Wednesday, September 01, 2010
I curse the day the day the New York Subway System and the Path train system of New Jersey decided to adopt the Metrocard system.
You see, It was suppose to be a convenient and efficient way to get around the public transportation of NYC. I suppose if you're a daily user and you have established a routine in the card usage, It works out fine. However, For first time users it's a nightmare. Even for those of us who use it occasionally. It is a pain in the ass and hardly "convenient" It's got to be the most inconvenient public transportation payment system on earth. The BART of San Francisco is close but its complication has more to do with how to figure out how much to pay in where you go.
Ahhh, But in the old days, We had a token system in NYC and a cash setup on the PATH line. The token could be purchased at every subway station and used on both buses and trains. You knew exactly how much fare you had merely by taking a quick glance at how many tokens were in your pocket. You knew way before you entered a subway station whether you needed to buy more tokens.
With the Metrocard it's a mystery. You have to get rejected by the turnstiles after swiping five times in order to figure out how much fare you have left on the card. Now, you have to go to a token attendant (if you can find one) to replenish it. You can either put in the exact amount needed to get you through the day but that might involve a little quick math figuring out how much you need to pay into the card minus the amount that is left in the card. Or you can opt to pay a exact dollar amount to move things faster for the attendant because so much of their time is now wasted explaining how the Metrocard system works to neophytes who might not be able to speak clear enough English or Spanish to penetrate the thick walls of the toll booths.
Metrocard's solution to the toll attendants is to set up Metrocard machines in all the stations. Sometimes there is as many as five machines in the station. Most of the time you can't put in the exact amount needed to fill your card. It'll only take money to the nearest dollar. That is, If it'll take a dollar. Some machines only take coins but still will take it to the nearest dollar.
Sometimes you get a machine that takes only one time only round trips. This is okay unless you have only 3 dollars in cash and the fare is $3.50 and you have an old card with 75 cents left in it that the machine won't accept.
Some machines will only take take cash, Some only credit, Whoa behold if you choose the wrong machine.
Now some machines will give you a card to fill in whatever amount you want but WON'T refill the card you already have. So now you're stuck with two cards with some of the fare on it. The turnstiles will NOT let you use two cards each short of fare but combined would get you a train ride.
So, you can conceivably come across 5 machines at a PATH station each with a unique quirk and NOT have a suitable combination to get you a train ride. And yet in your pocket, You have the means to get you that ride.
Yep, I would curse the day that NYC went to the Metrocard system except I don't know what day that was, I was living in Seattle at the time.