Thursday, January 18, 2007

Today's Boston Metro, Page 1: T Cracking Down on Poorest of Poor to Help Conquer Deficit

Boston Metro, Thursday, January 18, 2007 - the headline reads, "Fare jumpers, beware: T officials now ticketing."

This one is just too easy. Where do I begin?

Who "jumps" fare gates? Try
A. People too poor to pay out the *ss for the new fares.
B. Ignorant/broke college students

In other words, not the other "95% to 97%" of the T's revenue, that is, the riding public. What I find laughable is that the MBTA is going to spend more money in manpower (and womanpower) to have people constantly looking over our shoulders as we enter the magic gates than it will actually *gasp* collect on from those few amongst us who cheat the system--again, bums on the street, people living below the poverty line and a choice selection of wayward college kids.

And not that it's not an easy system to cheat. In case you missed my rants here, here and/or here, it was the T's dumb-f*** idea to go with the gate system as opposed to a beefed-up version of the turnstile system when converting to "automated" fare collection ("A"FC) in the first place. They brought this upon themselves. They shot themselves in the foot. Should I continue? By actually "cracking down" on fare beaters unde the new gated system, the T is finally admitting what anybody with common sense already knew--the new gates have done nothing to stop or deter the fare beating that existed under the turnstile system--if anything, rather than having to use effort, like crawling under the tripod arms, vaulting over them or squeezing by them after bending them back slightly, the new, simply-walk-through-behind-someone-else-or-after-somebody-comes-through-in-the-opposite-direction method has made it easier. The system is so flawed that T officials rely on it regularly to get riders through when their shiny , brand-spanking new CharlieCards or monthly pass CharlieTickets *gasp* malfunction. So, really, who's to say somebody's not trying to take advantage of the obvious flaw versus just getting frustrated because the system is working right and *gasp* actually has places to go and people to meet rather than haggle with a CSA (customer service agent) or inspector and convince them that their pass is valid but malfunctioning... rather than just go through behind someone else, which is the generally the CSA's and inspectors' solution anyway?

And really, should we feel violated if someone walked through behind us? Honestly, I think, even less so than buying a newspaper, especially one of the more expensive Sunday editions, out of a newpaper box and having someone piggyback on that. Because, really, as the sarcasm of my title of this rant alludes to, does recuperating what little percentage of the "3% to 5% of the T's annual revenue" it actually will through this "aggressive" campaign actual make it, or anybody, really think this is even a first step to lowering the authority's deficit, pegged at somewhere between 5 and 8 billion dollars? Sure, but only if you also believe, as I mentioned, that the cost of keeping one or more Transit Police officers and/or inspectors at some of the worst "trouble spots" in the system is actually going to be offset by the recuperation. Because, let's be honest, how many people per day, is it going to take to make it worth it--25? 50? 100? This is a transit agency, not a casino. Perhaps the real ploy is to make money off the fines for fare beating, the "15 for first offense up to $250 for a third." For me, this only equally laughable.

Taking a queue from Boston's anything-but-a-real-solution Mayor, the T has decided that the best way to punish people who beat the system, get the non-criminal tickets, and fail to pay them... is to have their licenses suspended. In case you missed that, let me reiterate the rundown:
the T (MBTA)
has decided (this is the best that came out of the boardroom)
that the best way (because if the Mayor came up with it, why not use it too)
to punish (yeah, right)
people who beat the system, (the poor and some college students)
get the non-crimal tickets, (it's not a "crime"--it's an "infraction")
and fail to pay them... (again the poor and some college students)
is to have their licenses suspended (because they're really gonna miss the license they're not using while they're not driving the car they either don't have, is uninsured, or safe at home with Mommy and Daddy, which is why they're riding the T in the first place... oh yeah, and *saving the planet from global warming).

Again, this one was just too easy. And, by the way, MBTA, don't worry about me--I subscribe to my shiny, (hopefully all-the-time) functional Zone 1A Pass. Let me know when those conductors' scanners are up and running, will ya?

*Pleased don't take the comment out of context. The point was that there are certain people, not just specifically the poor or college students, so don't get me wrong, who regularly ride the MBTA for various reasons, sometimes the least of which are because they think that they're making a difference socially, economically and environmentally by doing so, which is exactly why I do... when I'm not cycling... or I need to pick up a lot of stuff... or big stuff... you get my point.


At 1/19/2007 08:50:00 PM, Blogger John Mc said...

oh please. it's always the poor, isn't there. Well you know who jumps gates all the times? kids. kids with $100 jeans and $200 sneakers and ipods and CD Players and gameboys. These kids are in no way shape or form poor.

Or how about the 'poor' people who try to skip fare on the bus, while carrying bags form expensive stores in their hands and a bag of fast food int he other and they can't pay bus fare because that purchase was more important than the $150 to get you from here to there.

I'm sure fare is a problem for some people, but don't assume everyone jumps turnstyles because they're poor. But most poor, who are very respectable people, aren't goign to jump turnstyles and try to get free rides.

At 1/20/2007 07:21:00 AM, Blogger Train Mon! said...


I'm not going to disagree with you. I think I may have been singling out the poor in my attempt to overstate the fact that I think cracking down on those few of us who do jumb the faregates is a rather fruitless--and heartless--measure.

I apologize if it seemed, especially through the title of the article, that I was centering on the poor as far as being the most at-fault for jumping the faregates. On the other hand, to completely discredit the fact that even some poor people jump the faregates is to also say that it's unfair to target some of society's poor as far being behind store and bank robberies. Sure, society has it's fair share of rich knuckleheads who carry out these misdeeds for "the thrill," "for props," etc., but statistically these crimes are more likely to be committed by lower-income-bracket people, at least in urban areas. This is a fact I think a lot of people ignore when there's talk of creating more jobs and raising the minimum wage--if you give people decent jobs and decent salaries, the crime rate does go down.

To my defense, I did also allude, to a lesser extent, to the ignorant, mostly college-aged people, who also take advantage of jumping the faregates. I also mentioned how the culprit could be some pass-holding person whose pass is malfunctioning and "cheats" the system rather than wait and haggle with an inspector or CSA over why they have a working pass that the machine(s) aren't taking. I realize that in saying the poor I should have said some poor; again, the purpose of the title was to make the T's effort look fruitless--and the T look heartless--not to exploit the misdeeds of some of the poor amongst others who do the same.

At 1/20/2007 07:22:00 AM, Blogger Train Mon! said...

And thank you, John, for reading.


At 1/20/2007 12:53:00 PM, Blogger Fenway said...

Hey TrainMon

I pretty much share your views on the gates. I wrote about them here and here. In the second entry I mentioned The jury is still out on the new faregates in the subway. At least Scheidt & Bachmann decided to use a company based in Belgium to design and build the gates. The company Automatic Control Systems does have a proven track record in building fare gates . The company gushed in a press release "Boston ‘T’ Metro : a huge contract" Originally the T ordered the following

MBTA ordered 450 tripod turnstiles, 175 high-speed gates with flaps and 50 full-height turnstiles (single and double), for the metro and railways stations of the MBTA. The first prototypes will be delivered at the end of November 2003. The first installation is due to take place in July 2004. The balance will be progressively installed until June 2005.

Turnstyles?? Instead of those high flap gates that sometimes balk at letting you out of a station. What happened??? Well the company issued another press release in 2006 titled "biggest contract ever signed by Automatic Control Systems" and explains that the T changed the order to the gate system instead of turnstyles. The only reason I can think of why the T did this was to crack down on turnstyle jumpers.

At the very start, Automatic Systems received an order for 450 Tripod Turnstiles, 175 High-Speed Gates and 50 Full-Height Turnstiles (one and two walkways).

But the MBTA (Massachusetts Bay Transport Authority), very concerned both by the security and safety of the passengers, and also preoccupied by the system profitability and fight against fraud, chose a better solution and decided to replace the original tripod turnstiles by high-speed gates, bringing the ordered quantity from 175 high speed gates to 643, totalling 19 different configurations.


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