Monday, August 29, 2005

When a Day is not a Day

The American Heritage Dictionary defines “day” as: 1. The period of light between dawn and nightfall; the interval from sunrise to sunset. 2a. The 24-hour period during which the earth completes one rotation on its axis.

It further defines “pass” as: “A permit, ticket, or authorization to come and go at will.”

Thus, one could logically surmise that a “day pass” for a given service would, in fact, be a pass good for:

1) a 24-hour period.
2) the time period from the moment you purchased it until midnight.
3) the time period from the moment you purchased it until the service you purchased it for closes at the end of the service day.
4) Service between dawn and nightfall.

Not so for the Washington D.C. Metro service. A day pass for them starts at 9:30 am (presumably to discourage riders during peak times). I am fine with that but I would have liked to know that before I purchased my “day pass” at 8:45am. No notice about hours appeared at the automated kiosk where I purchased the ticket. Of course, when I went to use it moments later, the turnstile would not let me through. When I went to the station agent to ask why the pass did not work, he merely smiled and pointed to a small notice posted right below his speaker:

“Day Passes valid after 9:30 am”

OK – I can live with that. How about a refund so I can purchase the correct ticket? No deal. How about an exchange? Nope. The agent (still smiling) informs me that day passes are the only tickets where you can not get a refund or exchange. I find out today that this contradicts their website which states: “Passes may be exchanged only before the pass period begins”. Of course, I was not on the D.C. Metro website when I was speaking to the station agent. When I pressed my case, the agent continued to smile and shrugged.

Good Times.

Knowing that I have just wasted $7 and that it will take more than $7 worth of effort to get my money back, I go back to the kiosk and try to determine how much fare I need to get from one station to the next (D.C. charges based on a zone / rate system – not a single fare like most other subway systems use). The result: my two brief subway rides for the day cost me a total of about $9.

What gets me is that the D.C. Metro has enough people complaining about a service that they take the time to make a sign explaining the problem. Of course, the sign is posted so you see it after you purchase the ticket - not before. Here’s a brainwave – why not post the sign at the location where you purchase the ticket (as opposed to 50 feet away)? That might avoid some trouble. Or how about fixing the problem by offering refunds or allowing riders to use the ticket at all times. Arghhhhh. Rant over.