Monday, July 28, 2008

It's Ozone Day!

Someday I need to write up in detail what a total disaster transit systems are. I've had issues trying to figure out where I am going in other cities, or pay the fare, but assumed the system had some sensibility, and communications was the issue. Now that I have used my local system for a while, I assume they are all this bad, and are totally inexplicable. You pretty much cannot tell where anything goes, unless you already know. No one really wants to help, and the system is full of internal process and jargon, so communicating with any staff is difficult. But my favorite is that there are something like five different payment systems:
  • Drop cash or coin in a fare box.
  • Get change as a paper magstripe card, which you can then use in those fareboxes
  • Get monthly ride cards, which are RF, so have a different system than the farebox
  • 10-ride cards, which are paper, pass through no electronic system at all, and are hand punched by the driver
  • Transfers work in yet another way, which I still do not understand
And the best part is that they are mostly incompatible with each other. If you have money on a change card, you cannot apply it to a 10-ride pass, for example. Today, all the busses say "Ozone alert" in addition to everything they usually say. You get on the bus and the driver says "you have 50¢?" To which most folks say "um..." See, there's an enviro/promo thing where if the city has an inversion or other conditions, they declare an ozone alert and try to get you to fill up your car after dark, and ride the bus. To encourage bus riding, they reduce fares to 50¢ across the board. Simple. Except for two things:
  1. Not one person I watched board the bus seemed to understand what "ozone alert" or "ozone day" meant, when the driver said it to them
  2. The 50¢ fare is, again, totally incompatible with most other systems. Your 10-ride cards and, apparently, monthly passes won't work. You MUST give them 50¢ or nothing else.
Turns out you can give them more than that and get a change card, or use the card, but the driver didn't seem to know that. Their internal process seemed to assume everyone in the city knows about this, and will being a pocket full of quarters to ride the bus on this, the most special of days. What assumptions are you making about how much your clients or customers understand your process?

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