Last year, I practically waxed poetic about my public transportation trip into Philadelphia for GreenFest Philly. Yesterday, I again took the same public transportation into the Philadelphia, this time for the Go Green Expo, and there is no waxing poetic. Just a bunch of frustration.
I pulled into the parking lot of my local Patco station to find that parking is no longer free on weekends. Most of the lots require a Freedom Pass to enter – something that someone who has never ridden the train or rides very infrequently would not have. There were signs pointing me to other lots where you could use coins or cash to pay. I drove to one of them. There was no cash option – just an exact change option that I didn’t have.
I finally found off street parking and hoofed it over to the train station.
I went to buy my ticket. I could only use a credit card to purchase one of their Freedom Passes or to put more money on the Freedom Pass. For a one-time round trip ticket, I had to use cash. The directions on the machine were very confusing. I was given my change in $1 coins (I had used a $20 for a $4.65 ticket – that’s a lot of $1 coins). I was also not offered a receipt – something that I need for tax purposes.
Just as I grabbed the last coin out of the machine, I heard my train pull up and leave! I had given myself plenty of time to catch it, but the parking problem made me late. I had to wait 25 minutes for the next train.
As I was waiting on the Platform I spoke with a gentleman who told me about how he had found the Patco staiton more difficult to deal with lately, also. He enentually left because his train never showed up (well it did – about five minutes after he left). There is no way to notify passengers from the train station about the status of trains.
I don’t think that taking public transportation should be that difficult for infrequent riders. If they want to charge for parking, that’s okay, but give infrequent riders an easy way to pay for their parking. Make the ticket machines simple to use. Don’t give someone $15 in $1 coins that are cumbersome and easy to confuse with other coins. I used several of my coins at the expo, and every vendor gave me an odd look. One wasn’t even sure they were real.
We need public transportation and we need more than we already have. What we don’t need is a system that turns people off and makes it less of a hassle to drive into the city and pay for parking than it does to take the public transportation.
Image: Country Boy Shane under a creative commons license