CharlieCard / Ticket discussion

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Re: CharlieCard / Ticket discussion

Postby BandA » Mon Nov 27, 2017 6:48 pm

From the Globe:
The new system will work with Apple Pay, Samsung Pay and other smartphone payment systems that rely on near-field communication technology to identify and verify a user
Payment systems require payment of a transaction fee. If that fee is more than a fraction of 1¢ then it is a bad deal for the MBTA, as the "T" will have to still maintain a system for their own "charlie II" cards & refilling them at vending machines and/or online. People seem shocked by the high cost of the system - how does that compare with their present system? How much do "Charlie I" cards cost the T?

From the Herald:
there are about 36 union electricians assigned to maintaining the current fare collection system. He said those workers will be assigned other work, saying there is plenty of other electrical work that needs to be done on the T. He said he does not expect any layoffs.
Emphasis added. Can anybody confirm whether this statement is true or not? Are the T's electricians presently working lots of overtime, or is there work that is being outsourced that could be brought back in-house or maybe they can accelerate state-of-good-repair projects?
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Re: CharlieCard / Ticket discussion

Postby diburning » Tue Nov 28, 2017 3:08 am

BandA wrote:From the Globe:
The new system will work with Apple Pay, Samsung Pay and other smartphone payment systems that rely on near-field communication technology to identify and verify a user
Payment systems require payment of a transaction fee. If that fee is more than a fraction of 1¢ then it is a bad deal for the MBTA, as the "T" will have to still maintain a system for their own "charlie II" cards & refilling them at vending machines and/or online. People seem shocked by the high cost of the system - how does that compare with their present system? How much do "Charlie I" cards cost the T?


I'm going to assume that Charlie cards cost 7 to 15 cents each based on the cost of bulk RFID cards (which is what Charlie Cards are). I'm assuming that the cost is probably closer to the 15 cents end because the MBTA does not seem to like to spend a lot of money to keep Charlie Cards in stock (I work at a business that is a fare vendor; the MBTA was out of Charlie Cards for about a month, from the last week of October until just before Thanksgiving. We ran out of cards, and the MBTA did not have any to send us, so we lost a lot of monthly pass sales) The merchant rate for electronic payment processing is about 2-3%. Assuming a $3 fare (because fares will have increased by then), the cost of processing the transaction for that fare is somewhere between 6 to 9 cents, less if it's a PIN-entry debit card (which would cost them a fraction of a penny). The MBTA might be able to negotiate a lower rate for payment processing because of volume.

Now we have to take into account on how much the charlie card costs in its life span. Some people reload their cards with cash, some with credit or debit. With cash, the MBTA incurs no additional cost. With credit, the MBTA pays the 2-3% every time the charlie card is reloaded. With debit, the MBTA's cost is probably about a penny. With a retail vendor, the cost is 1.75% (that's the retailer commission. In hindsight, this is actually a better arrangement for the MBTA as the retailer (assuming a large retailer like a supermarket) eats the processing costs. This is why 7 Elevens, Tedeschis, and convenience stores that sell MBTA fares have signs saying cash only). Some people load one ride onto the card, use it, then discard it. Some people load a pass onto the card, and then discard it. Working at a retail vendor, people simply aren't reusing the cards, regardless of how many times we tell them that the card is reloadable and can be reused. The MBTA doesn't help things by making the cards free. Since they're free, people don't care enough to keep them.

By going to the contactless payment system that allows credit cards, they can eliminate the cost of the charlie cards, eliminate the cost of equipment, fare media, and support for retail vendors, eliminate a significant portion of the current cash handling/FVM operation, and (presumably) have some sort of (time if not monetary) cost savings by allowing passengers to board at the rear doors. The London Tube is a prime example of a system that works. UTA Frontrunner is another. The MTA in NYC is looking to convert to a system like this as well.
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Re: CharlieCard / Ticket discussion

Postby RenegadeMonster » Tue Nov 28, 2017 9:50 am

Sounds interesting and a improvement overall.

However, with smartphones, credit cards and a CharlieCard replacement tied to an online account for pass management will it still be possible to get your passes paid for via payroll deduction pretax?
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Re: CharlieCard / Ticket discussion

Postby andrewjw » Tue Nov 28, 2017 11:08 am

RenegadeMonster wrote:Sounds interesting and a improvement overall.

However, with smartphones, credit cards and a CharlieCard replacement tied to an online account for pass management will it still be possible to get your passes paid for via payroll deduction pretax?

Yes, it is possible to do this in the many cities that have already switched to this system, for instance Chicago, the Bay Area, Seattle.
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Re: CharlieCard / Ticket discussion

Postby diburning » Tue Nov 28, 2017 4:58 pm

RenegadeMonster wrote:However, with smartphones, credit cards and a CharlieCard replacement tied to an online account for pass management will it still be possible to get your passes paid for via payroll deduction pretax?


The current pretax Flexible Spending Account systems works in two ways, either by Commuter Checks, which are a pain because the person redeeming this benefit has to find a place that accepts them (the Charlie Card store is the main location that takes them). The checks can be "pay to the order of" either the MBTA, meaning that the person absolutely has to redeem them at the Charlie Card store and nowhere else, OR they can be issued to "Transit provider and/or transit fare vendor" which means they can use it at any retail fare vendors that may accept them (supermarkets for example).

The second system is a credit card that is tied to the FSA account. I have one of these myself as an employer benefit. The card costs the same for the MBTA to process as a regular credit card, and the issuer will decline all transactions that are made anywhere other than a transit provider. I've seen some people who were upset that they couldn't buy their monthly pass at the retail vendor because the purchase codes for the store, not as transit. They're able to use it at a FVM, Charlie Card Store, or Keolis ticket window.

I'd imagine with Charlie 2.0 that the FSA credit cards would simply include contactless chips and/or the companies administering these accounts (WageWorks is the largest one) make some arrangement with the MBTA to have those accounts linked to a Charlie 2.0 account.
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Re: CharlieCard / Ticket discussion

Postby troffey » Tue Nov 28, 2017 5:28 pm

BandA wrote:From the Globe:
The new system will work with Apple Pay, Samsung Pay and other smartphone payment systems that rely on near-field communication technology to identify and verify a user
Payment systems require payment of a transaction fee. If that fee is more than a fraction of 1¢ then it is a bad deal for the MBTA, as the "T" will have to still maintain a system for their own "charlie II" cards & refilling them at vending machines and/or online. People seem shocked by the high cost of the system - how does that compare with their present system? How much do "Charlie I" cards cost the T?

From the Herald:
there are about 36 union electricians assigned to maintaining the current fare collection system. He said those workers will be assigned other work, saying there is plenty of other electrical work that needs to be done on the T. He said he does not expect any layoffs.
Emphasis added. Can anybody confirm whether this statement is true or not? Are the T's electricians presently working lots of overtime, or is there work that is being outsourced that could be brought back in-house or maybe they can accelerate state-of-good-repair projects?


There is definitely work that has been contracted out that could be brought back in house, although the only specific work I'm aware of has been on the right of way (I believe, although can't say for sure, that the third rail heater project was contracted, and the PTC installation project is being done largely by contractors. Recent station work at Downtown Crossing and Kendall/MIT has also been contracted out). They could also accelerate their state of good repair projects, or increase the personnel assigned to BET, Codman, Wellington or Everett to work on rolling stock maintenance. They could also move the electricians out of the Charlie room on an attrition basis: filling other jobs at the T as they become open from now until 2019. I'm not sure that the details have been ironed out completely, but I do know that the T and the union have been discussing plans for this contingency for a while now.
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Re: CharlieCard / Ticket discussion

Postby BandA » Wed Nov 29, 2017 2:28 am

They also said they plan to stand up the new system with the old one still in place for about a year. If replacing the fare gates is required then it would be a layout nightmare of temporary gates, or the new gates would have to house the old hardware, etc.

How many electricians does the T have? Are the number of electricians working on the fare system swamped in the "noise" of the total?

Rewiring cars & coaches in-house would be interesting and possibly cost-saving.
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Re: CharlieCard / Ticket discussion

Postby MBTA3247 » Wed Nov 29, 2017 6:11 am

BandA wrote:They also said they plan to stand up the new system with the old one still in place for about a year. If replacing the fare gates is required then it would be a layout nightmare of temporary gates, or the new gates would have to house the old hardware, etc.

If the new system is based on non-proprietary hardware and software, it shouldn't have a problem reading the current CharlieCards. Some MIT students revealed several years ago that the cards have no security implemented and will happily talk to off-the-shelf hardware.
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Re: CharlieCard / Ticket discussion

Postby troffey » Thu Nov 30, 2017 5:38 pm

I don't have an exact number, but I can vouch that 36 is a small portion of the overall number. As one might imagine, there are a lot of different aspects of the T that rely upon electric power, and many/most of the positions are three shifts seven days a week as I understand.
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Re: CharlieCard / Ticket discussion

Postby jamesinclair » Mon Dec 04, 2017 9:54 pm

BandA wrote:They also said they plan to stand up the new system with the old one still in place for about a year. If replacing the fare gates is required then it would be a layout nightmare of temporary gates, or the new gates would have to house the old hardware, etc.

How many electricians does the T have? Are the number of electricians working on the fare system swamped in the "noise" of the total?

Rewiring cars & coaches in-house would be interesting and possibly cost-saving.


SEPTA has had their new "key" gates coexisting with tokens for over a year. If you buy tokens, you pay them to the gate agent sitting in the token booth.

When MBTA transitioned to Charlie, the new machines would turn your token into a paper ticket.
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Re: CharlieCard / Ticket discussion

Postby diburning » Wed Dec 06, 2017 1:07 am

jamesinclair wrote:When MBTA transitioned to Charlie, the new machines would turn your token into a paper ticket.


And for a while after that, they were taking them at face value at FVMs and fareboxes. I used to get discounted rides by buying up people's old tokens on eBay below face value (I was often able to get rolls of 40 for $10-20), and redeeming them at the FVMs for their $1.25 value :-D
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