Tuesday, June 27, 2017

[San Diego County] Too tough to buy train tickets, grand jury says

Buying a ticket can be a difficult experience for commuters rushing to board a Coaster or Sprinter commuter train, according to a recent report by the San Diego County grand jury.
“What appears to be a simple machine to use can be frustrating for hurried travelers in need of a ticket,” states the report issued at the end of May.
The grand jury’s investigation found that people are sometimes unable to buy tickets, and that those failures often go unreported by North County Transit District and its maintenance contractors. Better maintenance, improved signs, and an improved system to report machine failures are among the grand jury’s recommendations.
“We are reviewing the Grand Jury report and have 90 days to respond,” transit district spokeswoman Kimy Wall said Wednesday by email. “We will have a report at that time.“
The North County Transit District has 55 machines that customers can use to buy tickets. A person presses buttons to enter the type and quantity of tickets they want, then pays with cash or a credit or debit card.
Most of the machines appear to work most of the time, according to the report. The grand jury found that overall the machines were operating 94.5 percent of the time, compared with the district’s reported 98 percent.
Still, the grand jury’s investigation found non-working ticket machines at many of the Sprinter and Coaster stations. Some machines would not accept cash or cards, which caused delays for people trying to board a train.
Also, when a machine was not working properly it did not refer the customer to a working machine or notify transit district officials of the problem.
Two people buying tickets Wednesday at a Sprinter station near Palomar College in San Marcos said they had no trouble with the purchase, and that the system was easy for people who were familiar with it.
The grand jury report made nine recommendations to improve service, ranging from upgrading all the machines to improving the signs that direct customers to use them.
Ridership on the district’s Sprinter and Coaster rail lines and Breeze bus service has declined by about 10 percent in the last two years, according to district budget documents. Transit district officials have said there are numerous reasons for the decline, including low gas prices, the boom in ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft, and record sales of new cars.
The ticket vending machines have been in service since 1995 for the Coaster and 2008 for the Sprinter.
June 23, 2017
The San Diego Union-Tribune
By Phil Diehl

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