As of November 15, MBTA riders will no longer be able to add money to their CharlieCards using the T's "MyCharlie" website.
The change will come next Wednesday as the T launches a new CharlieCard website, which the agency says will be easier to use. The new site is part of the T's plan to modernize its fare collection system, which some transit advocates say is welcome, but has been a slow and somewhat opaque process.
T officials say users' account information will automatically transfer to the new website. But those riders will have to take some steps to continue using the T's online service.
"Users will simply need to create a new MBTA account using the same email address as their MyCharlie account," according to the MBTA. "As a result of the change, customers will no longer be able to add value to their CharlieCards online using MyCharlie. Commuter Rail, Ferry, and Express Bus passes on CharlieTickets will still be available for online purchase on commerce.mbta.com."
Also, recurring monthly passes will be discontinued next week, and users will need to sign up for auto-pay and get a new Charlie card through the mail in order to keep their recurring payments going after November, the statement says.
Transit advocates say some of the changes will be an unwelcome surprise to riders.
"I think the T is continuing to do a very poor job of letting the public know what's going on," said Stacy Thompson of advocacy group Livable Streets Alliance. "I think a lot of people mid-November are going to be shocked that they can't do this online. And I really wish that there had been a stronger effort to get the word out."
Ultimately, Thompson says the T's ongoing project to change its fare collection system will be helpful.
"The Charlie Card, as we know it, is being phased out in favor of a new system that will, in the long run, make it easier to pay," Thompson said. "[In] places like New York City or Chicago, you can do things like tap through on an app on your cell phone, or use your actual credit card instead of having to have a separate Charlie Card. So essentially, this system is going to allow for different forms of fares to get you through the system, which is a good thing. But in the meantime, it means that there's a really bumpy road to phase out our current system that a lot of folks depend on."
The upgrade to the MBTA's fare collection system is being slowly phased in, Thompson said.
"It's taking much, much longer than the MTA anticipated," she said. "They expected for this entire process to be done a few years ago. It's still going. We are spending nearly a billion dollars on this fare collection system shift."
T officials say the new site will allow users to register multiple cards, protect their CharlieCard balance against loss, theft, or damage, request replacement cards, and easily sign up for automatic payments.
"Overall, I think the changes are positive," Jarred Johnson of the advocacy group TransitMatters said in an email. "I do think it’s worth discussing the inconvenience of not being able to load money onto your Charlie Card online when there are places in the system where fare machines aren’t available, such as the Silver Line in Chelsea."
Johnson added he'd like a better sense of the timeline for the process of upgrading the Charlie Card system.