Recently, the MBTA (Boston’s public transit system, also called the T) underwent some major changes, which can be boiled down to a single big change: you no longer use tokens. They’ve converted to a an electronic system involving the use of cards. Last week I mentioned that I got my first Charlie Card. Previously I’d unwittingly bought a Charlie Ticket. What’s the difference? Let me lay out the differences and similarities for you:
Charlie Card: Hard plastic, like a credit card. Very sturdy.
Charlie Ticket: Stiff paper, like a business card. Somewhat flimsy.
Charlie Card: Available for free, then you pay to add credit to it.
Charlie Ticket: Available for free, then you pay to add credit to it.
Charlie Card: Can be reused by adding credit to it.
Charlie Ticket: Can be reused by adding credit to it.
Charlie Card: Can be registered in case it gets lost.
Charlie Ticket: Can’t be registered. If you lose it, you lose. (Loser.)
Charlie Card: A T ride costs $1.70
Charlie Ticket: A T ride costs $2.00
Yes, this paper version of the MBTA card lets you ride the T for 30 cents more than if you take the same ride using the Charlie Card. Why would anyone want to do that? Why did I buy one? The short answer is cluelessness. I hadn’t even realized there were two different kinds of tickets. The Charlie Ticket is what’s available from the machines. To get your Charlie Card, you must know to seek out a distribution point and ask for one. Easy enough, as long as you know. The Charlie Ticket must be meant especially for newbies and tourists. A tax on cluelessness, as it were. Perhaps it should be called the Sucker Ticket, or the Clueless Card. But I suppose that would spoil the fun.
And so that this post won’t end up being just a rant, I should bring up some fun trivia that folks not around Boston may not know about. The name of the Charlie Card actually refers to a song: “The M.T.A. Song,” by the Kingston Trio, a song about a guy named Charlie who gets stuck riding around on the T. Funny thing is, it’s a song written in protest of a fare increase in the Boston T system, then called the MTA. (And by the way, all these recent changes to the T system have also been accompanied by a big hike in fare.) And here, how about a list. A list of songs that relate to my T adventures: