CharlieCard a Success or Failure?

A snafu of sorts occurred yesterday when Mac Daniel of The Boston Globe wrote a story citing CharlieCard usage statistics that were questionable at best. In particular, the following quote:

In addition, 87 percent of all bus passengers used the low-fare CharlieCards, while 13 percent of riders paid a surcharge. On Green Line surface stops, 96 percent paid with CharlieCards and 4 percent paid a surcharge.

Anyone who rides the Green Line knows those figures were dead wrong. Many people still have passes on Charlietickets. Many pass sales locations are still selling passes on Charlietickets. In fact, all college students in the Boston area who participate in the MBTA’s semester pass program are still being issued their monthly passes on Charlietickets. Particularly on the B-line, where many riders are students, there is nowhere near 96% CharlieCard usage. Even the statistic that only 4% of Green Line surface stop riders paid a surcharge is questionable, based on what I see on the B-line everyday.

Thankfully that story has been taken off the web, including the MBTA’s website, which used the Globe story as a press release.

A new story by Daniel was posted on Boston.com today, which corrects the terminology used.

Based on the statistics released yesterday, by the end of January, 86 percent of T riders were using CharlieCards and 14 percent used CharlieTickets or paid cash and had to pay the surcharge. Grabauskas hopes to lower the percentage of people who rely on the paper tickets in the next several months.

That figure covers the system as a whole. It still seems totally inaccurate based on personal observations. In fact other bloggers, like Kevin Vahey of Charlie on the MBTA have questioned that figure as well.

More troubling is Daniel’s headline and lede in that story indicate that the automated fare collection has cut down on fare evaders. That is a very very questionable conclusion. If anything, as I wrote a few days ago, the way the MBTA implemented the system makes it easier than ever to beat the fare. I watch people do it every day.

The Metro wrote a story with yet another version of the usage figures, which seems more believable than the first two.

Since the beginning of January, 1.2 million CharlieCards have been distributed and approximately 86 percent of boardings during that month have been with the card or a monthly pass as opposed to the Charlie Ticket. That means, out of 22 million boardings in January, 19 million were made with CharlieCards or passes.

This story shows a glaring mess. The MBTA came up with a fare structure so convoluted that they can’t even get the figures right. Even worse, they’re relying on The Boston Globe to do Public Relations for them.

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