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letters | the state’s transit challenges

Conductor’s ticket punch is sign of a system that needs an upgrade

RE “Better service but fewer riders” (Page A1, Oct. 22): I don’t ride the commuter rail often, but last Sunday my son and I took it from Rockport to North Station. It was like traveling back in time.

The conductor pulls out his ticket pad and punches little holes in the ticket. People pay in cash, and he hauls out a wad of bills from his pocket for change. In this era when entry to any theater, stadium, or other venue is controlled by a bar code, and most people have paid online or at an automated kiosk, the commuter rail is doing it just like the 19th century. Even though it’s possible to buy tickets by smartphone, old habits persist.

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When we reached Lynn, people flooded on board. Most paid in cash, but the conductor was clearly overwhelmed.

And this must happen over and over.

The antiquated method of selling tickets and punching them on board means many riders don’t pay. So, is it “fewer riders” or fewer who pay?

It would be good if the Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad Co. jumped fully into the digital era.

Samuel W. Coulbourn


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