You really need a ticket now for platforms

Discussion relating to Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (Philadelphia Metro Area). Official web site can be found here: www.septa.com. Also including discussion related to the PATCO Speedline rapid transit operated by Delaware River Port Authority. Official web site can be found here: http://www.ridepatco.org/.

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Re: You really need a ticket now for platforms

Postby dcipjr » Fri Feb 22, 2019 4:33 pm

I wonder if the delay is related to how long it takes for conductors to verify the Key card passes onboard. Every time I see a conductor use their reader, it takes forever. They'd never be able to scan the cards of everyone onboard.

One conductor I've talked to said that the Key on the RRD is probably going to have to be on the "honor system"—really? After installing faregates, and spending Lord-knows-how-much paying fare ambassadors to punch tickets, we're going to do the honor system with spot checks after all?

Another head-scratcher: tapping-out. Who's going to want to crowd around the three or so readers on the platform once you deboard, especially if it's raining out?

At my station, Bethayres, if I got off towards the rear of the train, I'd have to walk halfway up the platform to get to the nearest reader, get in line to tag out, and then walk back to my car. I don't think people are going to like that much.

SEPTA's approach with the Key on the Regional Rail seems to have been "How can we come up with a smart card that's compatible with our current fare system", rather than "How can we make a better fare system that uses a smart card?"—make 1234 happy, not the riders.

Now they have something that they're realizing is not gonna scale, and they're stuck.
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Re: You really need a ticket now for platforms

Postby JeffK » Fri Feb 22, 2019 11:29 pm

dcipjr wrote:The Regional Rail seems to have been "How can we come up with a smart card that's compatible with our current fare system", rather than "How can we make a better fare system that uses a smart card?"—make 1234 happy, not the riders.

Not just on the RRD but on the whole system. The most glaring example is the extra complexity and potential error points that come from preserving transfer charges. Other pre-existing complexities like suburban transit zones and the $1 senior RRD fare were "solved" by eliminating them ... but only after it became obvious that there was no practical way to sledgehammer the Key to support them.

As the Key's design evolved, a number of us warned that it was becoming an electronic version of the clunky PTC/Red Arrow fare system mash-up it was supposed to replace, rather than being a truly modern farecard. There are times you wish you hadn't been right.
Last edited by JeffK on Sat Feb 23, 2019 6:37 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: You really need a ticket now for platforms

Postby ExCon90 » Sat Feb 23, 2019 2:57 pm

Usually you get some satisfaction from saying "I told you so" but here even that's not working out.
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Re: You really need a ticket now for platforms

Postby JeffK » Sat Feb 23, 2019 6:35 pm

ExCon90 wrote:Usually you get some satisfaction from saying "I told you so" but here even that's not working out.

Sadly true. What's so frustrating is that the Key's only one of a number of projects over the years where SEPTA has sunk itself in the "not invented here" tar-pit, ignoring not just advice but cold facts presented by outsiders. The abortive Schuylkill Valley Metro is a perfect example: transit advocates used standard railroad planning models to demonstrate that a number of the SVM's core assumptions were unworkable, but the suits turned a deaf ear and bulled forward. I forget how many millions were squandered before the plug was finally pulled.

The only good thing is that none of this approaches the all-time classic "I told you so" ... Winston Churchill in 1940.
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Re: You really need a ticket now for platforms

Postby JimBoylan » Sun Feb 24, 2019 5:24 am

Has S.E.P.T.A. ever said that a Key Card without a pass will be valid on commuter trains, including for suburban trips?
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Re: You really need a ticket now for platforms

Postby ChesterValley » Sun Feb 24, 2019 9:54 am

JimBoylan wrote:Has S.E.P.T.A. ever said that a Key Card without a pass will be valid on commuter trains, including for suburban trips?


For a period of time, you could just bring on an empty key card and say it has a pass. The conductors would let it go since they had no scanners, which got shut down as soon as everyone caught on
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Re: You really need a ticket now for platforms

Postby JeffK » Sun Feb 24, 2019 10:08 am

JimBoylan wrote:Has SEPTA ever said that a Key Card without a pass will be valid on commuter trains, including for suburban trips?

To the best of my knowledge that was the original intent. The "wallet" is what most systems call "stored value", so ostensibly a card without an attached pass would work like any standard pay-per-ride instrument - think DC Metro's SmarTrip.

In fact at one point they apparently were looking at some kind of fare integration between the RRD and transit sides. At one hearing I attended there was discussion that the Wallet would treat a connecting trip between both systems as a combined fare, analogous to a transfer on the transit side. IIRC there was some kind of algorithm that would offer a cut versus paying separate flat transit and zoned RRD fares, a bennie that's currently only available to pass holders. Of course that idea appears to have evaporated along with zones 1 and 2, TVMs at outlying stations, etc. It seems fairly obvious that the RRD's turned out to be much more complicated than anyone considered. My guess is that the main stumbling block is trying to capture both boarding and exiting at stations that were laid out 150-some years ago.

Because they've been so opaque about the whole process it's impossible to know how much more of the Key will make it to daylight. WHY it's so fraught is a lot clearer; the IT veteran in me sees a combination of all the things you're supposed to avoid when building a large-scale system: "not invented here", rebuild in kind, ignore others' successes and failures, limited or no user testing, plus of course the infamous "OOPS! Didn't think about that ..."
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Re: You really need a ticket now for platforms

Postby jamesinclair » Mon Feb 25, 2019 1:01 pm

Can someone remind me who the vendor of the system is?

MTA (NYC) and MBTA (Boston) are moving to similar systems, and I am worried it will be a similar disaster
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Re: You really need a ticket now for platforms

Postby Head-end View » Mon Feb 25, 2019 8:22 pm

Boston's MBTA probably will screw it up. But NYCTA/MTA will probably do it right. If we're just talking NYC subways and busses, it's a much simpler fare system. :-D
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