Charlie on the Swan Boat

Charlie on the Swan Boat

Charlie's suitCharlie came to life today, ambling about town to promote Charlie Cards and the new air-conditioned Charlie service center at Downtown Crossing.

At the Public Garden, Charlie posed with tourists and handed out CharlieCards as souvenirs to little kids who had no idea what to do with them. "It's a CharlieCard!" T General Manager Jonathan Davis helpfully told one tot.

Then, once enough tourists had shown up, Charlie got on a Swan Boat and went for a ride. We didn't stick around to see if he ever returned, no, we don't know if he ever returned.

Ed. note: Don't worry: The Mass. Bay Credit Union paid for the suit, which has a built-in fan and a vent in the hat, but which still proved to be wicked hot enough on a day like today to force Charlie to take periodic breaks and take his head off.



Free tagging: 


this is so lame

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Why couldn't they just find a young aspiring actor/singer who bears some resemblance? The giant head thing is so lame.

You don't see a giant-foam-head version of Frederick Law Olmstead bopping around during the summer concerts - it's an actor.

Is anyone else kind of

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Is anyone else kind of creeped out by the mascot?

I also wonder why the company used to create the Charlie imagery wasn't retained by the MBTA to do other graphics. Having Charlie and the other characters featured on the smart cards in information graphics/cartoons/advertising would have been a lighthearted way of uniformly tying the system together. Other than the Red Sox jersey wearing version of Charlie, most of which have been defaced or completely removed by now, every other image has been a crude photoshop job.

Agree on the creep factor.

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Agree on the creep factor. The ill-fitting clothing, generic face. The mascot in general is ridiculous.

Outdated looking branding

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Typical of the T to decide on such outdated looking branding. The fedora hat, the 1940s looking suit, this whole "Charlie" business in general. When the apocryphal "Charlie" rode the T it cost a nickel (or a dime, since they got him coming and going) and it was called the "MTA". The station he got on at was called "Scollay Square". Couldn't they have come up with something that appeals to a more modern sensibility? I've ridden the T my whole life, but one thing I do not feel about it is nostalgic.

Perhaps we should be asking why the MBTA

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needs a "mascot" for their fare collection system in the first place. They never had one during the old "token and change" days.

Yet more money wasted on needless "branding" when the system is falling apart. Furhter proof that management actually has very little interest in running a reliable and functional transportation system.

He's had work done!

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So nice that the kind surgeons were able to reconstruct his half-missing face when they made him three-dimensional.

Meanwhile, yesterday

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Meanwhile, yesterday afternoon at Riverside the street-level fare machine hut was locked, leaving only the two track-level machine open. When asked why, the T staffer said the Sox fans trying to buy tickets get too confused at the machines and need an employee's help in buying their fare.

Umm, how about changing the UI on the machines then?

Good to see that there are enough empty cards to be handed out so that no actual T, ahem, passenger will ever have a problem getting one at an actual, ahem, station.

Meanwhile, this morning

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at North Station subway, yet again one third of the faregates were configured for "Smart Card Only".

When I asked a worker who had one of the machines open why the MBTA persists in doing this at a station where 95+% of the people entering the station are coming of commuter rail don't have the smart cards, his reply was "write to the top". When I then respectfully suggested that he should raise the issue with his supervisors, he said again "write to the top" (translation - even though I could adjust the machines, I'm too lazy to be bothered).

And, if people are supposedly getting confused by the fare dispensing machines (this is a common gripe I've heard from lots of people I know, and not just Sox fans), then perhaps we need to reevaluate the entire automated fare collection system and finally admit it has been nothing but a costly disaster for the MBTA.

When a worker who is adjusting a machine

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(which implies he can also adjust the other machines as well) tells me not once, but twice, in a totally deadpan voice 'write to the top", I think it's reasonable to assume he doesn't care about the matter. Sorry, but I have to call them like I see them.

And if he has been hearing similar complaints (remember, the "smart card only" trend at North Station has become a daily occurrence) and brought them to his supervisoor's attention, then why didn't he at least acknowledge that when I made the suggestion.

Those machines weren't

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Those machines weren't "intentionally configured for the purpose of annoying you", that message comes up when the ticket reader breaks. It's the X3 part that's the issue, how many have to break before someone shows up to fix them?

And because so many of the

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And because so many of the people boarding at North Station use tickets (instead of smart cards) those machines get more of a beating than the ticket reading parts of fare-gates at other stations. That's one reason why those gates are always broken, because they are always used. My guess would be they do not have enough parts in stock to keep all of them fundtioning on a regular basis. There is not much the customer service agant can do about that, and I'm sure the people that maintain the machines have put in back orders for the parts necesarry, but that doesn't always mean they get filled right away.

All points taken

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But, as I noted, this "problem" is happening on a daily basis. Either the machines are totally shoddy (not an unreasonable possibility), or somebody has a hidden (although totally mis-guided) agenda at work here.

I will also point out that, when I go home at night, all those machines at North Station that were broken at 8:30 in the morning and obviously "need parts" (as you claim) are magically back in full service. If it's a matter of simple adjustments and routine maintenance to keep them running (as it appears to me to be), then why not do all that work the night before instead? After all, "repairs and maintanance" has been the long stated excuse - er - reason - the MBTA cites for not running 24/7 subway service like NYC does.

You can correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think the guy I talked to this morning was a CSA. Not sure exactly what he was doing, but it was evident to me he was effecting some sort of repair on the machine. Doesn't sound like the job description of a CSA.

And if the guy was indeed a CSA, one would think that part of a "customer service agent"'s job would be to listen to customer complaints. That's the way it usually work in other businesses. Even a simple "OK, we'll check on it." would have been far more useful than the totally deadpan (i.e. uncaring) "write to the top" I got.

And because so many of the

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And because so many of the people boarding at North Station use tickets (instead of smart cards) those machines get more of a beating than the ticket reading parts of fare-gates at other stations. That's one reason why those gates are always broken, because they are always used. My guess would be they do not have enough parts in stock to keep all of them fundtioning on a regular basis. There is not much the customer service agant can do about that, and I'm sure the people that maintain the machines have put in back orders for the parts necesarry, but that doesn't always mean they get filled right away.

Perhaps that's the case.

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But when 1/3rd of the faregates are out of service on a daily basis, and at a station where 95%+ of the entering passengers can't use the smart cards, that to me is inexcusable. Which is why I tend to think there's more here going on than just a machine or two going into a default mode.

Especially given that this morning was the first time ever I actually saw a worker tending to one of the machines.

And they could at least figure out a way to let people know that the machine isn't taking the paper tickets before they actually get to the faregate. A light on the machine that one can see as they enter the station would be a big help (highway agencies have done this at toll booths for years).

If a part is worn and realy

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If a part is worn and realy needs to be replaced, a maintenance tech can do the best they can to coax a machine along with a temporary fix. That is why a machine that was broken in the morning is working in the evening. A tech has been notified, has done what they can with what they have, and have returned it to service, only to have it fail a short time later because it really needs components changed out. Remember the parts must come from Germany, and I don't think the MBTA's supplier has a lot of other U.S. customers. Probably not a lot of extra parts sitting in any U.S. warehouse ready to ship out overnight

Which raises some questions

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Why are the faregate parts wearing out so quickly (as I previously noted, this "problem" has become a daily occurrence in the AM, but seems to be magically fixed by the PM)? Is there a similar trend with the faregates at Red Line South Station, which I suspect has a similar percentage of paper ticket users - if not more?

Are other systems (like NYC and Washington) that use simiar automated systems having these types of failure rates?

And, if the machines are breaking down with this frequency because of "parts issues", then perhaps it's time to re-evaluate the design - and perhaps the whole fare collection system while we're at it.

Too bad we don't have a local MSM that's actually interested in doing some good investigative reporting. Then we might hold the T accountable for once.

I'd like to see him get on a

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I'd like to see him get on a fishing boat with Al Neri. (Kidding)

The new Charlie Card Service Center doesn't seem to have enough room to hold all the customers. Monday, the crowd spilled out into the already narrowed corridor leading to the Red Line.

Why does a fare collection system

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need to be so complicated that it requires a "customer service center" in the first place?

More money to justify an unnecessary system that shouldn't have been implemented in the first place.

Roadman, are you suggesting

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Roadman, are you suggesting that the T should have not implemented an electronic fare collection system, and remained with tokens and paper bus transfers?

The fact that the T has fallen short in several regards in its implementation of the Charlie system does not mean that Charlie is still an improvement over the days of tokens.

Oh, so you think paper tickets that people

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end up throwing away are better than reusable tokens.

Or perhaps you think a system whereby people have to break stride to enter the faregates is better than turnstiles where people used to insert the token or slide the pass and enter in a continious motion.

If the CharlieCard had been

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If the CharlieCard had been implemented on the commuter rail and boats from day one (or at least year one), you would have very few riders using paper tickets today, and the problems you describe would be minimal.

Paper tickets

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Most people I see getting paper tickets are people who get 7 day passes. Not really sure why the 7 day pass can't be added onto a card. It makess no sense.

Because they're also valid

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Because they're also valid for inner harbor ferries and zone 1A on the commuter rail, neither of which can read CharlieCards.

So are monthly passes

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If you buy them in paper form.

The machines they give to third-party stores can put 7-day passes on CharlieCards. I see a lot of people using these. It's some software problem/laziness that prevents station ticket machines from doing so.

I totally agree.

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The fact is that, at this point we shouldn't have any riders using paper tickets at all.

When the MBTA first announced the Charile system, the publically-stated goal at the time was to get every rider (yes, even the one-timers) to use RFID cards. Fare vending machines were to be set up at all commuter rail stations and in shops and public buildings adjacent to subway stations and bus stops.

Now suddenly, the MBTA has apparently welched on nearly every one of those original commitments. That's the real scandal behind the automated fare collection implementation, and it's shameful that the local MSM doesn't expose this and that the local politicans hold management's feet to the fire.

It seems pretty wasteful to

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It seems pretty wasteful to have a one-time rider using an RFID card.

But perhaps having to support two separate means of payment -- tickets and cards -- is even more wasteful.

Eliminating paper tickets

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would be far less expensive than the cost of issuing additional RFID cards.

At present, a lot of time and money is spent maintaining and repairing the paper ticket readers in the faregates and fareboxes, as well as maintaining and re-filling the paper ticket stock in the fare payment machines.

Montreal seems to have three

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Montreal seems to have three types of fare media. The main one is the OPUS RFID smartcard. Then there's the L’occasionnelle RFID smartcard, meant for "occasional riders" or tourists. Then there is some kind of single fare magnetic stripe card, though I never got to see one.

Their fare structure is heavily weighted towards buying a pass of some kind. Single ride is up to $3.00 now, while a monthly pass is only $75 -- comparable to ours.

Boat Ride

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I wonder if the boat broke down in the middle of the pond, forcing an evacuation.


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That was only after some poor soul fell off the dock in front of the boat forcing an hour delay.

I don't really care

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As long as you keep that costume away from wayward Red Sox employees (which of course includes Lackey and Beckett). We don't need another APB out on a missing mascot!

And since it's Charlie, unlike Wally, he'll probably never return if he goes missing.

UPDATE - just thinking - if he never returns - maybe we SHOULD give it to Lackey or Beckett!

Screw the goofy mascot

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1) FIX the damn signal system[s] so trains and streetcars don't have to CRAWL along like a rickshaw.

2) I understand blaring live musicians is partly used to keep 'youth' from loitering, but MANY adults also find them highly annoying. Please stop the practice of assaulting captive audiences [MBTA customers] with unnecessary noise of any kind, including obnoxious and repetitive public service announcements, buskers, etc., If I want to hear music I'll turn on my mp3 player or go to a club/bar.

3) Capacity on the core part of the system is insufficient.

RE: Red Sox and Bruins home games: The green line becomes basically unusable while the 'fans' are ferried to Fenway and The Garden. Claims are made that extra service is provided. I've NEVER seen this extra service. Why not set up a side business with the Red Sox and Bruins, using dedicated buses from key outlying T locations to and from games?

4) Why are there no express buses in Boston itself? Why are very few trains ever express? Why is everything a painfully slow local? Running express trains and buses would greatly elevate crowding. It's why other cities use them.

5) MBTA employees: I'm not an ahole, I'm not. I'm not trying to get on anyone's case, and have interacted with some great T employees, but some [NOT ALL, some] of the MBTA's front line employees, the face of the company as it were, are to put it politely, lacking. They dress incredibly slovenly, often appear zombie like if not outright sleeping it off, and many of the station attendants are obviously badly under-utilized, to put it politely. To the vast majority of us peasants who work in the dreaded private sector, this is a slap in the face.

6) MBTA management obviously s*cks. Why is nothing tangible done to fix the problem?

Bogus buskers

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Among the issues you bring up are the buskers in the T Stations, a peeve of mine. Early in the game, there were actually some talented musicians playing in the stations. This is seldom the case anymore and hasn't been for a long, long time. A large percentage of the "musicians" playing in the stations now are simply panhandlers and have no discernable musical talent. They sing along to karaoke tapes, or sing (and I use the term loosely) a capella, or simply strum one chord on a barely functioning guitar while muttering fragments of songs. These are the same people, were they not in the T stations masquerading as musicians, that would be hustling spare change on the streets without singing. The T needs to hold station peformers to a much higher standard, or dispense with them entirely. But why should I expect the T to hold ANYTHING to a high standard?

With respect to the performers,

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my vote is to get rid of them from inside the subway stations entirely. While I've always liked good street performers (and will usually give the deserving ones a couple of dollars), it's really the only reasonable solution here.

It's equitable treatment for all (you can't perform here, but neither can anyone else), and it's hardly depriving the riders of a necessary service.

Perhaps if enough people complained to the T that they couldn't hear the PA announcements because of the singers, this just might happen.

Just complain that with all

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Just complain that with all the musicians performing, you can never hear what you're supposed to do if you see something.

That'll get the musicians out in a hurry, and a several-million-dollar homeland security grant for enhanced speakers.

More silence, please

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A large percentage of the "musicians" playing in the stations now are simply panhandlers and have no discernable musical talent.

Government Center Station has the biggest collection of these folks. Between the fake Sammy Davis Jr guy and his boom box distortion in the morning, the blind guy moaning and tapping his cane in the afternoon, and the drunken old guy who can play two notes on a harmonica it's a relief when the green line T screeches when the cars go around the turn.

Can the city/state please let

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Can the city/state please let this shotty excuse for an organization just go bankrupt already?! Next June, when the MBTA cries that it is in debt (as we all know it will) please just let them go under. The union destroyed the MBTA long ago. Let's allow them to finish the job.

And then what?

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Ignoring your misinformed union gripe...

So what happens when the T goes bankrupt?

You Heraldites always seem to want the T to die, so what happens if it goes bankrupt? The system shuts down, thousands of people can no longer get to their jobs, businesses suffer and either shut down or move their operations out of Mass.

Obviously you don't want all that to happen, so what do you think happens when the T goes bankrupt, hmm?

I didn't say public transit

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I didn't say public transit should go bankrupt, the MBTA should! They're a business that does not work, but instead of just letting it completely fail and forcing the need for a new company, we enable them to continue by bowing down to the union and bailing them out. Enough already!

Wait, wat?

I didn't say public transit should go bankrupt, the MBTA should!

They're a business

People unclear on the concept.

Poor Charlie

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If he doesn't pay the extra nickel they push him overboard. (And the water is fairly nasty this time of year; months of duck, gull and swan poop.)

Red Sox School Bus

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I've always felt that, on game days, sports fans should have to ride school buses. The subway trains and trolleys should be Residents Only.

School buses have seat belts, and given that most sports fans lack the common sense to hold on to something while riding the train so they domino over, I think they need 'em.

cmon dude!

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1 The T sees struggling musicians that need some money and let them do what they do in the stations, even if it annoys uptight people like yourself."If I want to hear music I'll turn on my mp3 player or go to a club/bar", are you fucking kidding me? How long do you have to stand in a station that just so happens to have somebody doing something musically that you don't like?(yes a lot of them suck, ill give you that) If you want to listen to your iPod, fucking just do it! It will drown out all of the sound in the station.
2 If the T wanted to add an express line to ANY line, do you have any idea how expensive that would be?? Boylston? They can't just put 4 extra tracks in between the existing ones, they would have to make a separate tunnel all together. Red line, harvard? No room whatsoever. Solution, new tunnel. Then the train would have to switch on to already existing track just to get on the platform. The T can't afford this shit. " what if the express trains were on the same track" IMPOSSIBLE, the express train would just come up on the local trains, BOOM: TRAFFIC! More things to complain about online for you. If you want a better transportation system, move to Europe. I doubt you will find better in this country.

The obvious question

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Besides all the (legitimate) complaints raised by previous commenters, no one to date has asked the obvious question: Will the Swan Boats now start accepting Charlie Cards for fares? And if the Swan Boats become the first "commuter boat" to take Charlie Cards, will the T's other ferries and commuter trains follow that precedent?

Love the mortified teenager

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She's all like, "OMG this is SOOOOOO EMBARASSING!! DaaaAaAAAAd! Why'd you make me get on this dumb boat when people are taking PICTURES of meeee?!"

Sorry, I didn't see your post

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before I posted about her Mom. Dad better take both of his gals out for a really nice lunch or high tea at the Ritz after that ride.

She's probably

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updating her Facebook status on her iPhone.

"In Boston riding the swan boats with their subway mascot. It's a man in a foam man costume. WTF?"

Also...if that guy fell into the pond, he'd get electrocuted via the hat fan and probably drown.

Guess it's a good thing

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the Credit Union bought the suit, and not the T.

On the other hand, the Credit Union just raised their ATM fees again (I'm not a member, but they have an ATM in my building I ocassionally use). Now we know where some of that extra money went.

Embarrassingly bush-league

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This is really not the time to reconsider the "is Boston world-class?" question. We should just change our name to Dubuque.

Burying the lede

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Charlie escaped!

Which probably means he dodged an exit fare. This article should be filed under crime.

I like the mascot. Sure it's

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I like the mascot. Sure it's a little corny but it's a lighthearted way of getting some positive attention for the t.