MTA’s Fail Whale

Apparently the Fail Whale in tech is a disease lately. The latest obvious occurrence has been New York’s MTA with their MetroCard vending machines. I noticed on Monday walking into the station, the lines in front of the vending machines were insanely long (normally 2 people max, now 15+) and presumed just a large group of tourists. Then saw it when I got off at my stop (hmm… two stations overloaded with customers? Strange). This morning it was less but still crowded (I guess some people gave up), and learned the problem myself. Apparently they can’t process credit cards lately.

Many New Yorkers purchase an $81 30-Day Unlimited Ride MetroCard,a s opposed to putting a fixed amount on a card. I suspect many do not carry $81 cash on them because we are a society that uses credit cards for convenience. So those people just pulled a couple dollars out of their wallet and bought a regular fare card with the intent to come back later. At $2.00 a fare this could provide a nice bump for the MTA, who I might add is cash strapped and looking to raise the fees after just cutting the bonuses from 20-15%.

Now regarding that bonus cut, that creates a whole new can of worms. For those who don’t know: if you purchase more than $7, you get a bonus. 20% always leaves a nice even number. 15% on the other hand leaves you with spare change. Leaving room for things like the MetroCard Bonus Calculator. What a mess. You could always put a few dollars on the card to clean it up, but then you loose the 15% bonus on that money. Over time that adds up. I’m sure many people just throw away the cards with change on it, but I find that somewhat silly.

Twitter seemed to survive the Chino Hills earthquake, so the MTA wins the Fail Whale award for today.

MTA copyrighting subway maps

This is kind of disturbing. The MTA isn’t really a private company. As taken from their website (with my emphasis):

Since 1982 the MTA has been carrying out the largest public works rebuilding project in the country. Funded by federal, state, and local government and by the issuance of debt, the MTA’s most recent capital program has generated an average 31,760 private-sector jobs, $1.3 billion in wages, $100 million in state and local tax revenues, and $3.52 billion in economic activity annually.

That’s right New Yorkers… you by law paid for those maps, but by law you can’t have them.

There’s something seriously wrong when you have to pay for access to something paid for by your taxes. They should be given the choice of either giving up the federal/state/local funding, or release copyright into the public domain. The current situation is ridiculous.