The MBTA made the news recently when it addressed a common rider pet peeve: improving the interface customers use to add value to transit cards at fare machines by updating the default options to numbers divisible by the fare for a single trip.
We can hope this brings an end of the era of frustration at the turnstile— characterized by an awkward 80 cents lingering, unusable, on transit cards across the city (unless, of course, that rider had access to a time machine back to 1990).
This change not only provides a better user experience for individual riders, who no longer need to do math on the fly or consult a chart for the costs of the most frequently purchased number of trips, but also the entire community of T riders, who may see shorter wait times at the fare machines going forward.
That said, the MBTA fare machines’ UX still leaves plenty of room for improvement. While it’s great that the “add value” interface now provides the precise cost defaults of $4.20, $8.40, and $21, the MBTA still leaves it to the rider to recognize that these amounts are equal to the fare for 2, 4, or 10 trips. And how about some UX love for commuter rail riders, so selecting the correct “zone” doesn’t rely on specialized knowledge or external research?
With the first MBTA fare machines turning 10 this year, it’s easy to imagine that there are many constraints inherent in working with an aging fleet of technology. But given these recent updates, and with rider feedback more accessible and plentiful than ever, perhaps we can hope for both smoother rides and smoother fare machine interactions in the months and years to come.