The MBTA from Hell
As a travel writer, I’ve experienced the Metro systems in Paris, London, Montreal, New York City, Mexico City, Toronto and Boston. I would give the MBTA system a 3 out of 10 for the following reasons:
1) Why do they call the card a Charlie Card, and not an MBTA card?
Who is Charlie anyway? Somebody’s great-great-great-great-grandfather who came over on the Mayflower? Maybe someone in Boston should remember that over 100,000 students from all over the world come here to study each year, and at the very least the card should be called what it is—a transit card, or pass, or just the MBTA card, using logic and/or common sense!
2) Where do you find a Charlie Card?
Well, only the shadow knows? You can find them at the unmanned booths given out by the Ghostbusters! No actually, I think there are only two places where you can get the infamous Charlie Card, so again, let’s make it painfully difficult for the non-American, or non-Bostonian to meander through the cow paths of Boston to find one.
3) Why do they have a Charlie Card AND a Charlie Ticket?
Let’s then cause even more confusion! No, we can’t just have one card, there has to be a ticket, with a different price no less. I could understand if the ticket was for the bus, and the card for the metro, but again, this would require logic, which doesn’t exist in Boston.
4) Why don’t signs exist in foreign languages on the Charlie Card Booth?
I guess English is still considered the main language, or so the Bostonians think. Nope—the top languages in the world are French, Italian, German, Spanish/Portuguese and Italian, with Chinese quickly rising in the ranks. In my native Colorado, it is considered a bi-lingual state, with Spanish and English being the prominent language.
5) Where is the Invisible Bus Map?
Paris had the best bus/metro map that I remember from when I studied there in 1988. One side was the metro, the other was the bus, again, where’s that missing logic? Boston had a bus map at one point, but you had to pay money for it, so then of course nobody had one. And to hang a full size map of the bus system at the Ashmont T stop? That would require not only common sense, but to see a much bigger picture than the typical Bostonian can manage. The Ashmont T is close to UMass Boston, a direct line from the South Station Bus Depot and the Airport, so again, the Bostonians missed the boat (or in this case the bus).
6) What Happens when a Brocktonian can’t afford a Charlie Card?
I experienced this today at the Ashmont T stop with a young couple from Brockton, MA. First, they were afraid to ask for help, or maybe just embarrassed because they couldn’t afford the fare. We discussed options and they decided that the bus was their only option—they had exactly $2.50 for the fare. They were basically ignored until I arrived with large luggage behind me, looking like a lost tourist, but at least was willing to help.
7) Why don’t Bostonians help people arriving at Ashmont?
This is the question of the decade, or maybe of the Millennial generation. They just can’t be bothered. I walked past a line of “locals”, with the non-whites either stressed out or listening to music, while the one young white couple hid an annoying smirk. I simply yelled out loudly, “Can anyone tell me where there is a bus map to get downtown,” and looked at the white couple. They replied, “They can take the red Metro line to Park Street,” to which I replied, “No they can’t afford it.” I then yelled out “I guess we still live in Pain-in-my-Assachusetts”, and the MBTA police suddenly offered to give them a pass to the T. (Why don’t they call it a Metro, like every other country in the world?)
Anyway, I guess we are back to when I first arrived in Boston, and actually saw a poster with Boston viewed as the center of the universe. It simply said “Boston” on the left side, and “Rest of World” on the right side.” This was in 1992, when I arrived, so I’m sad to say, 21 years later, this is still true today.