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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Who's doing your PR?

I guess the MBTA doesn't need to do a press release when the Globe does it for them.

Imagine my surprise when I navigated over to the MBTA site to find the press release upon which the Globe story was based -- and found the story itself, without anything written by the T's crack PR staff.

Mac Daniel did an interview with Dan "I Don't Ride Commuter Rail" Grabuaskas in which he waxed enthusiastic about "acceptance" for the CharlieCard. Daniel notes more CharlieCards are in circulation now than a similar card in Chicago after four years.

What's missing are a lot of numbers and a lot of context.
  • What are actual fare collection and ridership numbers -- not just the number of cards in circulation? Are revenues up or down compared to last year -- using both the old fare collections and an appropriate multiplier to account for the higher fees?
  • How many of those cards are part of the monthly pass system and how does that compare to the number of the old CharlieTickets, used as a monthly commuter passes through December?
  • If these cards represent 40 percent of the system's financial transactions, what was that number when riders depending on tokens and cash?
  • Does Chicago have a similar pass system or are we comparing applies to watermelons?
  • What do some of those riders who use the CharlieCards, particularly on the Green Line, say about the experience?
Say this about Bostonians -- we are smart enough not to pay a premium for the privilege to get on board. It's better to pay $1.70 for a cramped, jostled trip into town rather than $2.

And I keep coming back to the same questions: why do I get hassled using my pass to come in the front door when riders continue to get on for free -- inbound and outbound -- on the Green Line? And why does it seem to me that there are fewer people on the subway?

I don't doubt that things are operating more smoothly on the Red, Blue, Orange and Silver lines, where the only thing people need to deal with is cattle car conditions. But it would be helpful if the Globe took the time to actually ride the system for a week or more -- during rush hour, nights and weekends, do see what commuters deal with, particularly on the Green Line.

I also hope tomorrow's dead tree version of the story contains some of the answers missing from an online love sonnet that the T felt was so good they happily linked to it to tell their story.

UPDATE: Today's Globe story doesn't answer the revenue question with facts -- only projections, with the T "declining" to release January numbers because they have yet to tabulate them. Don't the vaunted new fare boxes do that automatically? And while I'm sure fare evasion was a major problem. my personal observations -- again based on Green Line back doors -- suggest it isn't any better.

And while the Globe fails to answer many of my questions, Charlie on the MBTA raises a whole bunch more. He also answers my Chicago question. It is an apples to watermelons comparison.

Meanwhile, over at the Herald, real riders are heard from, and a soon-to-be former employee steps off the peace, love and happiness bandwagon.

“There’s a lot of changes and a lot of confusion,” Ian Larrabee, special assistant to the T’s general manager, conceded yesterday.



Blogger Charlie said...

I just exploded on my blog about this

something smells rotten

This statement from Grabauskas can not be true

In January, 86 percent of T riders used CharlieCards and paid the lowest amount under the new fare structure. About 14 percent of riders paid a new surcharge by using CharlieTickets or paying cash, a number Grabauskas said he want to lower in the next several months. In addition, 87 percent of all bus passengers used the low-fare CharlieCards, while 13 percent of riders paid a surcharge. On Green Line surface stops, 96 percent paid with CharlieCards and 4 percent paid a surcharge.

It can't be true for the simple reason that many January passes were issued on CharlieTicket stock as the retail locations had not been converted. I think anybody who has ridden a bus or the subway in the past month would find these figures out of whack at least for January.

Of course the T is being cute with this. Instead of issuing a press release on their own they simply republish the Globe article by Mac Daniel.

Mac you have been had. Any commuter will tell you these figures are not correct.

February 09, 2007 12:12 AM  

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