09 November 2004

Who's in Pyjamas Walter?

Scottoway is evidently really psyched about the new Charlie Card, which will replace tokens on the MBTA. Since we all know how much he loves it when I disagree with him, I wanted to post my thoughts on this development:

The MBTA unveiled their final plans for the Washington
DC-style fare card that will replace the token system. Apparently this
will "dramatically improve ease and convenience" for MBTA users, making
the subway "more convenient" and "easy-to-use" (sense any repetition?)
with "a strong emphasis on the customer." Obviously the best way to
achieve this dramatic new goal is to eliminate any form of human
contact, increase the complexity of the rate structure, and equip every
user with an electronic tracking device.

The last time I visited NYC I had to take the
subway a number of times: to get from the Port Authority bus terminal
to Lopez's crib, to Crooklyn and back, and back to the bus. At first I
was irked at having to buy a card and then I was confused about how
much my fare was going to be. Like much of my hatred for New York, this
was irrational since the Metrocard
machine proved easy enough to use and the turnstile simply debited the
appropriate fare, without me having to worry too much about it. As far
as human contact goes, I don't think I'll miss my encounters with token
sellers all that much, since they're invariably on the booth phone
bitching about their kids. Plus, the article clearly states that
passengers who frown at the wave-of-the-future automation of the
Charlie Card (evidently sourpusses like Scottoway) can still use the
Charlie Ticket, which they can presumably buy from a real person at the
station (all the NYC stations came complete with surly Metro

Anyone who has experienced the "ease" and
"convenience" of the present automated token dispensing machines --
which to date have rejected roughly half of my bills, stolen $3.75
without dispensing anything, caused me to miss two trains, and once
left me stranded outdoors in Newton during a snowstorm because I had
only $20 bills -- can simply wonder what the hell they've been smoking.

This line of reasoning doesn't make any sense to
me. The MBTA is planning to replace all those old, clunky token
dispensers with new machines which will take $20 bills. Sounds like a good
thing to me.

Part of the blame must surely fall on our moronic Mayor Menino

always happy to blame Mumbles, since he's such an insufferable goon. So
I'll make a token concession by not commenting on the unrelated rant
which followed this sentence in Scott's original opus.

I'm not throwing around the term "electronic
tracking device" loosely, either. These passes, they have announced,
will actually be RFID cards, encoded with unique IDs, that can be read
by antennae up to 3 feet away. Not even Washington can track its
population by radio! Isn't it great to be on the forefront of

Ahh, the pièce de resistance—a dash of Richard Stallman level
paranoia. The cards are dispensed anonymously, therefore there's no way
to connect any information to a particular person. I can't believe that
Scott of all people would conflate the new technology (RFID vs.
mag-swipe) with unrelated and already existing functionality (tracking
anonymous usage). Using RFID doesn't give them any more power to track
users than does mag-swipe (unless they care that I've walked within 3
feet of a turnstile without passing through it), it just makes it
(shock!) more convenient for passengers. I'm sure my mag-swipe monthly
T pass has a unique ID on it, and I frankly couldn't possibly care less
whether the MBTA is tracking which stations I enter. In fact, I'm glad
they do, because I'm certain they use such information for such
Orwellian functions as scheduling trains!!!

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