Thursday, November 20, 2008

One Question, Different Answers

Westborough Train Rider shared with Train Stopping this comment/email trail sent to the MBTA regarding the newly instituted parking fees.

Last Wednesday (11/12/2008), Westborough Train Rider sent an email to mbta AT asking who to make out a personal check to for parking payment. This is a pretty logical question - here's the email:
Who do I make out a check to when paying for parking? With the pay increase I am not going to attempt to cram $4 in cash/coins into the drop box. Not to mention I need a receipt and the drop box/cash method doesn''t provide that.

The MBTA got back to Westborough Train Rider pretty quickly. The answer: "Sorry payments are cash only."

Since the trail led to a dead end, Westborough Train Rider immediately filed this complaint with the MBTA's Customer Feedback, requesting a response back:
I find it wholly unacceptable that the parking lot of Westborough only accepts cash and doesn't provide receipts. With the DOUBLING of the parking rate, trying to jam $4 (cash and coins) into the archaic machine at the Westborough parking lot is going to be problematic.

Here is my correspondence with the folks at mbta AT who are listed as the folks that manage the lot. I think the MBTA needs to take responsibility if they want to increase the parking rate. Not having the ability to get a receipt for an item I pay for is bad business. I have also written to the Better Business Bureau.
A few days later, the MBTA sent Westborough Train Ride this reply:
The MBTA is indeed considering changes to improve upon the current payment systems. Currently the MBTA is exploring cashless payment alternatives to the honor boxes for our commuter rail customers and is hopeful such technologies will be introduced in the very near future.

These technology will provide a proof of payment and online account management. Similarly, the MBTA is exploring with MassPike an expansion of the FastLane system, currently offered at the Route 128 Garage, to other MBTA parking garages. The MBTA's longer range goal is to extend the same conveniences and assurances afforded bus, subway and light rail customers by the CharlieCard to our parking lots and garages, the commuter rail, and commuter ferry. We are committed to offering our customers the option of using credit cards or smart cards (or a similar automated form) to pay parking fees.

Be assured checks are in fact accepted and should made out to MBTA Parking and inserted as you would cash into the honor box. You may also wish to include the station name and space number on your check as well.

Many customers today pay their parking fees this way.

Thank you for writing.

MBTA Parking Services
So mbta AT says "no checks."

The MBTA says "sure, you can pay by check."

Westborough Train Rider wasn't through. This reply was sent back to the MBTA:
Thank you for the reply. Should I ignore the response I got from mbta AT that said they only accept cash payments at their parking lots?
The MBTA was kind enough to respond with:
Yes, please do. I have clarified with Central Parking. Their concern was that their staff might confuse checks with the blank scraps of paper some customers insert into the honor box rather than a pay.

Sorry for the confusion and thank you for your continued patronage.
At this point, the story should be over, right? Wrong. Here's what happens next.

The new parking rates went into effect on 11/15/2008. Westborough Train Rider uses a personal check to pay the $4.00 to park. Is the personal check accepted - heck no. So Westborough Train Rider shot this off to the MBTA:
Yesterday I paid with a check and got a notice saying that I had not paid and would be expected to pay the $4. There is also an additional charge of $0.75 and then some fuzzy math that brings the total to $5. Can you please follow up with the parking folks to determine why they are not accepting a check as a form of payment? I would also hope that I will not be expected to pay the $0.75 service charge. Could you please follow up on the status of the check I submitted? Having received this notice I am not sure if my check was taken and will be cashed or if perhaps I should submit another check for $4 in this late payment envelope.

Let's hope that Westborough Train Rider keeps us posted on this parking payment saga. Why can't things just be easy?

Thanks Westborough Train Rider for sharing this experience with us.

On The Greater Grafton Blog, Jenn has a great photo of the parking sign at the Grafton station.


Anonymous said...

My favorite part of this story is when they say that we are on the "honor" system. That implies that we take our word that we pay, no envelope on the window, no penalty, etc.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of Westborough parking, what are commuters' experiences with parking at the empty office parking lot down the road? Needless to say, I've noticed A LOT more cars this week for obvious reason. I've been tempted a few times, but I'll admit that I'm chicken and don't want to return one day and find that my car has been towed by the building's owner. I've also seen a police car parked there once, waiting to nab some unsuspecting speeder.

Anonymous said...

I wonder why more abutting to commuter rail businesses will not allow commuters to park in thier lots for a fee.

At west natick station there is a small scuba business right next door that would give you a space for the $2.00 per day fee that the Commuter Rail was charging. I don't know what it is now. Sadly, they are always full up (they only have 8 spaces to lease).

You could pay montly, the company could give you a cardboard thing to put on your mirror so they would know you paid and you would be guareeteed a space. I suppose some businesses feel it is not worth their time. I wonder if anyone has approached them?

Even if it was a longer walk I would do that just to pay less and get back and the MBTA.

AJ said...

I know they assured Westborough Train Rider he could pay by check, but if you look at the pic of the boxes in Grafton, in big, bold italic type below the $1 surcharge language, it says "No Checks Accepted"

Commute-a-holic said...

AJ -

Great point. That's why we included a link to the Greater Grafton Blog's photo. There seems to be a disconnect or miscommunication.

The T is saying you can pay with a check, but their parking facilities vendor is saying you can't.

It is just another example of the communications breakdown with the T and everyone else.