new and unfare service!

Now you citizens of Boston, Don't you think it's a scandal that the people have to pay and pay. ... Fight the fare increase! ... Get poor Charlie off the MTA. - from the song "Charlie on the MTA"

Poor Charlie's never getting off the train. Hell, with the MBTA's proposed fare increase, he'd be lucky if he could get on the the train in the first place.

You see, Charlie paid cash for his T ride. And if the T has its way, paying cash means you will pay a premium - 55 cents extra per subway ride and 40 cents extra per local bus ride, to be exact.

Here's the rub: Under the current proposal, if you buy a Charlie Card, the subway will cost $1.70 per ride and the bus will cost $1.25, with free transfers between the two. But if you come bearing cash or a Charlie Ticket, you'll pay $2.25 for the subway and $1.65 for the bus - and you get no free transfers between the two. That's $3.90 if you need to take the bus and the train somewhere - more than double the $1.70 you'd pay with a Charlie Card!

Of course, you won't be able to get a Charlie Card from the new self-serve machines that are being installed in every train station (though theoretically you will be able to refill the cards there). This means unsuspecting, unprepared locals will inevitably pay the higher fare, as will tourists. Granted, tourists already get ripped off with the Visitor's Pass (a seven-day Visitor's pass is $35, more than double the $16.50 it costs for a Weekly Combo Pass). And I'll be honest: I couldn't care less about the tourists.

But given the privacy concerns, why would you want to buy a Charlie Card? Right, you only want it because you don't want to fork over more money to a public transportation system that's more concerned with implementing a crappy new fare collection system rather than improving services people have been asking about for years.

Forget about the fact that everyone wants the trains to run as late as the nightlife. Forget that Roxbury residents wanted train service again - not a 10-years-later, too-little-too-late bus replacement. Forget that most everyone would simply love for the existing services to work well and run relatively on time. No, the T just had to figure out a way to get rid of the tokens that no one had a problem with - and do it in a way to penalize customers who would prefer to use good, old-fashioned cash or retain some bit of anonymity.

Charlie, it might be time to buy a bike. Or start making an RFID blocking wallet to hold that Charlie Card.

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