Early experience with the BART (not-so-)EZ Rider card

Last month, I signed up for one of BART’s EZ Rider cards. My experience has been pretty good. Even though the instructions on the card say that you have to touch the card directly on the reader, I am able to touch in without pulling the card out of my wallet. I couldn’t use the card when it was buried in the inside of the wallet, but when I moved it to the bill-area so the card is right next to the outer surface of the wallet, everything started working fine.

My wife’s experience, on the other hand, suggests you should hope and pray that your card never breaks. She carried her first EZ Rider card in the same way that she carried paper tickets, in a pouch designed for such things on her backpack. As is standard practice, on first use, the card was automatically loaded with $48 of value. Just as the card dipped below $40 (to $39.60, I think), it stopped working. According to the station agent, the card no longer responded to the reader and needed to be replaced. The only way to contact BART is through the EZ Rider “service center,” which is a single telephone number usually answered by a machine. After a little more than two weeks of calling and leaving voice messages that were never returned, she finally reached a live human who agreed to send out a replacement card.

I can only hope this isn’t a harbinger of things to come when the program leaves the pilot stage and goes live. Two weeks to get a person on the phone is ridiculous. I can understand the expense of staffing a call center, but it should be possible to leave a message and see some concrete action taken. I’m morbidly curious as to see whether they can successfully transfer the balance from the broken card account on to its replacement, largely because experience shows that it will likely be tremendously painful to contact the service center again to fix any potential errors.

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