Sunday, March 04, 2007

Better living through public transit

The MBTA's computerized Charlie Card is another way that America's favorite transit authority is helping to rid Bostonians of bad habits. As I was reminded today, an unlimited-ride Charlie Card will not work at a subway stop if it has been used at the same stop less than 20 minutes earlier. So if you're standing on a subway platform and you suddenly remember that you just left your cell phone in a restaurant -- or an embarrassing document in a printer at work, or your footprints in the yard of a house you've just burgled -- it's going to cost you $2 to fix matters and get back into the subway without falling behind on your schedule. That will teach you to go through life without carefully patting your pockets and racking your brain every time you walk outside. Other T tools for life include strategically stopped escalators that force you to get a bit more exercise; erroneous station announcements to teach you the value of being more aware of your surroundings; and T personnel who no longer sit in token-vending booths but instead mingle throughout the rush-hour crowds, which sharpens your skills at playing "Where's Waldo?" Today I also rode on one of the rehabbed Red Line trains, in which hard vinyl seats have been replaced by seat with about an eighth of an inch of upholstery. This fabric could be more comfortable than the old material only if you are riding the subway bare-assed. Anything to attack Boston's prudishness is laudable, but I would prefer cage dancers in the now-abandoned token booths.

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