Friday, July 13, 2007

And now for something completely different...

A brief rant. In today's post, there's an article about Metro's upcoming plans to issue new "paper SmartTrip cards":

Metro wants to upgrade its Farecard machines so riders can use cheaper, paper-based SmarTrip cards, under a plan approved by a board committee yesterday.

Disposable SmarTrip cards might be preferable for tourists and other infrequent users who don't want to spend extra money for the regular, plastic cards. The minimum purchase for plastic SmarTrip cards is $10, including $5 for the card. The limited-use cards will probably cost less than $1, officials said.

Can someone explain how this would differ from a REGULAR F#&?@NG METRO CARD? What makes these geniuses thinks that someone who wants a "limited use card" would pay even $1 more than the $0 you currently have to pay to get a paper metro card that works perfectly well? I am struggling to understand what possible benefit there could be to a consumer to have something between the existing metro card (which is, by definition, limited use) and a SmarTrip card (which is, by definition, meant for frequent riders). If this is about the busses - and I give huge props to any tourist who's ever set foot in a metrobus, because I lived here for at least 8 years before I figured that out - then this seems a completely backwards solution. Instead of creating yet another technology that needs to be supported by every bus and metro station, why not just update the busses to accept the existing paper metro cards?

Also in this article, disturbing news from the Mint:

As part of the upgrade, all 900 Farecard machines will be able to accept new dollar coins that will begin circulating in January...

I guess I missed the press release, but I am deeply troubled to see that we are about to have yet another dollar coin. What is this, the fourth one in the last 20 years or so? It should be clear by now that Americans simply will not accept dollar coins, any more than we will accept a hamburger with a tomato from McDonald's. Most people either accidentally spend them as quarters, or assume they are foreign currency and stick them in a bowl on their dresser.

Besides, the only way these things ever got into circulation was in change from the Post Office vending machines. But those are hardly even around any more, and will all be gone by 2010. So it's unclear how anyone is going to end up with one of these new dollar coins in the first place.

Speaking of the post office, I recently realized that first class stamps cost 41 cents now. I am pretty sure this is the third rate hike within a year. The only thing the PO has done right lately is to issue that forever stamp that will always be valid in the future. Since the price of postage seems to change more often than my age does, and I can't even remember that, at least it is no longer important what the current price of postage might be. Hmmm... I wonder what the return on a large-scale investment in forever stamps might be?

Well, I'm glad I got all that off my chest. Obviously, the folks at WMATA, USPS and the Mint have been drinking a little too much of the Kool Aid. Or maybe it's just because today is Friday the 13th. But at least it keeps us on our toes here inside the beltway. Back to our regularly scheduled house renovation.

Speaking of which, the kitchen will be gutted tomorrow. Watch here for pics...

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