The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) will no longer allow D.C. metro riders to exit the system with negative balances on their SmarTrip cards. Instead, riders will have to use the cash-only “ExitFare” machines to pay the remaining fare. Before, a rider could exit with a negative balance but could not use the card again before restoring a positive balance. More here.
This new WMATA policy reminds one VC reader of 1959 the Kingston Trio hit. “M.T.A.” (aka “Charlie on the MTA”). The song, written in 1948 by Jacqueline Steiner and Bess Lomax Hawes for Progressive Party candidate Walter O’Brien’s mayoral campaign, tells the story of a man trapped on the Boston MTA because he did not have enough money to pay the fare. It begins:
Let me tell you the story
Of a man named Charlie
On a tragic and fateful day
He put ten cents in his pocket,
Kissed his wife and family
Went to ride on the MTA
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 could not get off that train.
Here’s a site with the full lyrics and the history of the song, a Kingston Trio performance, and the Dropkick Murphys’ version, “Skinhead on the MBTA.”