Articles   Home

Usability Testing Smart Cards Shows Fare Scheme is Unusable After 4 Years: Metro Transit Minneapolis - Saint Paul, MN

The "Smart Card" Oxymoron

Most of the engineering of transportation is not cutting edge or high tech; though technology does come into play in various ways hopefully to improve the transit system the sad reality is that "Intelligent Transit" does little to improve transit versus the research effort and hype put into it. Actually, "intelligent transit" is just half baked research in lots of different unrelated areas and when it has been applied to actually moving people the half-baked "intelligent transit" schemes have sketchy results at best, many times an "intelligent transit" implementation of unproven technology is a costly exercise in stupidity. One example is the RFID chip in a "smart card" for transit fare. The idea is to speed boarding and paying of transit fares but the costs at this time seem to make the system much less "intelligent" than the old used to be "intelligent" technology, the magnetic stripe fare cards. The Twin Cities Metro Transit Go-to card is unusable and fails usability testing in many common scenarios.

The "Go-to Card", Not Smart or Usable

- The places to add cash to the card are limited to three Metro Transit store locations and the few confusing train LRT fare machines on the single LRT line in the Twin Cities.

- There is a "registration" needed of personal information that can be used to track you, including work, credit card and bank information as well as records of where you went. How Big Brothersome!

Transit Usability, Go-to Cards and Disability is a long journey to nowhere. I am guessing they have a fork in customer service to poke out an eye of the disabled rider and fling it in the corner to prove the rider is disabled. After that, customer service uses the fork on their own remaining eye to relieve the frustrations of the stupid procedures they must go through.

- The card does not work many times when boarding the bus, actually slowing down the line when a bus driver asks to see the pass. How stupid-erific!

- No transfer of a transfer for a free ride. Though against policy, the reality is that people will hand off a transfer to another person to get a "free" ride. It is a factor in usability that cannot be overlooked and this real "benefit" is lost to the riding public with this fare system, if it actually worked. How efficient at sucking fares from the poor! However, because the Go-to card does not work many times users can get a free ride but cannot transfer the transfer to another.

- The system does not work as advertised, many "features" are not implemented. How clunky and unworkable!

- The system is in place for the Metro Transit's single LRT line, but the old reliable magnetic strip multiple-fare cards are not accepted by the "high tech" fare machines. What an annoying pain in the ass rip-off!

- The system cost a large fortune, ($16 million plus back in 2004 and still counting,) sucking up the scarce resources of the transit system and is a boondoggle, the sad tale is in the media stories below. To put this waste in perspective, $16 million is about 40-50 new 40 passenger buses.

- The Metro Transit Go-to card means "go to hell" for the transit public and the taxpayer. They should just drop the charade and chip the riders like dogs are chipped, implanted under the skin, and add a handy barcode tatoo on the forehead, then Homeland Security on TV monitors can shout at us when we are late for work or too long at lunch.

Boston's "Charlie" RFID Card is Also Hard to Use

Usability problems with the Charlie Card are described in this blog article. Many similar problems are noted, especially the lack of transparency and difficulties in charging up or knowing how much is on the card.

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)

More Transit Usability Articles

Transit Usability Articles
The views and opinions expressed in this page are strictly those of the page author.
The contents of this page have not been reviewed or approved by the University of Minnesota.