Rider vs. Ticket Vending Machine

Living in suburban New Jersey without a car has never been easy. So when I received an invitation to a party halfway across the state—from Parsippany to Jackson Township—I knew I had my work cut out for me. What I didn’t expect was that the humble Ticket Vending Machine (TVM) would cause me trouble.

First a little background. Like many commuters, I have a rail pass that has a bus zone equivalency printed on it (eight zones, in my case). My trip would be via the 139 bus, which runs express from Port Authority Bus Terminal to Jackson and Lakewood, which covers 15 interstate fare zones.

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Bye-Bye to Dollar Coins

In the ticket vending machines used by NJ Transit, as in those used in most transit systems, if you buy a $1 ticket with a $20 bill, you’ll be greeted by a cascade of 19 one-dollar coins: your change.  No matter that the coins are not in general circulation and bring frowns at the counter if you try to spend them—that’s the way the TVMs worked.  No longer, says NJT, which announced on February 14 a rollout of new technology that will allow the machines to refund change in paper currency: $1s, $5s, $10s, and $20 bills.  The system is dubbed Bank Note Recycler, or BNR. Three such machines have been in trial for some time (at New York Penn Station, the Port Authority Bus Terminal, and on the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail); the trial has been deemed successful, both technically and in receiving positive customer reaction, so NJT plans to deploy the capability systemwide by the end of 2013.

The first machines to be equipped with the paper-bill-refund system will be installed at Newark Penn Station, 4 machines each working day starting Feb. 14, until 12 are in service, with the remainder at Newark Penn to be converted by early March.  Next in line will be machines at New York Penn Station, followed by NJT’s 2 Manhattan bus terminals, and then the program moves on to the rest of NJT’s 674-TVM “fleet”.  In addition to providing customer convenience, the program is expected to save NJT up to $1.2 million a year in costs from reduced handling of coins.  NJT says that it is the first transit operator in the US to deploy BNR technology.