Sunday, May 24, 2009

To the MTA

To the MTA:

Are you still planning to reduce the number of station agents in your cutbacks for the budget?

I really hope not.

You claim that they're not necessary because people can just use the automated machines to get their Metrocards. This misses the point of the agents. The agents are there to help people when machines cannot. Can machines give directions if someone can't read the subway map? No. Can machines clearly tell people what routes aren't working if someone can't figure it out after reading the 50 signs in the station about diversions? No.

And most importantly to me today - can machines help when your unlimited card fails? No.

I bought an unlimited metrocard this morning for use today, knowing that I would take at least 4 trips on the subway, and would save at least $0.50 by getting an unlimited card for the day. I used it twice and there was no problem. On the third try (of course, in Times Square where it was busy), it didn't work. It wanted me to swipe over and over in that turnstile. After 20 or more tries I gave up and tried at least 4 other turnstiles but nothing. The station agent thought maybe their turnstiles were the problem, since she confirmed my card was valid and could even tell when it was last used.

We took our trip downtown and out of curiosity, I tried my card again on the way out to see if I would have further problems. Yet again, it didn't work. So I guess it's not the turnstiles! This station agent told me that if I swiped it 20 times at the turnstile the card would fix itself. I told him I did that at the last station but it didn't work. So he tried it and it still didn't work. The solution? Tell the station agent at every station you're at what the problem is and they'll let you in. Could I get a replacement card since I knew I had at least 2 more trips? No. Clearly each of the station agents I spoke to could see I had a valid card. But could a machine determine that and let me through the gate?

Now, MTA, please tell me. If you get rid of station agents, how would I get through with my unlimited card if there is no agent at the station? Yes, it was annoying having to go through my story over and over, but the card was clearly valid and no one could figure out why it was broken. I would have to buy a new card even though I had an unlimited card, and would you reimburse me for that? Somehow I think not.

So how can you get rid of station agents when you need people to evaluate and solve problems like that? How would that work?


No comments: