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Metro Transit Minneapolis - Saint Paul, MN: Usability Field Test of the Go-To Smart Card, Stupid or Just Evil?

From Craig's List this month comes the woeful tale of someone trying to use the "Go-to" card. How many of the Metro Council and Metro Transit bosses use a Go-to Card, how many instead drive their SUV or Lexus? Think of your sweet aged mother trying to use this fare scheme when she cannot drive any more.

This unfortunate incident illustrates a few of the usability problems I previously wrote about in Metro Transit Minneapolis - St. Paul: Usability Testing the Go-To Card Fare Scheme. Very few places to get a card, very few places to put money on a card, very few users, no customer control over transactions, confusing, embarrassing and difficult customer service for the customer and now from this incident it appears the staff has a difficult almost unusable interface to the system to service customers.

The point of this unfortunate incident is not to dismiss the complaint of a customer as some "difficult person" or berate the employees as "rude" that have to administer the Go-To Card and try to work with customers, it is to show that unusable badly designed systems create a lot of "transit friction in the fog of transit", a paraphrase of Clausewitz from his book "Vom Kriege". This makes it hard to do what should be simple things like a Go-To Card transaction.

If there was a widely distributed easy to use way of doing transactions with the Go-To Card there probably would not have been the incident below. Because the system is basically unusable these unfortunate problems will happen again and again.

Metro Transit BOYCOTT
Reply to: comm-346435322@craigslist.org
Date: 2007-06-06, 5:07PM CDT

Hey,

I am posting this ad because I am very passionate about this. What I am after here is a full fledged boycott on Metro Transit. I want people to not ride the bus/train unless absolutely necessary.

Why, you ask?

Well, my partner and I are disabled, and therefore entitled to the mobility fare. This is basically a price break so that those of us that live on government programs well below the poverty line can afford transportation. I've had the mobility fare for almost a year and have been "denied" five times. What happens is that the bus drivers will see that I am using the mobility 31 day pass. I am Autistic with other disorders in the mix. Nothing that one could see, but it's no less legitimate. So these bus drivers will say something like "You'd better have the correct ID for that or your ass is grass.", or "You don't look disabled, let me see the ID for that". Of course, I have the ID, I have for a longish time.

Yesterday, they FINALLY gave my partner his mobility status, after a long, hard battle with Metro Transit. The process requires one to fill out a novel, with a doctor's signature. Then they spend upwards of two weeks verifying the information(something that should only take a day, tops, f cking bureaucrats), then what happens is you get a letter and a temporary ID thing. The letter is what you take to get your id or dl changed and the temporary card is for use until your new DL arrives. So what you do is take the temporary card to a metro transit store where you can buy the reduced fare bus cards for use on the bus, or get an existing GoTo card converted so it only takes $.50 per use, just like the cash fare would be.

Yesterday, we went to the metro transit store at Mall of America, where the negative, moody burnout who works there was EXTREMELY rude to us right off the bat. We walked up and explained what we wanted accomplished. She looked at us as if to want to inflict bodily harm upon us, and whilst doing NOTHING, the line behind us was forming. She FINALLY said "Well, why the f ck didn't you do it the right way in the first place". I said "Well, we just got the certification an hour ago and customer relations couldn't do the work for us, so they sent us here". To which she took the information and the goto card and his ID and then she said "You know this will take like ten minutes... DO you have ten minutes?"

The point of these questions is to try to avoid having to help us. She does this EVERY time we encounter her, which has been once or twice a month for the past year or two. Well, I said we had ten minutes. So she does some things on the computer, writes "void" all over his card, then says "You KNOW that there is a $5 replacement fee. Do you even have $5?" Like it's impossible that we have $5. I then, getting a little tiny bit irritated, said "Why would there be $5 to convert his card in order to use this certification? We were SPECIFICALLY told that there wouldn't be a fee, so I don't really understand?" She said: "It is IN THIS BOOK that there is a $5 fee to replace the card, moron." To which I said: "I'm sorry, some illiterate, insensitive Metro Transit employee forgot to give us that book, so I wasn't aware of that." She said: "Well, if you don't want to give me the $5, here's your stuff back, have a good day." I said: "So his $5.25 is on the card again." "No, it's empty. I can't put it back and I won't give you the $5.25 in cash. Go away, dumbass" At which point, I got relatively (and understandably) angry. I said: "Fine. Here's $5 and I'll just have to call your boss in the morning and get it back, and hopefully I'll just have your job too, since you've been nothing but rude and mean to us"

At which point, the person behind us, a war vet (he had his vet status plastered all over him, his clothes, his wheelchair. The only thing missing is which combat he was from. I'm thinking probably civil war, based on his approximate age) decided he needed to interrupt and let me know that's not how you address a lady. I politely informed him that I didn't require his help, and that there were no ladies present. She said: "Why don't I just not help either of you because you have a f cked up attitude?" So I walked away, went upstairs and called Customer Relations.

It only got worse from there. After I left, the "woman" behind the glass decided that Tom wasn't disabled. A lot of you might not know that this is an Americans with Disabilities Act violation. Us disabled people might not get much, but at least we have ONE piece of legislation that helps us. What exactly was said was: "I'm not helping you, you're not disabled. The guy behind you is. Good day, assho e!" and threw his stuff back under the glass.

We did eventually get the "woman"'s boss to call her and make my partner go down there, and be nice and get his stuff accomplished, without the fee, that doesn't apply at all. The real problem: This woman still works there!! I personally have been fired from jobs for a lot less! Don't give me this union crap, I've lost THOSE jobs too. Also: this woman told Metro Transit that she refused us service because I was SWEARING at HER! not that they can prove it, but they've broken the law and REFUSE to even discuss it!

I am in the process of trying to find a lawyer who will discuss this. If any attorneys read this, please contact me.

Thank you!

* Location: Metro Transit Service Areas * it's NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests

PostingID: 346435322

What can you conclude from this?

Metro Transit has more usability problems than just the "Go-to Card", it looks like customer service has incredible usability problems that frustrate its employees and customers and make it difficult to get anything done.

Would I advocate a boycott from this incident? Well, I think the transit usage statistics show that a pretty effective boycott already exists, the transit service is hard to use, few people can use it unless there are no alternatives, the Go-To Card in particular is a usability barrier to the system.

The obvious user problems with the Go-To Card can be read about here: Metro Transit Minneapolis - St. Paul Usability Testing the Go-To Card Fare Scheme.

The Go-To Card system costs so far are $16-$17 million, or about the value of 40-50 new standard 40 passenger buses. It is basically unusable. Now tell me again the reason the fare went up and the service was cut?

Media references to the disastrous RFID fare card

TRANSIT FARE CARD HOBBLED BY KINKS METRO TRANSIT, VENDOR CLASH OVER LONG-DELAYED SYSTEM Source: CHARLES LASZEWSKI, Pioneer Press Metro Transit's patience is reaching the end of the line. It hoped to roll out the new "smart card" fare collection system for buses and light-rail stations about now, after a 2 1/2-year delay. Instead, the agency has sent its contractor a letter of default. And now transit officials won't commit to an opening date. The system faces a new set of ills that San Diego-based Cubic Transportation Systems Inc. has refused to fix amid payment Published on March 29, 2006, Page A1, St. Paul Pioneer Press (MN)

METRO TRANSIT; Still some bugs in `Go To' system; A new electronic fare collection system goes into effect Oct. 31, but riders should expect some glitches when they use the new cards to deduct their fare.(NEWS)
From: Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN) | Date: October 11, 2005 | Author: Blake, Laurie | More results for: metro transit go-to card

Byline: Laurie Blake; Staff Writer

Continuing repairs will be expected on Metro Transit's new electronic fare collection system after it goes into service Oct. 31, officials learned Monday.
Riders can expect to encounter at least the occasional blank screen when they lift their new Go To transit credit cards to an electronic reader to deduct their fare.
The readers are mounted at the door of more than 1,000 buses and on every light-rail station platform. In tests over the past year, the screens went blank in more than half the fleet as Cubic Transportation Systems ...

Metro Transit 'smart card' not so smart $16.5 million fare...
Saint Paul Pioneer Press - May 8, 2005
Metro Transit never discarded its old fare Systems of stored-value cards and cash on the buses, so there has been no service disruption. ...

'Go To' card runs into a few speed bumps; Metro Transit's frequent-ride card should debut soon.(NEWS)
From: Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN) | Date: December 22, 2004 | Author: Blake, Laurie | More results for: metro transit go-to card
See more articles from Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN)

Byline: Laurie Blake; Staff Writer

To speed boarding on buses and trains, Metro Transit has installed a new computerized fare-collection system, but getting it to work reliably has taken more than a year longer than expected.
The system's frequent-ride "Go To" card, which pays the fare with a split-second tap on a reading terminal, was supposed to be in riders' hands by September 2003 - well before the Hiawatha light-rail line opened this year.
But San Diego-based Cubic Transportation Systems, under a $16.4 million contract, is still working out bugs.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Go-To_card (summary of go-to)
http://www.metrotransit.org/news/stories/11_06_Go-To-Test.asp Says that you should carry alternate fare in case it does not work.
http://www.metrocouncil.org/directions/transit/transit2005/GoToNov05.htm November 2005 declares that Go-To card cannot be used as a flash pass. When it did not work people boarded buses anyway.
http://en.allexperts.com/e/g/go/go-to_card.htm (same as wikipedia summary)

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