>yes, i do say, it’s about time for another mbta rant. seems like i cant go for a month or so without feeling so incredibly compelled to externalise the upset in a written posting.

i have beef.

the new and ‘improved’ turnstile machines are an example of one of the worst designs, both in form and function, ever.

i’ve been exposed to them intermittently, usually whenever i have to travel, at the shiny ones installed at the south station stop and the airport station (back before i learned the ways of the silver line). but now that the machines have recently replaced the normal turnstiles on the inbound platform of kendall square, i have to share space with these beasts on a daily basis.

a primer of old vs. new:

(images from flickr, click to view streams)

the sins:

  • visually, the plastic swoopy things creep me out so badly. i would hate for a malfunction, because you’d literally be sliced in half by fast-moving reinforced plexiglass. the classic turnstile format (à la amusement park ride) is manual, forgiving, unobstructing, and accommodating. it openly permits without feeling like an inpenetratable and autonomously moving wall.
  • on another note, the swoopy doors use electricity to move the barriers in and out. the old turnstiles used a mechanical lock and then human power to proceed. how much energy is this new system wasting?
  • the new machines BEEEEEP every time a person goes through. it’s loud, a bit too long, and completely disruptive. why not a small visual indicator for feedback? the new york metro has an LCD readout that says “GO”, and the d.c. metro just spits out your processed ticket. the generated beep noise is completely unnecessary and abhorently annoying.
  • i’ve noticed lots of mbta staff scheduled to stand by the new machines and advise riders on how to use them. that’s the first hint: if you need a human to tell you how to walk through a turnstile, it’s badly designed. i’ve been riding the T for five years, as well as experience with subways all over the world, of course i can use a turnstile. today i waltzed in and slid in my card like usual. the thing balked. the helpful mbta guy (at beck and call) said to flip the card over and have the ‘white side up’. dah. this design of card insertion ticks me off to no end, because bostonians have always inserted our cards to the turnstiles with the coloured side facing toward us. coloured side, the magnetic strip. there’s no question, it’s routine, it’s how it works. having the white side (which is bland aside from a halfhearted arrow) toward us is a complete disruption, and indicative of how little research went into how riders actually use the T. it might seem silly, but every time i encounter a machine i insert my card ‘wrongly’. it’s the machines that are wrong!
  • just on a form issue, the old turnstiles were clunky and a bit unforgiving if you had a lot of bags or something, but there was always a push-gate if necessary and it’s robustly built and intuitive to use. plus, they’re kinda fun to hear click when you shimmy your hips through. the new machines are frighteningly autonomous, antiseptically plastic, and beepy and cold and ill-designed for the boston commuter.

thanks for humouring my cantankerousness. perhaps i’m just cranky because the system i’m used to is undergoing change, but i dont think i’m *that* curmudgeonly (okay, well, sometimes), and i don’t think the mbta is addressing the real issues that need solving. i do agree that having a debit-like permanent and refillable charlie card is a good idea, but what about having trains on schedule? a system to let you know when the next car is coming? how to get from here-to-there right in the station? actual escalators that work? being reliable? and not shafting residents who don’t have cars or live in underserved communities? your stupid new machines and annoying announcements on ‘reporting suspicious activity’ are not first priority!


in other news, my verizon wireless service plan expires on july 9 of this year. it’s been a good four years with them, though the phones are pretty dorky (my samsung a670 still can only play midi and wav ringtones) and the pricing plan isn’t terribly competitive. however, the service is dynamite, i can always talk to a human in customer service within a couple minutes of dialing, and i’ve never had issues with billing or unreliable reception. this is probably how they can stay afloat in a competitive market, and i applaud them for it. however, i am toying with the idea of switching providers, not only just for the thrill (the four-year itch?), but also because of the GSM / SIM card issue. anyone have suggestions for what to try? i know MIT has a discount with some service providers, but i wonder if i can still reap the benefits after i graduate this summer…

3 Responses to “”
  1. toshi says:

    >amazon.com. switch providers and you can get a semi-snazzy (razr, etc.) phone for free-as-in-beer.

  2. Reese says:

    >the new stiles remind me of the bart station stiles! my aunt didn’t walk through fast enough once at the bart stile and she got a nasty bruise on her hip for it.and by the way, you are yet another person to complain about the design of the new cards! why don’t they do what everyone else does and put the black strip on the PLAIN side of the card and the image on the OTHER side? more room for the image + arrow, more intuitive to use. what the hell. and why are they charlie cards? named after some bum named charlie who lived in the subway or something. why not just the B-card for Boston or, god forbid it should make sense, the T-card!I haven’t taken the subway T in so long that I haven’t seen the inside of Kendall (I’m more of a bus girl nowadays)! Does this mean a special trip just so I can go through it? I think so!

  3. Jared says:

    >OK, so I’m not cool to have ridden the T before. I personally kinda like to look of the new stiles – Frankfurt International German industrial design meets trendy smoked plexi? – but I don’t use ’em, so I guess my opinion lacks.However, with the older style stiles, it is much easier to defeat “The Man” and get through without paying. Hell, it’s quite easily done in D.C. (just not on the red or orange lines, not that I’d know). For the rest of the complaints of what they should fix, maybe they feel that these new stiles will help with in lost revenues to increase maintenance in due time. Then again, you Bostonians have the Big Dig, so who knows what the transit authority is thinking.Cards schmards. Old habits die hard, but I kinda have to take the mbta’s side on this: does it really matter? Not to go geek, but look at OS 9 v. OS X. Everyone hated Aqua. Now it’s “like butter”. You’ll adjust, just as you probably had to adjust to the system in the beginning (or like I had to with Vienna’s system or Budapest’s el-retardo 1-time use ticket system prior to getting a yearly pass).As for the phone, if you’ve been with Verizon for 4 years, you’re up for some serious customer benefits. Call them (or go to a retail store) and talk with a rep about a new phone. You are in line for free phones, better than normally offered plans, plenty of freebies.

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