It's fun to stay at the MBTA

I was not looking forward to my trip to the Charlie Card Store. I was prepared to beg, threaten, maybe even bribe my way through what I was certain would be a Dantean, Kafkaesque, Orwellian, and probably Quixotic* quest to repair or replace my expired Charlie Card.

I am happy to report that (yet again) I was wronger than white shoes after Labor Day. The Charlie Card Store is the nicest space in the entire MBTA system, probably as nice as an Acela first class lounge. I mean that environmentally: it's an air-conditioned glass box embedded in the corridor of Downtown Crossing station with green and blond wood decor and plenty of seating, and also procedurally: there are six agents plus one more managing the line, and an RMV-style take-a-number system.  I arrived at 8 on the dot to join a line of 20 or so. The Store opened right on time and I was out by 8:12.

My only complaint - and you knew that I would have one - is that I shouldn't have had to go there in the first place. Assuming that the card really had to expire for some good reason, this transaction could have been handled by an agent at any station, or probably even by one of the automated vending machines.

It'll be interesting to see what the Charlie Card Store makes of people coming in with issues with their Sesame Rings.

* One of these is not like the others. If you can say which and why, you could could play "Odd Man Out" on Says You.

1 Response

  1. Erik
    I agree! Three weeks ago I tried to add $20 to my Charlie card using cash on board a bus. I didn't actually know I could add value on-board a bus, so I thought it was great! However, the on-screen prompts are very vague and I was trying not to distract the driver and I hit the white button when I should have tapped the card. It took my $20, deducted the full single-ride $2 fair, and dispensed an $18 Charlie TICKET on which is clearly printed, "Not Valid for Travel". Essentially, a fancy receipt. Why they couldn't just give me a normal Charlie Ticket is beyond me, I would have happily used it up. Instead, I tried to feed the Ticket into machines, which couldn't read it. I tried to find an agent in Central Square station (couldn't) and on another day in Davis (couldn't). Finally, I made a special trip to Harvard Square station just to get a refund, where they informed me - of course - that I had to go to the Charlie Card Store at Downtown Crossing. The store experience was quite pleasant, as you say. I think the reason why they do this is because they only want to train a small group of employees on the more complicated tasks of issuing refunds, etc. Either that or they don't trust a broader swath of employees with the privileges to do so. Neither one is a good reason!

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