MetroCard Mess

MetroCard Vending Machines, Brooklyn Bridge station, New York





Metrocard Vending Machines. If you’ve been on a subway station in New York during the last year or two, you know what I’m talking about: The humongous boxes that people use to buy the MetroCards you need to ride the subway.





The Good News



One school of thought recommends that you start out with saying something positive, when what you really want to get at is a critique. I’ll honor that principle here: They’re actually not that heinous to use. If you’ve ever used the subway in Washington DC, you’ll know that DC is much, much worse off. It helps, too, that the fare system in New York’s subway is a lot simpler to understand than it’s DC cousin. Another difference from DC is that there are usually manned booths next to them, so you can actually avoid using them altogether, if you want to. The human being is usually much superior to a machine as a user interface (although, sadly, that’s very often not the case in New York in particular). And finally, the New York ones get bonus points for using a touch-screen, which, when the technology actually works, works very well.

The Hopeless Hierarchy



Old-Fashioned MetroCard Vending Machine, Brooklyn Bridge station, New York





Now that we’ve gotten the positives out of the way, let’s look at some mistakes that could’ve been avoided. The user interface is designed as a hierarchical menu of mutually exclusive choices, a typical programmer-directed, as opposed to goal-directed, design strategy. I’ll walk you through it, so you can get an idea of how it is:





First, in order to get started at all, you have to touch a “start” button on the screen. Instead of just being ready to serve, the giant machine has decided to go to sleep, so it must be woken up before it’ll start taking your orders. That is simply gratuitous.





The second step is to choose a language. A more sensible approach would have been to assume English (except, perhaps, in parts of Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens, or in Chinatown, where you might want to default to Spanish or Chinese), and then present options for changing the language at the bottom of the screen, out of the normal flow. Especially given that the vocabulary necessary to buy a MetroCard is very limited. These buttons could possibly stay on the screen during the whole transaction, so users could change the language later, if they wanted. This is assuming they don’t clutter the screen.





The third step is to choose between a MetroCard and a SingleRide card. I have lived in New York for about a year and a half now, and I still get tricked by this from time to time. How is the user supposed to know the difference between these terms? There’s no other explanation, just the two buttons: MetroCard, SingleRide. It turns out that a SingleRide card is just that: A card that’s only good for a single ride, akin to the token that’s being phased out. What confuses matters for me, though, is that there are two types of MetroCards: The “Unlimited Ride” variant, where you can ride as much as you want within a certain time period (1 day, 7 days or 30 days), and the “Regular MetroCard” variant, where you have a dollar amount on the card and it subtracts $1.50 each time you ride. If you accidentally confuse the SingleRide slang for the Regular MetroCard slang, you have to start all over. As a side note, since this is a “MetroCard Vending Machine”, I’m assuming that a SingleRide card stricly speaking is also a type of MetroCard. But who knows the lingua franca at MTA?





The fourth choice, if you selected the MetroCard option, is to choose between refilling an existing card or getting a new card. Being the green consumer that I am, I select Refill, to minimize plastic waste. It then asks me to insert my old, expired MetroCard in a slot, which I dutifully do, only to be told that “this card cannot be refilled”. The logical thing to do here, would be to assume that the user then wants a new card instead. But not to this machine. It cancels the whole operation, forcing the user has to start all over again (touch start, select language, choose between MetroCard and SingleRide, and remember to not select Refill).





The fifth step is a choice between Unlimited Ride or Regular MetroCard. I already explained the difference between these two. There’s plenty of space on the screen to include some explanation here, but they chose not to, probably because they were lazy and liked their slick only-white-buttons-on-a-black-screen visual design.





The sixth step, if you chose Unlimited Ride, is to select the time period. The options are 1 day ($4, called a Fun Pass for no obvious reason), 7 day ($17), 30 day ($63) or the 30 day ExBus ($120) variant. Again, we’re not told the difference between the 30 day and the 30 day ExBus, but we are told that the latter is about twice as expensive as the former. I still don’t know what the difference is. I’m probably not the only person in the world who doesn’t, so maybe some explanation would be appropriate.





As the seventh step, you have to choose how to pay. You can choose between ATM/Debit card, Credit card, or Cash. If you select ATM/Debit card, you’re asked to dip your card, which you do. If it couldn’t read your card, e.g., because you dipped it too quickly or too slowly, it’ll ask you to dip your card again. But the machine is so insecure that it has to ask you first, whether you really want to dip again or no. So if you just naively go ahead and dip your card again when you see that it wasn’t read correctly, it won’t look at it. First you have to hit the “Yes” button on the screen, then it’ll take a look at your card again.



All Over the Place





This is where the machine goes crazy, neurotically moving the interaction all over the face of the box. The ninth step is to enter your secret ATM card code (if you’re using an ATM card) on a miniature keyboard below the screen, next to where you dipped your card. The tenth step is to approve the charge by hitting a button on the screen (“Your card will be charged $63. OK/Cancel”). The eleventh step is to pull out the newly issued MetroCard from a slot to the right of the screen. The twelfth step is to choose on the screen whether or not you want a receipt. If you said yes, the thirteenth step is to pick up your receipt in yet another slot.





Closeup of MetroCard Vending Machine, Brooklyn Bridge station, New York





This last round is worth pausing at. The machine has nine different means of interaction:



  1. A screen
  2. A slot for dipping charge cards
  3. A keyboard for entering ATM card code
  4. A slot for inserting and retrieving metrocards
  5. A slot for inserting dollar bills
  6. A slot for inserting coins
  7. A slot for receiving receipt and change
  8. A scrolling display at the top displaying irrelevant messages
  9. Printed instructions and other text on the box




As a user, you have to continually move your eye focus around, trying to guess where the machine wants to talk to you now. I can’t see any easy way of lowering the number of these means of interaction, but at least they could have arranged things so they were neatly packed with the screen (the main focus of interaction) in the middle, and the six others on each side of the screen, and then have given visual hints on the screen (read: arrows) as to where the interaction was to take place next, so the poor user doesn’t have to go hunt-and-seek all the time.





If they also made sure they arranged all the slots so that the normal case would be a straight-forward sequence from the upper-left to the lower-right, chances are it would be easier to anticipate where the next interaction would take place.



A Goal-Directed Design



Subway, New York City





What would a goal-directed design look like?





Without spending too much time pondering, it seems safe to assume that the user’s goal is to ride the train. More specifically, it is to get a MetroCard of some sort, and pay for it.





A bunch of disclaimers: I haven’t spent more than 10 mintues thinking this over, and I don’t plan to (unless the MTA offers to pay me for it). I’ll probably overlook some features, and may run into some issues with cluttered screens that are hard to solve unless you actually sit down and fiddle with the graphic presentation, which I won’t do either. And finally, whatever I come up with would have to be subjected to usability testing.





All that said, I’d go for basically the same three-step process: Select what you want; pay for it; get it. That seems to be generally accepted in kiosk design. Since there aren’t really that many options to choose from, we can present the user with a simple list:



Welcome!      Please pick a card:
One ride$1.50 
Value card$3- $100 
1 day unlimited$5 
7 day unlimited$17 
30 day unlimited$63 
30 day unlimited ExBus$120 
<th bgcolor=”#ffffff”>Espanol
ChineseFrancais




The screen says “Welcome!”, so the user will know that the machine is readu for a new user, and not left somewhere in the middle of a transaction broken off by a previous user. It’s ready to serve, and offers the user the full menu of cards that it has, complete with their prices.





Instead of SingleRide, it says “One ride”. Plain English, no jargon. The Value card has a price range of $3 to $100, making it clear that you get to choose how much value to put into it.





Then there is a little whitespace, making it clear, that the options now coming are somehow qualitatively different from the ones before it. After the whitespace, we list the three normal types of unlimited ride cards, making it clear that the only difference is the time period and the price.





Bag, New York City Subway





Then another whitespace before we list the ExBus card (which I still don’t know what is, otherwise I’d’ve called it something other than ExBus jargon). The price is in red, to make it obvious that you should be aware that this is quite expensive, and should only be chosen if you know what you’re doing.





The next screen would be the pay screen, simply saying something like “Please dip your ATM, Debit or Credit card <—OR insert bills or coins—>” with arrows to the respective slots. Once the user starts inserting a card or cash, we can switch to a display specific for the chosen means of payment. Of course, it should still have an option to switch payment type, say, if the user discovers that he doesn’t have enough cash, or that his card can’t be used in this machine. Note that there are arrows to the credit card/cash slots.





Screen three would be something like “Want to refill an existing card? Please insert it now in the slot on the right—>” with a button saying “New Card”. If the user dips a card that cannot be refilled, he can either try again or hit “New Card”.





The interface outlined above is by no means revolutionary. If I was charged with the task I’d spend slightly more than 10 minutes brainstorming the options available. But it’s a starting point, and, I’d claim, much better than the current interface. I dare you to implement it and do the usability tests, and we can see.



Heuristic Lessons





What lessons can we draw from this? Here’s a list of heuristics that have been violated in the interaction design of the MetroCard vending machine:



World Trade Center, morning





  • Avoid hierarchical menus.
  • Avoid gratuitous steps like the wake-up call.
  • If 90% of the population is likely to be okay with a choice (lanuage, in this case), then see if you can get away with assuming this choice, and only have the 10% actively choose something else. This is especially true if the choice doesn’t have very grave consequences.
  • Don’t ask the user to choose between things when he doesn’t know the difference or the consequences of his choice.
  • If there are two options, and one of them turns out to be impossible, let the user try the other one. Don’t cancel. The user probably still wants to ride the train, even though his current card couldn’t be refilled for some technical reason unknown to the user.


Welcome to New York!

33 comments

How to resolve. On Wed. Nov.21/2001 I bought a $63.00 unlimite Metro Card to the vending machine at Dyckman Station. Serie #0544285103. I Sent back on 12-07-01 to New York,City Transit,370 Jay Street,Brooklyn,NY 11201 and to this date I have any answer to this matter. The following two week and waiting for, I acquired two $17.00 unlimited and finally I bought the last one per $63.00 dollar on Sunday December 23rd.2001. This one ending on January 21st according with the bus display. I love this system and always I use to,since the implementation two year ago but, How more time I have to wait or how to contact the person in charge. I thing It is enough time to waiting for. Have a nive New Year 2002. Reven2002@aol.com
By Ogilbe Nunez,Rev. on Wed, Apr 04, 01 at 02:00 · Reply
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* *
By Brian Mindlin on Wed, Apr 04, 01 at 02:00 · Reply
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ExBus The ExBus Metrocard allows you to ride on the new $3/trip express busses. They are just like regular MTA busses, but they have less stops and they tend to travel on faster roads. For example, the x25 service between Grand Central Terminal (midtown) and the World Financial Center (downtown) runs down the FDR Drive. Other services (x27, x28, x29, x37, x38) run to Brooklyn via the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel and the Gowanus Expressway. So now you know :-)
By Andrew Montgomery on Wed, Apr 04, 01 at 02:00 · Reply
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Thanks I am planning to visit New York soon and use the subway. I only have experience with the (much simpler) London Underground system. Thanks to your article I now know how to use these machines! Just one question, are these machines available at every station? The MTA official site states that the $4 Fun Pass is not available at every station but only from MetroCard machines and MetroCard merchants. If there is a vending machine at every station, then surely the Fun Pass is available from every station?!
By Jeremai Smith on Wed, Apr 04, 01 at 02:00 · Reply
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Re: Metrocard machines I figured out the Metrocard machines pretty quickly. I'm not a very smart person, and I don't see the point in the Metrocard screed on this Web site. However, I do like the coins better... I am buying as many of them as possible for when the fares go up in price.
By Angelo Young on Wed, Apr 04, 01 at 02:00 · Reply
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Some problems with your critique. Just a few: <p> " * Avoid gratuitous steps like the wake-up call." <p> Subway stations are open 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. They make you hit start to let the machine know to get out of 'screen saver' mode, so there isn't instant screen burn-in. Yes, you can get screens where this isn't a problem. But they cost a lot more. Do you want to pay higher fares for better screens? I don't. Also, the inert screen can be used for advertising, and ......public announcements, like service changes. That's useful. Haven't you ever noticed the changing displays on the machine? <p> "* If 90% of the population is likely to be okay with a choice (lanuage [sic], in this case), then see if you can get away with assuming this choice, and only have the 10% actively choose something else. This is especially true if the choice doesn't have very grave consequences." <p> But English is not the primary language for 90% of NYC's population. Spanish is the primary language for 40-50% of the people here. No joke. Here's a known user issue- people will walk away from the machines if they see the 'wrong' language displayed first or feel that it won't work in 'their' language. Hispanophones are unlikely to use what appear to be English-only machines. The language menu is also DIFFERENT depending on neighborhood, just like ATMs....which all function in the same way, so it's going to be a familiar user experience for most people. <p> " * Don't ask the user to choose between things when he doesn't know the difference or the consequences of his choice." <p> You don't know what the ExBus pass is (here's a crazy idea- ask the Token Clerk). But everyone who rides the express bus does. Therefore, you don't need to know what it is to get to your destination. Since you live here, you are unlikely to need the One-Day FunPass, designed for tourists. You seemed to be able to figure out how to buy what you need. Guess what? The city does not revolve around you or your needs. There will be options you will be unfamiliar with since you do not need them. <p> " * If there are two options, and one of them turns out to be impossible, let the user try the other one. Don't cancel. The user probably still wants to ride the train, even though his current card couldn't be refilled for some technical reason unknown to the user." <p> I always buy my (Monthly) cards one day ahead of time. Therefore, I do NOT want to ride the train. If I pick up a card for someone else, I do NOT want to ride the train. If I buy the card on my way home, exiting the station, I do NOT want to ride the train. These are not esoteric situations. <p> Also, like an ATM, it's important to cancel after an impossble request- it's a big clue to the user that he/she need not worry- THEIR CREDIT CARD HAS NOT BEEN CHARGED, (or, alternatively, their current card has not been devalued/eaten) since the transaction is not complete. What you are suggesting is much more ambiguous. Haven't you ever noticed the machines function almost exactly like ATMs (for good or ill)? <p> Again: the MTA does not revolve around you or your needs. Do not assume that your usage is the majority's usage of the system. <p> However, I did like your revised screen design. It does look like it will save time.
By Wunkels T. Zehausaphat on Wed, Apr 04, 01 at 02:00 · Reply
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they work just fine -- yes, from a UI standpoint as well. I was in NYC this past Sept. and used the Metrocard machines for the first time. Now, I'm not a native New Yorker, but I did live in NYC from '91-97 so I'm used to dealing with the subway. Let me tell you, these machines are a dream come true for any commuter on NYC Transit. And I was able to use the machine the first time in under three minutes to get my card (and the second time was to replentish my ride value). What does this tell me? The machines work and the UI does what it needs to do (and helps the user attain a card quickly) with minimal fuss. FYI: I went to grad school at NYU's ITP with Sigi Moeslinger who designed the software interface (www.antennadesign.com).
By Brendon Macaraeg on Wed, Apr 04, 01 at 02:00 · Reply
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The subway machines are excellent I use them often, and have always been impressed by how easy and fast they are to use. I can refill me card in probably 30secs. I am impressed by the design and completely disagree with your assessment. I believe in this case a heirachial design works well, as i am only forced to make one decision at a time, instead of your screen design where I have to read the entire screen to make a selection. With the current machines, i only need to make one decision at a time as the screen refresh is so fast, there is no negative aspect to this. I agree there may be some improvements to make in the descriptive area, but I also believe your assessment was made with little knowledge of the actual user base - did you observe people or are this your own critique?
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Not good UI design I agree with the original commentator. Rather than providing two styles of interaction, one for experts, and another for novices, they did a midway approach to try to serve both, and in the process compromised the UI for both types of users. <p> I consider myself an "expert" user of these machines. I do freelance work and my subway needs vary a lot - sometimes I get a day pass, sometimes a single ride, sometimes a week pass, sometimes a $15 card. I've been riding the subway for years. I use the machines frequently. I understand the options. <p> Yet I -still- find frequent occassions when I have to cancel out my transaction and start over from the beginning (even restating my language choice) because I was mislead by the menus and went down the wrong path. I have to re-read and re-learn the steps each time. I still use the human ticket sellers whenever there's a choice and a train is approaching - buying from a person is simply much faster. <p> As a frequent user who understands the fares, it drives me crazy that it takes seven steps (which I have to read carefully to avoid screwing up) to do what feels should be a three step process - select type of card, pay, get card. For a frequent user, a denser UI would be much more suitable - e.g. a list showing showing all the ticket options, with associated prices would be better than a series of badly worded questions. <p> For infrequent users, the current UI design wisdom is that you should offer a task-based "inductive" UI with plenty of explanations and a nice big Back button to backtrack if you go wrong. The subway kiosk fails to do this too. In an effort to make it look simple, they oversimplified, and produced a UI with terse jargon-laden language and no explanations. I've all too often had to explain to the person in front of me how to use the machine. Infrequent/new users find that the options are too terse and lacking in help. <p> I think they should support two modes of interaction - one for frequent users, and a different one for infrequent users. You can do this by using one style as the default, and offering a button at the bottom of the page for switching to the other (e.g. an "Advanced" button or a "Please help me choose" button). <p> [I think language choice should be integrated into the "Start" step, and not be a separate step. (e.g. the word Start could be shown in several languages) or offered as an optional choice on the botton of the screen.] <p> Jon
By Jon Meyer on Wed, Apr 04, 01 at 02:00 · Reply
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Bad UI design I agree with the original commentator. Rather than providing two styles of interaction, one for experts, and another for novices, they did a midway approach to try to serve both, and in the process compromised the UI for both types of users. <p> I consider myself an "expert" user of these machines. I do freelance work and my subway needs vary a lot - sometimes I get a day pass, sometimes a single ride, sometimes a week pass, sometimes a $15 card. I've been riding the subway for years. I use the machines frequently. I understand the options. <p> Yet I -still- find frequent occassions when I have to cancel out my transaction and start over from the beginning (even restating my language choice) because I was mislead by the menus and went down the wrong path. I have to re-read and re-learn the steps each time. I still use the human ticket sellers whenever there's a choice and a train is approaching - buying from a person is simply much faster. <p> As a frequent user who understands the fares, it drives me crazy that it takes seven steps (which I have to read carefully to avoid screwing up) to do what feels should be a three step process - select type of card, pay, get card. For a frequent user, a denser UI would be much more suitable - e.g. a list showing showing all the ticket options, with associated prices would be better than a series of badly worded questions. <p> For infrequent users, the current UI design wisdom is that you should offer a task-based "inductive" UI with plenty of explanations and a nice big Back button to backtrack if you go wrong. The subway kiosk fails to do this too. In an effort to make it look simple, they oversimplified, and produced a UI with terse jargon-laden language and no explanations. I've all too often had to explain to the person in front of me how to use the machine. Infrequent/new users find that the options are too terse and lacking in help. <p> I think they should support two modes of interaction - one for frequent users, and a different one for infrequent users. You can do this by using one style as the default, and offering a button at the bottom of the page for switching to the other (e.g. an "Advanced" button or a "Please help me choose" button). <p> [I think language choice should be integrated into the "Start" step, and not be a separate step. (e.g. the word Start could be shown in several languages) or offered as an optional choice on the botton of the screen.] <p> Jon
By Jon Meyer on Wed, Apr 04, 01 at 02:00 · Reply
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not really a mess thanks for your thoughtful commentary, but i have to disagree on several points. you mention having lived in NYC for a year and a half. that doesn't quite qualify you for the Veteran New Yorker Pin, but having lived there over 15 years i have to admit the machine was massive leap ahead for the subway system. it's too easy to critique one system based on isolation from the rest of the system it resides in. take a look at some of the historical problems with the <i>entire</i> system: <br> <ul><li>i can recall the days when scam artists used to put their mouths over the token slot on a turnstile, suck out a recently slotted token and then sell it back to arrivals to the subway station looking to buy tokens from the booth closed or packed with a long line. <i>many customers bought many saliva-wet tokens simply because going to the booth was worse.</i></li> <li>movies from the 70s & 80s featuring subway cars covered with graffitti now seem nostalgic thanks to a very simple change the MTA made in the 90s: put the car railyard behind a razorwire fence that kept graffiti artists out. if the MTA took that long to build a fence, i would've suspected a leap like these machines would be ready by, say, 2050.</li> <li>have you ever tried to talk, engage, do anything other than shove some money and indicate w/your hands what you want to purchase from a token booth attendant??? their audio system features a limiter on the mic to keep them from actually having a 2-way conversation with customers. it's kind of like trying to IM someone face to face with a line of people behind you waiting for you to get out of the way. (to be sure, part of the reason for the sound problem is they sit literally behind bulletproof 3 inch glass.) </li></ul> <p> the first time i used these machines, i paused for a few seconds between steps to figure out what to do, but the bottom line is i figured out what to do with a minimum of trouble. this works because: <ul><li>the touch screen is at eye level and centers the main action in one place.</li> <li>this doesn't assume anything web-like. this is not the web and hierachical menus are less an impact on the interface. the device is color-coded in separate logical, physical sections to group the actions in separate places.</li> <li>i admit there's a lot going on, but these machines <b>do a lot!</b> they take credit cards, debit cards, cash in paper <i>and coins</i>, they allow you to <b>recycle</b> a used MetroCard. The fact that any institution in NYC would recycle anything is totally 21st century for those of us who saw the Fresh Kills Landfill grow from a hill to a 4000 foot mountain.</li> <li>this machine issues receipts. in the past, the only way you could submit a receipt for subway transit to a vendor was to use the torn plastic baggie that held a $N MetroCard. and before MetroCards? there were literally no receipts issued for tokens purchased. none. (try asking for a receipt through that bulletproof glass.)</li></ul> <p> that said, i do have a few gripes, some of which jibe with your concerns: <ul><li>having to wake-up the machine by touching the screen isn't always intuitive to me</li> <li>i don't really like having to pick English, but I don't really have a choice. this is just a reminder that NYC is one of the great international cities. (your solution to offer a language selection in only Chinatown or particular spots defeats the point: these people are in the subway to go somewhere. if they're in Chinatown w/a Chinese machine, don't you think they're going to want to see a Chinese-capable machine uptown or in Astoria, Queens.</li> <li>I hate the shape of the credit/debit card slot. Like the ones on the self-service gas station pumps, it doesn't fit the hand well and, if I recall, you have to turn your card upside down to get it in.</li></ul>
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NYC is an expert system. <p> NYC is a very confusing place to live. The main reason is that, since so many people live here, everything is designed as an expert system. It is intended to be fast and obvious for those who live and work here first and foremost (because this is not DisnayWorld). Just try and get a cup of coffee in midtown at 9AM or a bagel at 10AM on a Sunday in Brooklyn and see what I mean. The systems are fast and useful, but you have to know them. They are not intuitive, since they are not meant for passerby but for the 9M who are experts.</p> <p> So, the criteria of UI are not those you suggested (intuitive), but those of speed, ease, and exactness for expert users. I happen to LOVE the machines. I know what I want, and can get it in 10 seconds or less (just like my bagel or coffee).</p> <p> However, your gripe about the entry systems is accurate, and the comment about the # key for entering your ATM code is absolutely right. I do hate that thing. </p>
By Michael Greer on Wed, Apr 04, 01 at 02:00 · Reply
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Machine Placement Not exactly a UI issue, but I've always thought that the MTA should place machines on the actual platforms, such that one could purchase credits while waiting for a train.
By Jordan Erenrich on Wed, Apr 04, 01 at 02:00 · Reply
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And you are?... Your assesment of the MetroCard vending machine is profoundly naive. You display a complete lack of understanding of the <i>context</i> in which these machines are used: by people in a hurry who only want to make one tiny decision at a time as they try to not spill coffee, and juggle a shoulder bag, and watch their wallet, all while standing in dim light in a hole in the ground. The MetroCard and its vending machine is one of the greatest things to happen to the subway. <p>So there are a few extra steps along the way. So there are some system constraints that influenced the UI. Well, if you had ever worked on a publicly funded project in NYC you'd understand just how amazing it is that they work as well as they do. <p>But the most irksome part of your critique is the snivelling tone. It allowed me to dimiss your opinion in a NY minute. <p>Welcome (back) to København!
By lars pindick on Wed, Apr 04, 01 at 02:00 · Reply
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Help button I liked your new UI but it could use a "Help!" button. It could then explain what all the options are, etc. Owen
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Re: "How to Resolve" I'm very curious about the second comment posted on this thread. It makes such little sense to me, and yet expresses such a yearning for help, that I thought to bring it up. <br> Has anyone any idea what exactly Reven2002 is asking? <br> --------------------------- <br> How to resolve.<br> On Wed. Nov.21/2001 I bought a $63.00 unlimite Metro Card to the vending machine at Dyckman Station. Serie #0544285103. I Sent back on 12-07-01 to New York,City Transit,370 Jay Street,Brooklyn,NY 11201 and to this date I have any answer to this matter. The following two week and waiting for, I acquired two $17.00 unlimited and finally I bought the last one per $63.00 dollar on Sunday December 23rd.2001. This one ending on January 21st according with the bus display. I love this system and always I use to,since the implementation two year ago but, How more time I have to wait or how to contact the person in charge. I thing It is enough time to waiting for. Have a nive New Year 2002. Reven2002@aol.com
By wow wowie on Wed, Apr 04, 01 at 02:00 · Reply
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Vending Nightmare! I'm in the business and had no luck even I work for a vending machine manufacturer and distributor. I live in Jersey City...I came up to NYC and thought I was smart by buying a card for the subways--WRONG! I still ended up having to get individual tokens for virtually every trip I made while visiting NYC over the holidays. I threw the thing away before even leaving the city. I told my boss and he couldn't believe the hassles because he knows those machines should work--as expensive as they are! <a href="http://www.123vending.com"> He carries simple mechanical, not too many electronic vending machines.</a> Well bottom line--technology can be Heaven or Hell!
By Monica Lynn on Wed, Apr 04, 01 at 02:00 · Reply
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Speedy Delivery <P> A couple of comments. First, I'm just dashing off a note of reply, not working a dissertation, so if there are any typos, give me a break and don't wrongly assume I am dumb. <P> I have been using the MTA daily for six years. I remember when it was all token based, and I remember being cold, wet, irritable, hot, anxious to get home, late for a meeting while waiting in a line for people to buy tokens. <P> Point One: The MTA UI isn't perfect, but in this case it is better than the human interface, a.k.a. the toll both people and the others in line. You get stuck in the back of a line in NYC, and you have slow people, drunk people, incoherent people, people dropping change, people asking questions ... all in front of you, screwing up the interaction. It was hell. <P> Zippity-Do-Dah: The MTA Machines arrive. First experience required attention on my part. The second required less so. By the third time, I knew exactly what I needed and how to get in before even stepping into the station. <P> As a visual experience, working the machine is a bit like driving a car. You go up to the beast, take control, and drive it through a transaction. You touch the screen here, you put in the money there, you hold your hand here and wait for the card to pop out. Credit card in other hand on standby waiting to dip at prompt. <P> It's a bit of a symphony of fast hands and quick decisions. It's kind of like a video game. <P> There is something about the mammoth size of these machines ... the feel (and are) extremely stable. Reliable. Substantial. <P> Lastly, the Start screen. I believe it's sole purpose is to clearly communicate to a customer that they are without question at the beginning of the process. I don't think it has much to do with the machine sleeping (if so, wake-up is instant). Also, since the start screen is mostly static, I doubt 'burn-in' has anything to do with it either. <P> Final point: Love 'em, hate 'em. They're so incredibly faster than the human interaction, that to call them anything less than a great success would be a crime. Plus: They always say 'Hello' and 'Thank-you,' something you almost never get from the human interaction. <P> Sincerely, <P> Eric Goeres <P>
By eric paul on Wed, Apr 04, 01 at 02:00 · Reply
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Interaction or None Some people actually don't like human interaction. To each his/her own.
By Rusty Campbell on Wed, Apr 04, 01 at 02:00 · Reply
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Maybe I wasn't there long enough... An eighteen-year-old just about to go away to college, I flew from my hometown of Bellingham, Washington (as far west as you can go before hitting the Pacific) to NYC for a week on my own in Manhattan. I had never been to the east coast, much less to New York City, by myself, but I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to get around. I found the Metrocard system to be a wonderful help during my stay. Not only was the price right for a seven day pass ($17 for UNLIMITED use on ALL subways and buses is fine with me), but it was easier than heck to obtain and use. And getting a coffee and a bagel wasn't too difficult either. Getting around NYC was a dream - much easier than where I come from.
By Alan Holl on Wed, Apr 04, 01 at 02:00 · Reply
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You're all so clever.. The point being made was not that the machine can't be used. It was that the machine could be made very much quicker, easier, and more intuitive to use. These are all desirable and achievable goals. Those of you who wanted to prove your genius by telling us that you're able to use the machine in n seconds or less have completely missed the point. If the booths are removed from the system, as seems likely in the long run, then everyone will be using these machines. Everyone. The clever alongside the slow. When you want to get a train but you're stood behind someone else that's jumping through the hoops for the first or second time, perhaps you'll wish there were less hoops?
By Fred Bloggs on Wed, Apr 04, 01 at 02:00 · Reply
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Some Comments I think they can a add a motion sensor in each MetroCard Vending Machine so that it knows to jump out of the screen saver when someone is nearby. And they can add some flash lights in the place where people collect their change and receipt.
By Patrick Cheung on Wed, Apr 04, 01 at 02:00 · Reply
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They run Windows for chrissakes Have you used the machines for the New Jersey Transit tickets? IMO they are far more confusing. On the Newark light rail they have a kooky system where you have to go to this separate machine to get the ticket stamped with the date and time otherwise you are slapped with a hefty $100 fine. <BR><BR> The machines in a way are designed for those who are used to the system and/or live in the city. Tourists have the option of getting their metrocards from a live human being, which can be more helpful than having a huge line of disgruntled late commuters waiting for some tourists to read all the help pages. <BR><BR> Finally, it was pretty stupid in the first place to run the machines on <B>Windows</B>. Yes, I've seen a couple of them frozen and with BSODs.
By William Lam on Wed, Apr 04, 01 at 02:00 · Reply
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JAVB If say 70% of the users find the current UI acceptable and the system an improvement on previous systems THEN if all the Metro users where invited to design a system and UI, how many will find the new design (if a new design can be agreed on) acceptable and an improvement on the current system ?
By Jannie Buys on Wed, Apr 04, 01 at 02:00 · Reply
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MVM EXPLANATION In the first place, the whole MVM system was based on input from focus groups which evaluated the whole program from design through implementation. Speed, Diversity, Efficiency, Flexibility, Ease of Construction and Ease of Maintenance were the primary considerations. SPEED The design had to take into account that the primary users were going to be our 12 Million daily riders who don’t know, and don’t want to know just how the machines operate, and which system is better than another system. They really don’t want to do any kind of reading – they want the machine to operate the same way, every time, so that they can become expert at operating, and speed their purchase. If they can get good enough to where they can totally ignore the machine and do it by feel, so much the better. Indeed, this last aspect was achieved by paying strict attention to diversity, which is the next primary consideration. DIVERSITY The Metrocard Vending Machine is the first Vending Machine in the USA which is both Americans with Disabilities Act AND Civil Rights Law compliant. It can be operated by users who are BLIND; DEAF; LITERATE IN A LANGUAGE OTHER THAN ENGLISH, SHORT STATURE, and BOUND IN A WHEEL CHAIR. BLIND: The MVM uses Braille, large type, bright colors, and the insertion of a HEADPHONE, to facilitate purchases for the Blind. Blind People – and others too – can insert a standard headphone and listen to instructions on how to use the MVMs. DEAF: The screen system is sufficiently informative to make it possible for Deaf people to use it. LITERATE IN A LANGUAGE OTHER THAN ENGLISH: The MVM can present information in six languages simultaneously, and all MVMs present six languages which are selected from a library of loadable routines in seventeen languages. The default language is always English. Before the MVMs are programmed, the stations they are earmarked for are canvassed, and the six local languages are installed as a consequence. That is why MVMs in Greenpoint have Polish as one of the six languages, while MVMs in Brighton Beach have Russian. SHORT STATURE/BOUND IN A WHEELCHAIR: The controls of the MVMs are grouped to facilitate their being used by both short people, and people in wheelchairs. EFFICIENCY: Efficiency was hard to build into the machine because so many separate technologies had to be integrated. Separate dispensers for Metrocards, which are plastic, and Single Ride cards, which are paper, were necessary because of different handling needs for plastic and paper. The MVMs have TWO keyboards. A manual keyboard for inputting the PIN number for ATM cards, and a virtual keyboard for inserting the amount of money for value Metrocards. Paper money is not recycled, but is collected in a bin for removal during a maintenance cycle. Coins are either collected for removal when the change system is sufficiently full, or recycled when filling is required. Change: A compromise had to be made in this area. MVMs are limited to giving not more than $6.75 in coins, including Dollar and Quarter coins. This was done so that the change would last longer over the operation cycle, and thus limit the amount of downtime because of lack of change. Color Coding. Each module of the MVM’s user interface is a distinct color. This was done to make it intuitive as to which module does what. Once you learn the color coding, you can use the MVM while sleep-walking. FLEXIBILITY: The design of the MVM’s had to be flexible for two reasons: first of all it had to survive changes in fare policy with little or no reorganization, and it had to be ready for use on systems other than the Subway System. You may not be aware, but the MVMs have been extended to all of the rail systems operated by the New York MTA, which means that they had to be flexible enough to facilitate use on the Long Island Railroad and the Metronorth Railroad. This meant the addition of a third form of Metrocard – the Time Based Commutation Metrocard – which has the Commutation Ticket on one side, and the Metrocard on the other side. Other forms of such flexibility are to be found. EASE OF CONSTRUCTION: The design of the MVM is such that it is easy to either assemble an MVM, or reconficure one for use on the Subway, or one of the two Commuter Rail systems of the MTA. It assembles with the ease of the Erector Set, and is about as complicated. EASE OF MAINTENACE: Maintenance is the Achilles heel of all machinery. The MVM is designed to facilitate on-site maintenance since it is not practical to replace the entire machine on-site. Sensors have been installed so that vandalism and basic jamming is easily detected by the system, and reported back to the maintenance base for dispatching of maintenance crews. This brings up the so-called “irrelevant Message Screen” that was referred to in the basic text this in reply to. That is a Diagnostic Report system which informs Passengers and Employees the basic operational health of each individual MVM. One final aspect which needs to be touched on is the fact that the MTA wanted the capability of placing advertising on the touch screen. This is the basic reason for the sleep mode. During the sleep mode, the screen is covered by advertising which helps to pay the bills.
By CORNELIUS SEON on Wed, Apr 04, 01 at 02:00 · Reply
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Why do Metro stations have to be soo complicated... <p>I think tickets dispensed with <a href="http://www.gumball-machine.com/sticker-vending-machines.html">sticker vending machines</a> like these are excellent for metro stations...</p> <p>thanks :) from the Vending machine guys...</p>
By alfred alame on Wed, Apr 04, 01 at 02:00 · Reply
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I like the Copenhagen/North Sjælland public transport system very much. It has an integrated bus/train/metro payment system based around the concept of zones, centred on Greater Copenhagen. To calculate the cost of a trip within the zone system, you need to know the zone you start in, and the zone you're travelling to. Handy charts at bus stops and train stations show the colour-coded distance to the other zones in the system - blue for two zones, yellow for three zones etc. Minimum trip cost is for two zones, so single-zone trips are relatively costly. Trips which are more than seven zones away cost a maximum fixed price and are coloured gray. You can buy either a single ticket, or a paper carnet ("klipkort" = "clip card") with 10 tabs, one for each trip. The clip cards are colour coded (yes, the same colours as the zone charts) and are sold at newsagents and train stations. Machines at stations and on the buses chomp off the next numbered tabs on the card and stamp the the card with a station ID, zone ID and date and time, and you have a certain time limit that you can travel within - up to 1 1/2 hours for a gray clip. If you have a two zone clip card but want to travel four zones, you may use two clips. It's less cost effective but perfectly legitimate. Brilliantly simple and effective. And, of course, heavily subsidized.
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Just ran accross the designers: http://www.antennadesign.com/ant.html
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Kudos on your analysis of the MVM. My special thanks to <a href="http://www.antennadesign.com">Antenna design</a> for making one more part of the NYC subway system completely esoteric! I like your solution MUCH better. --D
By Derek Van Oss on Wed, Apr 04, 01 at 02:00 · Reply
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I'm not sure why it's not obvious that a SingleRide card does exactly what it says on the tin.
By Hershele Ostropoler on Wed, Apr 04, 01 at 02:00 · Reply
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Sure seems like this has boiled your blood. I've used the machines before myself, not too often, but a few times- and they didn't really bother me. I typically get upset with horrible interfaces too, but honestly I had no trouble with these machines.
By Used Machinery on Wed, Apr 04, 01 at 02:00 · Reply
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It's been a few years, obviously so they might have changed a thing or two. But really, it was just that I was using it pretty frequently, and seeing as I always got stuck on the same screens, I started trying to figure out why that was and what could be done about it, and how to make the whole transaction more efficient. It was a mental exercise that I enjoyed, and the decided t share. Of course, as anyone who ever designed anything knows, there's tremendous trade-offs that might not be immediately apparent to the user. For this reason it was particularly gratifying to get the comments from the folks who know about how the machines were designed. Thanks for all your comments, folks.
By Lars Pind on Wed, Apr 04, 01 at 02:00 · Reply
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[...] a Metafilter discussion about a critique of the MetroCard vending machines used in New York City. I don’t see what all the fuss is about – I have never had a [...]
By From the News « Amanita.net on Tue, Jul 05, 11 at 16:01 · Reply
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