Sunday, July 15, 2007

MBTA’s Charlie Card Interface

A guessing game interface ...

"I was heading to Boston yesterday to watch a Red Sox game at Fenway Park, and I ended up taking the subway to avoid traffic and parking issues. The subway is part of the MBTA, or the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority…aka the T. I hadn’t taken the T in a little over a year and a noticed a big change right away.

Previously, to ride the T you needed special tokens, and you bought the tokens from a booth manned by an actual person. When I showed up yesterday at the station, I noticed the booth was boarded up and there were 6 new machines strewn about the building. I missed the memo about the new Charlie Card that is now used instead of tokens (shows how much I go into Boston.) The Charlie Card is a smart card used for automated fare collection, and you can reuse it by adding more money to it. (Just to give this post a little context, the Charlie Card is named after the man in The MTA Song, named Charlie, who can’t pay his way out of the subway and spends the rest of his life beneath the streets of Boston.)

Without knowing any of this, I approached one of the new machines and was immediately taken aback. There was so much going on, I didn’t know where to look.

After scanning the interface for a few moments, I finally found where you can insert your dollar bills. I figured it would be similar to a vending machine or ATM, and tried inserting my money. Nothing happened. I moved to a different machine and did the same thing. Nothing happened. Eventually I walked over to where I noticed an MBTA employee teaching a couple how to use the machine. Turns out you had to touch the upper-right hand corner of the screen before anything happened. With this new knowledge I returned to my previous machine and completed my transaction after a few more hassles."    (Continued via UIE Brain Sparks)    [Usability Resources]

Charley Card Machine - Usability, User Interface Design


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