MBTA and other faregates discussion

Amtrak Unlimited Discussion Forum

Help Support Amtrak Unlimited Discussion Forum:

AmtrakBlue

Engineer
Gathering Team Member
Joined
May 6, 2011
Messages
14,585
Location
Delaware
Later today I’ll be in DC on segment 10 of an 11 segment USA loop. I used the DC Metro for the first from Gaithersburg MD (suburb) to Columbus Circle DC in 1977. At Columbus there was a very long escalator.

But more recently during the pandemic, I used the metro twice and the DC fare structure was too complicated Also a very short trip took three trains.

In Boston one fare fits all and seniors are half price - about $1:40 for the T including subway transfers. The MBTA Commuter Rail is half price tor seniors, or $5.50 for an hour ride from the suburbs.

DC rides from the suburbs are especially cheap off-peak and seniors. I expect DC and Mass subsidize transit to keep cars out of the city.

So for today it’s a trip to the zoo then dinner and music at the Dubliner..ha ha .

... if my legs hold up.
Tip, get off the red line north of the zoo as it will be a downhill walk to the zoo. Then for your return to Union Station, turn left out of the zoo, and cross the street at some point, to the other metro stop - again, it’s downhill.
 

EchoSierra

Train Attendant
Joined
Aug 26, 2017
Messages
53
I'm pretty sure the fare gates aren't replacing conductors checking tickets on the trains, it's just a second check, and requires everyone going to and from North Station to have a ticket.
You are correct. Basically, they exist so that if a conductor somehow doesn't check/collect your ticket, that:

1. If you have a paper ticket you won't be able to use it at the gate again (paper tickets now have scannable codes and are also tappable)
2. If you have a ticket on the app, it forces you to actvate it so that even if the conductor doesn't check it, it's used up.
3. If you're coming in off the train and you didn't have a ticket to begin with, you now need to buy one to get out.*

*This is the way it's supposed to work. In practice, I think the ambassadors just let you out.
 
Last edited:

HP_Lovecraft

Service Attendant
Joined
Jul 2, 2008
Messages
235
Tip, get off the red line north of the zoo as it will be a downhill walk to the zoo. Then for your return to Union Station, turn left out of the zoo, and cross the street at some point, to the other metro stop - again, it’s downhill.

Granted, the entire zoo itself is on one steep hill. So, you will walk down the hill, then back up, then back down to the "lower station". Fine for me, but when I'm dragging my kids I'll usually grab a stroller so they don't have to make the walk back up.

However, one year I thought I'd be clever. Walk downhill through the zoo, then take the "back exit" at the bottom of the hill. On the map, it looks like its right next to the lower subway station. haha. nope. don't ever make that mistake
 

daybeers

Conductor
Joined
Jan 6, 2016
Messages
1,730
Location
NHV
I generally disagree with controlling access to platforms, but it really depends on the system, its needs, and its fare structure. The MBTA is mismanaged, especially in their finance department, and they were scared that too many people were getting free rides on full trains leaving the terminals in Boston. So they spent millions on faregates that will inconvenience all for the revenue of a few.

Nothing really anyone can do, but I also think they should be pretty easy to use. Scan the QR code on the gate, and it opens. But travelers in this country are quite averse to change, so 🤷🏻‍♂️
 

AmtrakBlue

Engineer
Gathering Team Member
Joined
May 6, 2011
Messages
14,585
Location
Delaware
Granted, the entire zoo itself is on one steep hill. So, you will walk down the hill, then back up, then back down to the "lower station". Fine for me, but when I'm dragging my kids I'll usually grab a stroller so they don't have to make the walk back up.

However, one year I thought I'd be clever. Walk downhill through the zoo, then take the "back exit" at the bottom of the hill. On the map, it looks like its right next to the lower subway station. haha. nope. don't ever make that mistake
I looked at the back exit too. I did a street view walk and decided I’d go back to the main entrance.
 
Joined
Sep 2, 2021
Messages
1,119
Location
Lubec, ME
I generally disagree with controlling access to platforms, but it really depends on the system, its needs, and its fare structure. The MBTA is mismanaged, especially in their finance department, and they were scared that too many people were getting free rides on full trains leaving the terminals in Boston. So they spent millions on faregates that will inconvenience all for the revenue of a few.

Nothing really anyone can do, but I also think they should be pretty easy to use. Scan the QR code on the gate, and it opens. But travelers in this country are quite averse to change, so 🤷🏻‍♂️
Traveling in the UK and Ireland, every major city terminus has fare gates and people seem to be pretty used to it. Of course they have had a long history of controlled access to platforms there so people are used to it. In the past the gates were manned by actual people who scanned your ticket.
 
Joined
Apr 5, 2011
Messages
5,341
Location
Baltimore. MD
I generally disagree with controlling access to platforms, but it really depends on the system, its needs, and its fare structure. The MBTA is mismanaged, especially in their finance department, and they were scared that too many people were getting free rides on full trains leaving the terminals in Boston. So they spent millions on faregates that will inconvenience all for the revenue of a few.

Nothing really anyone can do, but I also think they should be pretty easy to use. Scan the QR code on the gate, and it opens. But travelers in this country are quite averse to change, so 🤷🏻‍♂️
Well, SEPTA has them on Regional Rail, too, and it seems to be working. But I can see a problem, as the outlying regional rail stations have no fare control, and the whole process involves too many scans -- you're supposed to scan at the uncontrolled outlying station, get scanned by the conductor on board, and then scan in Center City in order to get out. That seems like a lot of moving parts just get your fare collected. What happens if a passenger forgets to scan his ticket at the outlying station, or if there's no conductor on the train to scan the ticket? Or if the ticket vending machine at the outlying station isn't working?

On the other hand, I know from my travels that both the UK and Japan have platforms that are more or less totally behind faregates. This includes mainline intercity as well as commuter service. They seem to make it work, so I guess it should work here, too.
 

jis

Chief Dispatcher
Staff member
Administator
Moderator
AU Supporting Member
Gathering Team Member
Joined
Aug 24, 2003
Messages
35,192
Location
Space Coast, Florida, Area code 3-2-1
On the other hand, I know from my travels that both the UK and Japan have platforms that are more or less totally behind faregates. This includes mainline intercity as well as commuter service. They seem to make it work, so I guess it should work here, too.
In Japan around Tokyo, many of the far outlying stations in the boonies do not have fare gates but have tap posts where you are supposed to tap (equivalent of scan). If you forget then when you do the exit tap/faregate you get charged some ungodly high amount. So it is a very good idea to work hard to find somewhere to tap when you get on. :D This is true in Toronto too. Oyster in London is used both in faregated part of the network and POP portion like the LRTs, and forgeting to tap can lead to some higher than needed charges. The saving grace is you cannot screw yourself too much because of the day cap.
 

TheCrescent

OBS Chief
Joined
Jun 24, 2020
Messages
550
I wish every train station had fare gates. It reduces crime, and Amtrak could ease up on its idiotic boarding and ticket check procedures if tickets are (somewhat) verified by the gates.

Brightline has fare gates and basically everything that Brightline does is good.
 

HP_Lovecraft

Service Attendant
Joined
Jul 2, 2008
Messages
235
In general, I think its a great idea. Amtrak downeaster bugs aside.
Every year, I'll take some of my kids to boston for a day of railfanning. Riding all the subways, trolleys, bendy-buses, commuter rails, etc. Seeing odd stations, etc. I've done this for nearly 20 years (great thing about having lots of kids). Occasionally taking a sleeper to worcester, or acela to providence. just to get the "free" meal... haha

Boston is a great city for this because railfanning is pretty cheap- kids are all free, and the subway only charges a flat fee- we will make a game of trying to hit "all the colors" for a single fare. or trying to time a commuter rail trip to catch a return train with minutes to spare.

But I've noticed for short rail trips, the conductor almost never makes it to us before we get off. I'm sure lots of locals "game the system" by reusing tickets when the conductor never makes it to them.
I also see lots of people not get a ticket, then act confused when the conductor stops them. I suspect they have learned that most small trips never end up needing a ticket.

Sometimes conductors deal with the short trip "loophole" but only opening certain cars. But the turnstiles makes everyone honest. Seems a nobrainer, but I hope it doesnt mean reducing the number of conductors down the road... or elliminating them all together, subway style
 

Rambling Robert

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
May 30, 2021
Messages
291
Location
Boston
The night train arrived at BBY perfectly on time and I made it over to BON on a new Orange Line car. It was about 9 AM last Saturday and one fare gate was lighted green and wide open.

If there is no one to monitor,the gates thry xound br left opened and a green light shown.
 

EchoSierra

Train Attendant
Joined
Aug 26, 2017
Messages
53
Well, SEPTA has them on Regional Rail, too, and it seems to be working. But I can see a problem, as the outlying regional rail stations have no fare control, and the whole process involves too many scans -- you're supposed to scan at the uncontrolled outlying station, get scanned by the conductor on board, and then scan in Center City in order to get out. That seems like a lot of moving parts just get your fare collected. What happens if a passenger forgets to scan his ticket at the outlying station, or if there's no conductor on the train to scan the ticket? Or if the ticket vending machine at the outlying station isn't working?

On the other hand, I know from my travels that both the UK and Japan have platforms that are more or less totally behind faregates. This includes mainline intercity as well as commuter service. They seem to make it work, so I guess it should work here, too.

Outlying stations are not the problem. Interzone/suburban travel costs half as a much as it does to go into Boston and there isn't a significant amount of people who do travel between intermediate zones to warrant fare gates in the outlying stations.

It's a cultural thing. People who live in places where there are fare gates everywhere are simply used to it, and if they aren't, then they will learn quickly that forgetting to tap results in being charged the max fare. If this is the direction that the MBTA wants to go, then people are just going to have to deal with it. They can complain all they want, but they're going to have to figure it out eventually.
 

Fenway

Service Attendant
AU Supporting Member
Joined
Feb 25, 2022
Messages
229
Location
Boston, MA
Last edited:
Joined
Sep 2, 2021
Messages
1,119
Location
Lubec, ME
When I was in the UK and Ireland last fall, every major station had faregates and I had no problem with them. Although I was using paper tickets at all times and did not try them using a phone. Sounds like the ability to scan a phone ticket is the major issue. Seems they should be able to fix that given that airlines have no problems scanning phone based boarding passes, so the technology exists.
 

jis

Chief Dispatcher
Staff member
Administator
Moderator
AU Supporting Member
Gathering Team Member
Joined
Aug 24, 2003
Messages
35,192
Location
Space Coast, Florida, Area code 3-2-1
When I was in the UK and Ireland last fall, every major station had faregates and I had no problem with them. Although I was using paper tickets at all times and did not try them using a phone. Sounds like the ability to scan a phone ticket is the major issue. Seems they should be able to fix that given that airlines have no problems scanning phone based boarding passes, so the technology exists.
In New York Subway stations I just use my Apple Watch these days. No problem. It is the same technology platforms as used by London Oyster.
 

jis

Chief Dispatcher
Staff member
Administator
Moderator
AU Supporting Member
Gathering Team Member
Joined
Aug 24, 2003
Messages
35,192
Location
Space Coast, Florida, Area code 3-2-1
People act like going through a faregate to ride a commuter train is some great travesty but somehow thousands of riders manage it at Secaucus Junction everyday, including absolutely packed trains coming from the Meadowlands following Jets and Giants games.
Agreed. Although not quite as many people as at Secaucus, but everyone going to or coming from Newark Airport Station goes through fare gates, both NJT and Amtrak passengers. Those gates can read both NJT and Amtrak QR/Bar codes.

And of course all of them that ride PATH or NY Subway go through fare gates too. It is just resistance to change - any change. It will pass, as kinks get ironed out and people realize that the fare gates are not going to go away just because they choose to throw a hissy fit about them. Justlike we are more or less over with bitchin' about tapping.
 

fdaley

OBS Chief
Joined
Jan 25, 2020
Messages
572
Location
upstate New York
People act like going through a faregate to ride a commuter train is some great travesty but somehow thousands of riders manage it at Secaucus Junction everyday, including absolutely packed trains coming from the Meadowlands following Jets and Giants games.
It's not really a problem for commuters and others on day trips who maybe have a backpack and likely have one or both hands free. But for people traveling longer distances who are pulling a roller bag in one hand and holding a child's hand with the other, or pushing a wheelchair while trying to keep track of children, it's a choke point where one now has to stop, fumble and juggle because one doesn't have a third hand to produce a ticket or phone where none was required previously until you were aboard the train.
 

jis

Chief Dispatcher
Staff member
Administator
Moderator
AU Supporting Member
Gathering Team Member
Joined
Aug 24, 2003
Messages
35,192
Location
Space Coast, Florida, Area code 3-2-1
It's not really a problem for commuters and others on day trips who maybe have a backpack and likely have one or both hands free. But for people traveling longer distances who are pulling a roller bag in one hand and holding a child's hand with the other, or pushing a wheelchair while trying to keep track of children, it's a choke point where one now has to stop, fumble and juggle because one doesn't have a third hand to produce a ticket or phone where none was required previously until you were aboard the train.
That is why there are special wider gates separate from the fast stream regular gates. People who require a little extra time and have baggage are not supposed to gum up the regular gates but go to the gates that have been set up specifically for them It works just fine at Newark Airport Station where a lot of people actually are dragging their bags along, by the very nature of the stop.

It is the change in procedure that irks people until they get used to it. Even if ticket examination by a person was introduced there would initially be complaints. But eventually they will get past it.
 
Last edited:

Rambling Robert

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
May 30, 2021
Messages
291
Location
Boston
People act like going through a faregate to ride a commuter train is some great travesty but somehow thousands of riders manage it at Secaucus Junction everyday, including absolutely packed trains coming from the Meadowlands following Jets and Giants games.
For some people who are honest and pay their proper fair they could be bothered by having to wait in line, and go through the faregate - especially to LEAVE the station! — ALL to catch people who habitually DON’T pay their proper fare. These cheats could “make” a few thousand a year.

With faregates JUST at North Station - the cheat could still buy a minimum OUTBOUND ticket just to the next station and still “make” a thousand or two.

Good to know the Jets and Giants are okay with faregates - I don’t about the Bruins (especially).

================================

The last time I went through the faregate to leave North station - the Amtrak QR phone code didn't work - an MBTA staff wasn’t available for minutes THEN after several attempts where they held MY PHONE over the scanner - then allowed me to finally get it to work. Many people were waiting to go to work. Not good!

The MBTA staff didn’t want to read my ticket - insisting for holding up the line.
 
Joined
Dec 26, 2014
Messages
3,819
For some people who are honest and pay their proper fair they could be bothered by having to wait in line, and go through the faregate - especially to LEAVE the station! — ALL to catch people who habitually DON’T pay their proper fare. These cheats could “make” a few thousand a year.

With faregates JUST at North Station - the cheat could still buy a minimum OUTBOUND ticket just to the next station and still “make” a thousand or two.

Good to know the Jets and Giants are okay with faregates - I don’t about the Bruins (especially).

================================

The last time I went through the faregate to leave North station - the Amtrak QR phone code didn't work - an MBTA staff wasn’t available for minutes THEN after several attempts where they held MY PHONE over the scanner - then allowed me to finally get it to work. Many people were waiting to go to work. Not good!

The MBTA staff didn’t want to read my ticket - insisting for holding up the line.

That’s awful. If they’re going to do it, then do it right. When I get off at Jefferson in Philly, SEPTA staff are right there. When I’ve had a suitcase, they’ve come right over to me and said “Come over here and go through with your suitcase while I scan your card.” Then often “Have a wonderful day!”

I have no problem accepting faregates if helpful staff with a good attitude are there as well.
 

jis

Chief Dispatcher
Staff member
Administator
Moderator
AU Supporting Member
Gathering Team Member
Joined
Aug 24, 2003
Messages
35,192
Location
Space Coast, Florida, Area code 3-2-1
That’s awful. If they’re going to do it, then do it right. When I get off at Jefferson in Philly, SEPTA staff are right there. When I’ve had a suitcase, they’ve come right over to me and said “Come over here and go through with your suitcase while I scan your card.” Then often “Have a wonderful day!”

I have no problem accepting faregates if helpful staff with a good attitude are there as well.
I agree. Unfortunately, progressively poor implementation of almost everything seems to have crept into our DNA over time. Nothing works well when implemented poorly.
 
Joined
Apr 5, 2011
Messages
5,341
Location
Baltimore. MD
The SEPTA faregates are OK, but after you check in, you can't check out for 10 minutes or so. Once I checked into Jefferson Station, went to the track, and realized that it was off-hours and the trains were not running very frequently, so I thought I'd get to 30th St. faster on the Market-Frankford Line. However, my Key Card wouldn't get me out of the faregates. Fortunately, there was an attendant that let me out, and also, fortunately, the Key Card worked fine for the Market Frankford Line. Another time, I was taking a Cynwyd Local that was leaving from Track 7. It turns out that Tracks 5-7 at Suburban Station (at least in section A) are completely separated from the fare gated section for tracks 1-4, which most trains use. Thus, you have to exit the fare gated area and immediately re-enter another fare gated area to access those tracks. This cannot be done with a key car, you have to have the attendant use their special card to let you out and let you in. Fortunately, there was no fare gate at Cynwyd.
 
Joined
Dec 26, 2014
Messages
3,819
The SEPTA faregates are OK, but after you check in, you can't check out for 10 minutes or so. Once I checked into Jefferson Station, went to the track, and realized that it was off-hours and the trains were not running very frequently, so I thought I'd get to 30th St. faster on the Market-Frankford Line. However, my Key Card wouldn't get me out of the faregates. Fortunately, there was an attendant that let me out, and also, fortunately, the Key Card worked fine for the Market Frankford Line. Another time, I was taking a Cynwyd Local that was leaving from Track 7. It turns out that Tracks 5-7 at Suburban Station (at least in section A) are completely separated from the fare gated section for tracks 1-4, which most trains use. Thus, you have to exit the fare gated area and immediately re-enter another fare gated area to access those tracks. This cannot be done with a key car, you have to have the attendant use their special card to let you out and let you in. Fortunately, there was no fare gate at Cynwyd.

Thanks—those are all useful things to know. I find Suburban Station confusing in general so avoid it and use Jefferson.
 
Top