By on

    Even regularly-staffed Kendall was devoid of mbta employees this afternoon. And 90% of people were very confused why their passes weren't working.

    I just piggybacked then held the gates open for people with passes.


    CharlieCard store will prob make swaps all month

    By on

    And, what if you can't make it to any of those locations during this two-day amnesty period? Are you SOL?

    I have one of the affected passes -- well, had. Since I go through Downtown Crossing normally, I stopped by the CharlieCard Store this morning and got a replacement. Once I got to the head of the line, it took 30 seconds, but the line was fairly long.

    If I had to guess, I'd interpret the T's letter to mean that they've got extra staff on hand at these locations so folks affected by this can get replacements without waiting in the line for general service. So if you miss this window, you'll presumably just have to go stand in line with everyone else -- it'll take longer and be more annoying, but I can't think they'd simply refuse to make the swap after tomorrow morning.

    So many fun options...

    By on

    At 11:04 am I received an email from my employer stating that we should pick up a preloaded Charlie Card, with no mention of a date limitation. At 2:55, there was a very MBTA-esque update. So, tomorrow I get to decide which option to attempt...

    Dear Commuter Rail Pass Participants,

    If you received a defective, September MBTA Commuter Rail pass the following email contains new information regarding your replacement pass.

    Why doesn’t my Commuter Rail pass work on the subway and/or bus?
    There was an encoding issue with the manufacturer that affected approximately 33,000 MBTA September Commuter Rail passes system-wide, of which about 1,300 were Harvard employees. Tickets sold at MBTA fare vending machines and retail sales outlets are not impacted by this error.

    How do I obtain a new pass?
    The MBTA is in the process of preparing new passes and Crosby Benefits will be mailing the new Commuter Rail pass to the same address you always receive your pass. There is no action needed by the participant.

    When will I receive my new pass?
    You should receive your pass by next Wednesday 9/10/2014 at the latest. If you have not received a pass by next Wednesday please contact Crosby Benefits at (800) 462 2235 #6 or [email protected] immediately.

    What should I do for my commute until I receive my new pass?
    MBTA ticket agents and bus drivers are aware of the issue and will allow participants with defective tickets to show their pass for use on the MBTA system.

    What should I do if the MBTA gate agent/bus driver does not let me ride?
    If, after explaining your situation the gate agent/bus driver, you are still not allowed to ride please proceed to purchase a single rider ticket. Please retain the ticket and/or receipt and contact the CommuterChoice office for reimbursement.

    How did they manage to screw

    By on

    How did they manage to screw up an automated process that has occurred every month for about 30 years? (Except for the CharlieTicket artwork, these passes with the narrow magstripe are the exact same thing as the old pre-Charlie monthly passes.)

    They want 33,000 people to go to one of four locations, where someone will test their card and write down its serial number? Do they expect the line to clear before the beginning of October?


    I was given a replacement

    By on

    I was given a replacement pass at South Station yesterday. This afternoon, it too failed. The MBTA is now telling me I need to get yet another replacement pass.


    By on

    Just got my pass replaced at "TD Banknorth" North Station (not booth at Orange/Green Line; that was closed). IT WAS QUICK AND PAINLESS, HOORAY!


    Same. I walked up to the

    By on

    Same. I walked up to the table by the information window, handed them my pass, which they then handed back to me along with a CharlieCard. Took less than 30 seconds.


    S. Station Wednesday morning

    By on

    A bit of a fiasco around 8 am with no announcements but an obvious long line to the info desk.

    The whole line was moved into the ticketing area when some official began began handing out monthly Charlie cards (expires 9/30) with a "take this and go that way" as a way to indicate that we no longer need wait in line.

    Not particularly inconvenient, but certainly haphazard.


    My non-corporate-issue bought-at-the-damn-South-Station-window-in-a-long-ass-line-yesterday-morning pass...gave me See Agent both at Kendall last night and South Station this morning.

    'course, they'll surely tell me my serial number doesn't match and make me get another damn paper ticket that will inevitably fail halfway through the month...

    Not just corporate passes

    By on

    I bought my monthly pass online - not through any company program - and it doesn't work either. I've had no notification from the MBTA but fortunately another person at Kendall Sq knew what the problem was (there was nobody from the T there so I had to piggyback.)

    I am seriously annoyed. (Actually more than "seriously annoyed" - you pick your own phrase.)

    Quantity of good versus bad

    By on

    A friend and I revisited the question of why the world sometimes seems such a crappy place: negative news sells, positive news is boring. There are more people and therefore more crimes. Boston is actually safer than it seems but the perspective is skewed because news of violence, crime, sex abuse, etc. is what seemingly most folks want to hear about on the news. Neighbors helping neighbors, small acts of kindness, the uncountable good things which actually keep a city, a nation, a world from falling into an abyss are generally just not what tv watchers and radio listeners want to know.

    What sells is sex and violence. Helpfulness and kindness are blasé.

    But where the T is concerned I am convinced that there is more malfunction, dysfunction and just plain not functioning than is good functioning. Several 39 buses squeal loud enough to bust eardrums. CSAs are either reading their bible in their little booth ignoring visiting riders unused to the CharlieCard system, hassling people with folding bikes demanding they fold the bike before passing the gates, while DTX CSAs turn their head and let non-folding bikes onto the Orange line at rush hour. Bus drivers passively-aggressively refuse to pull over to the street or just blow past bus stops.

    For anyone needing assistance with Charlie Cards they usually have to go to DTX during 9-5 hours. It does not matter where they live or work. Live and work between JFK and Braintree and don't have hours of leave time just to deal with a problem with T passes? TS.

    The commuter system has already proved itself to have a FU attitude. No refunds on unused tickets. Best is to exchange for a CharlieCard, of course at DTX. But what if the rider already has a monthly card. What need for an exchange?

    And of course the newest station since what decade immediately does not drain water.

    The not so new GM makes a name for herself by reading children's books to children while the system slowly collapses. Reminds me of George Bush continuing to read children's books (to other children right?) while the nation is under attack.

    The public transportation system in this area is a disaster. Is it inevitable? Is the employable population that makes the system "work" fundamentally incompetent? Does the T hire based on a metric of how poorly a person will do, whether in admin, mechanics or driving?

    Each T station should have inscribed above its name: "All Hope Abandon Ye Who Enter Here."