The MBTA: ineptitude and indolence incarnate
Dec 15, 2006

Back in mid-September I wrote about how I was finally starting to understand why people don't really like the T. This was mostly in response to the implementation of the then-new CharlieTicket system which was obviously not very well thought out and could have been done much better and probably much cheaper (if only they had thought to hire me to do it...). Now they've started rolling out the CharlieCard system, and with it a whole new fare structure. The CharlieCard, I think, is actually a good idea. It will make things much more convenient for both the passengers and the MBTA. And it really isn't a system that's particularly easy to screw up considering the infrastructure is all already in place. And yet the MBTA seems bound and determined to excel at screwing up. In January, when the CharlieCard goes 'mainstream' (right now it's only there for the elite few who braved the morning commute at a certain time on a certain day at whatever station the MBTA deemed worthy of having CharlieCards that morning, or, in Jessi's case, the elite few who were able to talk a security guard into giving them one anyway), we'll also be getting a new fare structure. The cost of a ride will, of course, be going up. But it will be going up by varying amounts depending on how you pay for it. People with CharlieCards will pay the least, and will get free bus rides. People with CharlieTickets will pay more. I suppose that makes sense, as CharlieCards will save the MBTA money in the long term, but it's still annoying and somewhat confusing. I'll even go along with the fare hikes as a good thing, because the MBTA is clearly in need of more money with their mounting debt and all. But with all that mounting debt, what is that money going towards? Is it going towards the poorly maintained red line (the one Jessi and I ride) that, nearly killed a child and woman yesterday due to faulty doors? No, it's going to a new MBTA website. A new MBTA website that doesn't even properly implement the Google API. When you go there you get a warning about the Google API key not matching the site. Basically, they never got a new Google API key for the live site and were still using the one from the development site, which doesn't work (I learned this the hard way when developing the dy/dx tech website). Admittedly, the new website looks better, and it won't take long for them to fix the Google API problem, but it seems like an egregious waste of money to me, when they are so in debt that they can't even properly maintain their trains. The MBTA needs to improve their service and systems, that will improve their image, that will encourage more people to ride the T more often, that will increase their income, that will work to alleviate their financial situation, that will allow them to continue to improve their service and systems, ad infinitum. Basically, their current path would run any ordinary company into the ground, but thanks to the miracle of government subsidies they don't really need to worry about it. Ah, but for the luxury of a government contract, we could all be wallowing in the depths of our own ineptitude and indolence.
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