Frustrating half-assed technology solutions

1
Nov
2013

If you thought this post would be about the healthcare.gov website, you were wrong. That went without a hitch for me (well, except comparing plans is super confusing, but that is not a technology problem). Rather, I am talking about the MTA’s Metro-North “WebTicket” system.

I am heading upstate this weekend for a couple of days with friends who have invited me to their lovely cabin in the woods (or the suburbs, not entirely sure how to classify the location in the Hudson Valley). I am supposed to take the Metro-North line to Poughkeepsie, where I will meet them at around 5pm this evening. So I thought I would look up information on the MTA website. Design issues aside, I was able to fairly easily locate my train information, and then was pleased as punch to notice a “WebTicket” option for purchasing my ticket online.  I went through the process to select my ticket and then just before the purchase step, there is a bold notice in large letters stating:

“Your tickets will be mailed to you at no additional charge. You will receive them in 2-3 business days. You cannot print out the tickets on your home computer. Do you wish to continue with your purchase?”

Are you F-ing kidding me?! What is the point of online purchase? What kind of MORON designed an online system where you couldn’t keep your tickets on your smart phone or at least have the ability to print them out? They have made a system which COULD have saved them millions in labor and infrastructure (people gathering the tickets to mail them, restocking machines with special paper, keeping a greater number of machines in the terminals) and would have been convenient for people purchasing them (and saved trees if people could have kept them electronically) and instead have made it a stupid mail order system for physical goods.

UGH.

MTA tip

28
Jan
2012

Hey, for my fellow New Yorkers: Ever been bugged by a bunch of extra subway cards that you can’t do anything with because they have some odd amount of change on them, or because they are expired? They seem to pile up and are wasted money, because the MTA vending machines don’t allow you to combine the money on several cards. They only allow you to add money to your existing card, which in many cases may be on its last legs or damaged (unlike BART machines, which allows you to combine and issue new cards). The MTA sort of counts on this inconvenience I suppose, because they raise many millions of dollars every year from unused fares.

Fortunately, I discovered recently that you can get old cards combined at any manned booth. You still have the risk of dealing with a surly booth person whose tv watching, phone calls or newspaper reading you are surely interrupting with your petty service needs, but it can be done. They will, however, only combine four cards at a time, requiring you to go to another booth to combine more. (At least that was the story I got from the ill tempered man at the booth at 16th street the other day) So at the end, I had recovered about 30 bucks from expired or small change cards, not bad at all.