The MBTA's shiny new CharlieCard store at Downtown Crossing is off to a rocky start, as computer glitches were causing delays of an hour for some transactions.
The 1,800 square-foot facility takes the place of a smaller service center at Back Bay Station. That center closed on Friday. Customers can do a range of transactions at the new CharlieCard store, including getting photos for discounted T passes for seniors and the disabled.
On Tuesday, the second day of the new store's opening, lines stretched from the air-conditioned area inside the store into the sweltering, non-air conditioned tunnel outside. Because the sliding doors had to be propped open, much of the AC was lost.
T workers, who helped this reporter get a new CharlieCard, were helpful and positive. However, a computer glitch made some customers endure waits of an hour.
Computer-related delays of an hour had also marred the center's opening on Monday, according to the Metro. On the first day, the average wait time was 35 minutes, said T spokesperson Joe Pesaturo.
On elderly customer, Rao Ln — on an extended visit from Bangalore, India — had waited about an hour to get a photo for his discounted pass.
"Systems go down everywhere," an even-keeled Ln said of the wait.
While some customers muttered audible frustration, most seemed to take the delays in stride.
Mary Clark had come all the way from the Greater Lawrence Educational Collaborative in her work helping blind and disabled children get discounted T passes. One difference from the Back Bay center is that customers can take a number. Clark's was 578.
"I need to get it done," she said, about 40 minutes into her estimated one-hour wait. "We've come from Lowell and we're not going back."
Her charge, a young student, kept himself busy playing video games. Clark wrote to Patch later on Tuesday saying she got through in about an hour. That's luckier than some, whom she said were given free vouchers to get home without completing their transactions.
T clerks advised some senior customers who didn't want to wait an hour to come back around the time the store opened at 8 a.m. or after the rush was over around 4 p.m.
The new CharlieCard store is at Downtown Crossing, convenient for both the Orange and Red Lines. The Green Line isn't far away, either. The store is closest to the Arch Street entrance to Downtown Crossing.
The CharlieCard store is open Monday-Friday 8 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Here is a list of services available:
- Get photo ID for a Senior Pass, Transportation Access Pass (TAP), Visually Impaired Pass, or RIDE CharlieCard
- Purchase MBTA passes
- Transfer value from paper CharlieTickets to plastic CharlieCards
- Replace damaged CharlieTickets or CharlieCards
- Para-transit customers may add credit to their RIDE accounts
- Many services are also availabe online, such as adding value to your CharlieCard.
In a statement, the state's transportation chief said the new facility is a big step up from the one at Back Bay Station.
"The new Charlie Card store means there is no more separate but equal for our customers," said Richard Davey. "This facility offers all of our riders an opportunity to conduct their business in a welcoming, comfortable and accessible way. I am proud to offer this new feature for our MBTA users."
Pesaturo said the new CharlieCard store served 456 customers on Monday, more than ever served in a single day with just the customer service center in Downtown Crossing. He said the T is working to shorten wait times.
"Our customer service manager is working with the T’s Information Technology staff to address the computer issues, and shorten the time required for each transaction," Pesaturo wrote in an e-mail to Patch. "Since more than half of [Monday's] customers were seeking photo IDs for reduced fare benefits…staff is developing a system to accommodate those whose transactions require less time than others."