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Old Nov 20, 07, 12:12 pm   #1
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Charlie Card vs Charlie Ticket

First off, who is Charlie?

In Boston last Friday, I planned to ride the T three times. So when I went to the Red Line at South Station, I saw machines which sold Charlie tickets and that each ride was $2.00. Someone next to me took out his Charlie Card and told me to get one of those instead and not to pay the more expensive Charlie Ticket. The machine, however, seemed to sell only Charlie Cards. I didn't see anyone to talk to in a closed in area with a big desk (not sure if that were a ticket window) but I did see two security guards chatting with each other. I asked if one of them could help me. I said that I was looking to take 3 rides today on the T and that I wanted to pay the least expensive amound. I knew that there were two prices and wasn't sure if there were even a third. The woman said that I had to buy a Charlie Ticket and that it would cost $2 per ride. The man said that he had a roll of Charlie Cards and that he would give me one so I could load it up at the machine. The woman told him not to do it. He asked her why not. She said that I should pay the higher amount. Since I of course heard her, I interjected and said that I will not pay the higher amount. Why is there even a choice?? He told me to ignore her and he gave me a Charlie Card. Very nice of him.

I then went to the machine and put $5.10 on it. I noticed when I stopped at other stations that no one and no machine were giving out the Charlie Cards and that the machines only produced Charlie Tickets.

Ok, gang, what's the deal? Why did the female security guard want me to buy the more expensive fare on a Charlie Ticket? Why are there two fares? Who would use a Charlie Ticket when a Charlie Card is cheaper?

I am very confused. What's the deal? Thanks.
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Old Nov 20, 07, 12:38 pm   #2
 
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Charlie Ticket (flimsy little thing you stick into the machine to read the magnetic stripe) price is $2 for entrance to the subways.
Charlie Card (like a credit or hotel card) is $1.70 for entrance to the subway.

CharlieCard therefore saves you money. No reason to use a Charlie Ticket over Charlie Card. The only thing is, the automatic kiosks only dispense CharlieTickets. CharlieCards can only be gotten at select kiosks or through asking MBTA employees, as most locals already have them. CharlieTickets are thrown away after all the money is used up on them (well, you could refill them...) whereas CharlieCards are just refilled when you need more money on them.
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Old Nov 20, 07, 3:45 pm   #3
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Why even have the two? Who would pay more for the same trip when it costs less on the Charlie Card? I don't understand the rationale of this system.

That one guard did not want me to use it. That's why I am lost on the rationale of it all.
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Old Nov 20, 07, 6:06 pm   #4
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I live in Boston half the time and still can't figure this out. Perhaps they want to encourage Charlie Card use because it reduces waste (it's reusable, as opposed to the disposable tickets) and it's quicker to use. In any event, when they first introduced the Charlie Cards, they distributed them at all of the stations, which is how I got mine. I have no idea how people are supposed to find them now.
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Old Nov 20, 07, 6:28 pm   #5
 
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Originally Posted by Analise View Post
Why even have the two? Who would pay more for the same trip when it costs less on the Charlie Card? I don't understand the rationale of this system.

That one guard did not want me to use it. That's why I am lost on the rationale of it all.

To this observer, the rationale is apparent: gouge the tourists and those locals who did not obtain Charlie Cards when first distributed.
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Old Nov 20, 07, 6:31 pm   #6
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Originally Posted by PatrickHenry1775 View Post
To this observer, the rationale is apparent: gouge the tourists and those locals who did not obtain Charlie Cards when first distributed.
The $0.30 difference is hardly "gouging."
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Old Nov 20, 07, 7:31 pm   #7
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If the Metrocard system were to have two different pricing schemes, the NY media would be all over that especially since the less expensive scheme is not readily available. Is there apathy in Boston regarding the ease of getting the more expensive paper ticket but not the less expensive plastic card?
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Old Nov 20, 07, 7:36 pm   #8
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Originally Posted by Analise View Post
If the Metrocard system were to have two different pricing schemes, the NY media would be all over that especially since the less expensive scheme is not readily available. Is there apathy in Boston regarding the ease of getting the more expensive paper ticket but not the less expensive plastic card?
The NY MTA has multiple pricing schemes: the $2 basic ride, the 10% bonus if you buy a $10 card, the 7- and 30-day unlimited ride cards, etc.

As for the Boston system, I can't speak for anyone but myself, but I have a hard time getting excited over the $0.30 difference (particularly without knowing what the official explanation for the difference, or the difficulty of obtaining the cheaper card, is).
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Old Nov 20, 07, 8:16 pm   #9
 
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The reason the other guard did not want him giving you the ticket is that technically, he's not supposed to! You are supposed to only get the Charlie Card at ticket windows. I believe, but am not certain, they are supposed to see a license. Think of it as a monthly pass. They give a lower rate to get more people to use it (and also track your ridership data!). Tickets are kind of the walk-up price.

Most people buy cards if they can get to a counter. If you stop into the city once every couple of months and take the T twice the savings isn't worth having to go way out of your way for it. If you are planning on visiting for a few days, though, make the trip somewhere to get one and save the pennies.
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Old Nov 20, 07, 8:59 pm   #10
 
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Originally Posted by Cloudship View Post
If you are planning on visiting for a few days, though, make the trip somewhere to get one and save the pennies.
But where?

It would seem the 2 of the most likely places that tourist would enter the T are at South Station and Logan Airport. So if you can not obtain Charlie Cards there, where should you go? I wouldn't know, so please tell me so I can save some pennies.
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Old Nov 21, 07, 4:53 am   #11
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I guess none of us thought to check the T's website:

Quote:
CharlieCards & Tickets

Both fare media are reusable and rechargeable but the CharlieCard is more affordable, versatile and convenient.

The Card: Plastic, stored-value, and online account management and auto-reload features. Riders pay standard T fare.

The Ticket: Paper, stored-value. Riders pay standard fare plus a surcharge (*no surcharge when storing a T-Pass on a paper CharlieTicket).

CharlieCard

Reusable and Rechargeable—the easiest and most affordable way to ride.

Compare the Card and the Ticket

The CharlieCard is a 'smart card' that stores value for single or multiple-rides and/or a T-pass. You load the card with value or a T-Pass using cash, credit or debit cards, or even T-Tokens at in-station fare vending machines or at retail sales terminals, T ticket offices and eventually, online. CharlieCards are currently available for Subway and Bus use only. Commuter Rail and Boat use is planned for 2008.

Once you add value or a T-Pass to your card, you tap your card on the card target at fare gates or on-board vehicles and the new system deducts value from your card accordingly. When your card runs low on value, simply visit a fare vending machine to add value and/or store a T-Pass on your card and ride as much and as often as you like.

Card users pay only the standard T fare while ticket users often pay a surcharge. In 2008, card users will be to access Charlie Online to add value, sign-up for "No-Worries Protection" to insure the card from theft or loss and auto-reload the card.

Common Questions about the CharlieCard

Can I put a T-Pass on a CharlieCard?

Yes. A CharlieCard stores value for single or multiple rides and or a monthly T-Pass. You can store your T-Pass on the card and load additional value for occasional travel that falls outside of your regular T-Pass privileges. If you use a T-Pass, the CharlieCard is the way to go.

Is using the card less expensive than using a ticket?

Yes. CharlieCard riders pay only the standard T fare while ticket and or cash-on-board customers pay a surcharge. Using the card can save you 15-50% on T fares depending how you ride.

Where do I get a CharlieCard?

On December 4, 2006, we began giving away free, plastic CharlieCards. Here's where to look for the CharlieCard:

From MBTA Customer Service Agents in Subway Stations and select Bus Terminals

At T sales offices: Back Bay, Downtown Crossing, Harvard, North Station and South Station.

At many retail locations: We are aggressively pursuing partnerships with retailers to sell our tickets, cards and passes using retail sales terminals. You will be able to obtain a CharlieCard from one of these retailers: Sales Locations. Once you have your CharlieCard, you can go to these retailers to load value or a pass on your CharlieCard.

First Night: Buy a First Night button at your local Shaw's/StarMarket in December and receive a limited edition First Night CharlieCard.

Order your CharlieCard OnlineBuy Now


Are CharlieCards available for the Commuter Rail, Boat or Inner Harbor Ferries?

CharlieCards for commuter rail, commuter boats and inner harbor ferries are planned for 2008. In the meantime, continue to use single and multi-ride tickets or a CharlieTicket T-Pass or cash. (Since the card is not yet available for these transit modes, no surcharges apply when using CharlieTickets.)
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Old Nov 21, 07, 7:54 am   #12
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Originally Posted by Blumie View Post
The NY MTA has multiple pricing schemes: the $2 basic ride, the 10% bonus if you buy a $10 card, the 7- and 30-day unlimited ride cards, etc.
That's right and it is standard for all because it is based on volume discounts. With a Charlie Card, one can get a $1.70 ride but with the Charlie ticket, one is not allowed to pay only $1.70; one has to spend 18% more for the same one ride. That is what I don't understand. Why has the Boston population accepted that?

Quote:
As for the Boston system, I can't speak for anyone but myself, but I have a hard time getting excited over the $0.30 difference (particularly without knowing what the official explanation for the difference, or the difficulty of obtaining the cheaper card, is).
The principle of being charged an extra 18% doesn't bother you? Ok, I guess you answered my question from above. That would not hold in New York.

That female security guard not wanting me to get the cheaper Charlie Card did annoy me. Glad her partner wasn't such a jerk.

I am not sure if these are major T stops but at both the JFK/UMass and Government Center stations, there was nobody giving away Charlie Cards. I checked. I thought Gov't Center was a major stop.
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Old Nov 21, 07, 8:17 pm   #13
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First off, who is Charlie? ...
I don't think anyone has answered this one yet. Apologies if I missed an answer as I read through the thread.

Charlie was a fictional character in "The MTA Song," also known as "Charlie on the MTA." ("MTA" stood for Metropolitan Transit Authority, the predecessor of today's Mass. Bay Transit Authority or MBTA.) It was written for the 1948 mayoral campaign of Walter O'Brien. It was made famous by the Kingston Trio about ten years later, with the name changed to George O'Brien to avoid political problems.

Charlie was a poor chap who got on a train for the usual fare of 10˘, unaware that he'd also have to pay the new exit fare of 5˘ later. (The MTA instituted this scheme so as not to have to modify its toll collection machines.) As the song ends he's condemned to ride the train forever, with his wife handing him a sandwich each day as the train goes through the Scollay Square (now Government Center, since 1960s urban renewal tore down Scollay Square) station. (The song doesn't explain why she couldn't hand him a nickel too.) The only way to get Charlie off the MTA is to vote for O'Brien, who would repeal the fare increase. Unfortunately for Charlie, but perhaps fortunately for the solvency of Boston-area rapid transit, he lost.
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Old Nov 21, 07, 11:52 pm   #14
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The principle of being charged an extra 18% doesn't bother you? Ok, I guess you answered my question from above. That would not hold in New York.
I don't pay an extra 18%; I have a Charlie card. In NY, the only way to get the discount is to buy in bulk, so one could argue that it is the less fair system, since tourists are less likely to need to buy in bulk, and the poor are less able to buy in bulk. But I still think it's inappropriate to get all up in arms about this without understanding what's behind the policy. Unfortunately, no one on this board, including myself, really knows the answer to that.
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Old Nov 23, 07, 8:30 am   #15
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Originally Posted by Analise View Post
The principle of being charged an extra 18% doesn't bother you? Ok, I guess you answered my question from above. That would not hold in New York.
Most Bostonians aren't hit with the extra 18%, but speaking of being up in arms - a 3% or so city income tax as levied by NYC doesn't bother you????? You pick your battles. Apparently New Yorkers are content with their city incoime tax, Bostonians will settle for the 18% MBTA surcharge. Why don't New Yorkers riot over the income tax? I just don't get it.


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Originally Posted by Efrem View Post
Charlie was a fictional character in "The MTA Song," also known as "Charlie on the MTA." ("MTA" stood for Metropolitan Transit Authority, the predecessor of today's Mass. Bay Transit Authority or MBTA.) It was written for the 1948 mayoral campaign of Walter O'Brien. It was made famous by the Kingston Trio about ten years later, with the name changed to George O'Brien to avoid political problems.

Charlie was a poor chap who got on a train for the usual fare of 10˘, unaware that he'd also have to pay the new exit fare of 5˘ later. (The MTA instituted this scheme so as not to have to modify its toll collection machines.) As the song ends he's condemned to ride the train forever.
Nice analysis, you can get the full lyrics here http://www.mit.edu/~jdreed/t/charlie.html fwiw, back in the day, this was always a wonderful song to send the crowd home smiling, happy, and inebriated when the band announced that to catch the last train, you better get going now.
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