Sunday, February 06, 2011

BUS STORY # 222 (New Bus Passes)

New Bus Passes from ABQ RIDE, originally uploaded from the City of Albuquerque website by busboy4.

Last week’s brutal winter storm marred the debut of ABQ RIDE’s new bus passes. It turned the transition from old to new from just being a little awkward to an uncomfortable inconvenience.

The day before, you made sure the pass hanging from your neck or clipped to your shirt was facing the driver, and took a seat. That next day, blasted by icy winds, you boarded, fumbled with your bag and your gloves, got your ticket either into the activation slot (“No, not like that. The other way.”) or the magnetic strip reader (“No, you’ve got it facing the wrong way...Now you’ve got it upside down.”), then found a seat and started figuring out what to do with your pass so you wouldn’t fold, spindle, mutilate, or just plain lose it while you were dealing with the rest of your stuff.

Boarding took longer, of course, and the cold took its toll.

One old guy took off his gloves to take his pass out of his wallet. His fingers were numb and he had trouble extracting it. He got it most of the way out when he dropped it. The wind threatened to blow it down the street, but somehow it got stuck to the floor of the bus. When he leaned down to pick it up, he dropped his wallet into the gutter just beneath the bus. He had one glove under his left armpit and the other in his teeth when he got to the reader.

The young guy behind him knelt down and retrieved the wallet for him. But he bent his own bus pass in the process.

Another rider realized after the bus had left the stop that she’d lost her glove somewhere between waiting in line and passing her card through the slot. It’s never a good thing to lose a glove. But it was a particularly bad thing on this particular day.

I’m working on my own cold weather strategy. Right now, I’m tucking it into the same pocket holder I used for the old pass. It’s handy, it’s protected, and it’s a designated and exclusive location which makes the pass harder to misplace.

But it also means dealing with a loose glove and cold-numbed fingers -- either that, or waiting until I’m at the reader to begin removing the glove and extracting the card. This latter won’t endear me to the people behind me or to the driver who’s trying to stay on schedule.

None of this will be a problem for anyone with two free and functional hands.

As for the rest of us, well, we’ll probably have something all worked out by the end of the month.

In the meantime, there is already discussion on the ABQ Bus Riders group on Duke City Fix about moving from the somewhat flimsy paper pass to a more durable and rechargeable card.

It’s a brave new world.

This illustration is taken from the City of Albuquerque website. You can see the illustration, but more important, read all about the new passes, here.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

painful to read, but oh so interesting. Each solution generates at least two new problems, a wise man once said. BBBH

8:33 AM  
Blogger abqdave said...

Luckily I have enough tokens left to avoid needing to activate my new pass until the end of the week. I suspect ABQRide will stop honoring the tokens soon, which is my real motivation for using them up. Avoiding dealing with the new pass is just a nice side benefit.

I suspect whoever developed the new passes does not ride the bus regularly. What regular bus rider would have replaced a pass you could just flash at the driver with one that you have to get out and swipe through a reader?

Not a regular rider who grocery shops. Someone who has developed a system over time that enables him to drag home as many groceries per trip as humanly possible (those cloth reusable grocery bags let you haul a lot more than plastic or paper) while still being able to show your pass (I have my pass in a plastic sleeve in my bi-fold wallet, so I am able to prop the wallet open wide enough to flash the pass at the driver while holding one cloth grocery sack in the same hand at the same time).

I pat myself on the back with how clever my grocery system is-until I see the single mother's system for getting on and off the bus with her 3 well behaved children (1 an infant) and baby carriage. Then I don't feel quite so smug. I am even more in awe with the new rider single mother with 5 children (2 infants, 1 older child carrying one infant) and carriage who does this.

Or, as you mentioned, what about gloves? What regular rider, who waits 15 minutes in the freezing cold and wind, doesn't wear gloves? Would any of us think having to take your gloves off, take out your wallet or reach into your purse or a pocket, and swipe the card, is a superior system to having your pass hanging on a lanyard and flashing it to the driver?

Aside from the inconvenience, how is the person who developed the new pass going to justify to either of those moms...whose lives are probably running on an "if anything goes wrong my whole day will be a disaster" timeline...that they are now going to have to track 31 days on a calendar from date of purchase to when they should purchase a new pass, in order to get the maximum value from their pass?

And if one of their kids bends or rips the pass?

Successful companies tailor their products to their customers. I can't think of how this improves the bus riding experience for riders. Maybe someone else can come up with something?

6:43 PM  
Blogger Heather said...

A more heavy duty, rechargable card seems like a better plan, although you will still have to fumble with it. But then, maybe it can still hang off a lanyard. They will probably recoil at the initial cost of creating those but in the long run it should save them on reprinting costs, right?

Whatever happens, I hope you all find a method that works well soon.

12:15 PM  
Blogger Busboy said...

Good observations from all the above. Thank you.

Heather, I'm optimistic. The past five years have been pretty much an ongoing improvement of all aspects of ABQ RIDE. If there's a better way to do the passes, I think we'll get there.

7:40 PM  

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