MTA fare vending

Jarret Walker at Human Transit posted a 5 point list of how to make a transit system friendly to strangers.  His list, with the assistance of one of his readers, is posted below:

1. Figure out what the point(s) of access are for visitors to your city (i.e. train station, airport) and optimize customer service at those locations. If you can only focus your efforts on improving the experience in one place, start with the downtown train station.

2. Make sure every transit officer everywhere has maps. A transit officer without maps is like a waiter without menus.

3. Color code the bus lines on the route maps by level of frequency. … [JW:  I would say color-code all lines by frequency regardless of whether they’re bus, rail or ferry.  Many good European systems do this.]

4. Make change. Or make the fare structure or fare collection method (machines that take credit cards) such that you don’t have to.  [JW:  I would disagree with this only if drivers are collecting fares while their bus or streetcar/tram is waiting.  Historic practice in both Europe and Australasia is for drivers to make change.  It causes a lot of delay.  But of course off-board systems should make change.  Most claim to, but machines often run out of change quickly.]

5. Make the fare zones easy to understand, and make it such that most places visitors to the city would be going are all within one fare zone.

I think Jarret and his commenter are spot on.  I would add that every stop with a turnstile should have working vending machines for fares (something Philadelphia, for example, lacks).  I would also clarify his maps to say that as many signs and maps as possible should be in multiple major world languages and symbols should be used to avoid language when possible.

I really like the idea of focusing on certain central locations.  While visitors will certainly visit and sometimes start their transit trips at non-central locations, such as if they are first picked up by family or hosts, certain stations certainly are more trafficked than others by visitors.

The one addition that is necessary, is to have a visitor-friendly website.  Many tourists will surely check out the website of a transit agency either while in or before visiting a city, especially in the era of the iphone. Websites must be able to be read in multiple languages, like the MBTA’s, and the website must be able to correlate transit stops with popular and important city landmarks.

The added benefit of course is that if a transit system is accessible to a visitor it will sure be accessible to a city resident and perhaps make riding public transportation less formidable to the metropolitan citizen.