Charlie Returns

In the 1960’s the Metropolitan Transit Authority came up with the idea of not only paying a fare to get on the subway but to get off as well.  In typical Bostonian fashion a major cause célèbre was raised protesting the very idea.  The result as seen below became an instant hit by the Kingston Trio on how poor Charlie got on for the dime but lacked the nickel to get off.  I do recall the song which became somewhat of a cult hit during its time.

Pay upon leaving has been used by other properties.  Metro Transit uses it for afternoon rush hour buses in some of their suburban runs.  The idea is to reduce loading time in the downtown pick up areas.  Here too this webmaster had several of those runs on a regular basis and followed the process of acknowledging familiar riders who had picture passes by using the keypad on the complex fare box.  In some other cities though the exit fare has been employed by subway systems as a means of correct zonal pricing.  In other words a passenger’s exit fare from getting on at stop A to stop C may be less than someone going to Stop E.  To date I have not heard of anyone getting stuck on the system like Charlie did.  In the case of commuters using stored valued cards which are becoming more and more popular on most major transit companies the issue has become somewhat moot.

Kingston Trio M T A lyrics

Jacqueline Steiner/Bess Hawes

These are the times that try men's souls. In the course of our nation's history, the people of Boston have rallied bravely whenever the rights of men have been threatened. Today, a new crisis has arisen. The Metropolitan Transit Authority, better known as the M. T. A., is attempting to levy a burdensome tax on the population in the form of a subway fare increase. Citizens, hear me out! This could happen to you!

(Eight bar guitar, banjo introduction)

Well, let me tell you of the story of a man named Charley on a tragic and fateful day.
He put ten cents in his pocket, kissed his wife and family, went to ride on the M. T. A.
Well, did he ever return? No, he never returned and his fate is still unknown. (What a pity! Poor ole Charlie. Shame and scandal. He may ride forever. Just like Paul Revere.)
He may ride forever 'neath the streets of Boston. He's the man who never returned.
Charlie handed in his dime at the Kendall Square Station and he changed for Jamaica Plain.
When he got there the conductor told him, One more nickel. Charlie couldn't get off of that train.

Now, all night long Charlie rides through the station, crying, What will become of me?!!
How can I afford to see my sister in Chelsea or my cousin in Rocksbury?

Charlie's wife goes down to the Sculley Square Station every day at quarter past two,
And through the open window she hands Charlie a sandwich as the train comes rumblin' through.

Now, you citizens of Boston, don't you think it's a scandal how the people have to pay and pay?
Fight the fare increase! Vote for George O'Brien! Get poor Charlie off the M. T. A.

He's the man who never returned. He's the man who never returned. Ain't you Charlie?

CharlieCard© MBTA

But Charlie did return – in the form of the CharlieCard©.  Introduced to the public in late 2006 the CharlieCard© comes in two formats: plastic pass or ticket.  The ticket is a paper version that is a stored value where riders pay the standard fare plus a surcharge unless they use a “T Pass” that can be stored on the CharlieTicket©.   The CharlieCard© is a stored value, on line account management with reload features.  This is similar to other properties that use stored value cards that only need the owner to go on line and use a credit or debit card to add more value to the card.  One additional CharlieTicket © used by the webmaster was the seven day ticket that cost only $15.   For anyone visiting Boston this is a great value that permits the user to travel over most bus lines, all subway lines and rail lines within the first zone or two from the station.   If you do not wish to fight the traffic in Boston this has to be an outstanding value.  As to the webmaster’s CharlieTicket, it remains faithfully stored in his wallet.  The card is used at all subway gates as well as fare boxes.  In the case of the latter the operator can opt to simply acknowledge the card by pressing the correct button on the box.  In areas where there is a gate the user simply inserts the card in the slot, the card is read and comes out the exit slot allowing the gates to open for passage to the subway. 

Obviously the name came from the Kingston Trio song and won out over several other suggestions including one name that poked fun of the Bostonian accent.  We now see Charlie most likely on the Green Line with the same hat that he most likely wore in the 1950’s proudly holding his CharlieCard in his hand.

Now Charlie can go home and not have to worry about being stuck on the “T” forever.

Hey! Are you stuck and you would like to return to the site? Should I let you? OK, click here and if you're real nice and have the fare you can go back to the home page!


Lyrics to Charley is copyrighted. Use of CharlieCard copyright MBTA.