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.
Foolishly, in hindsight, I waited until the evening before my trip to attempt to buy the ticket. I had a layover at Newark Broad Street in my commute. The TVM prompted me for the bus route number I wanted a ticket for. I typed in 1, then 3, and was about to type 9 when the option vanished. I looked up and saw that the prompt had changed: it was now asking me how many zones I wanted on the 13 bus. Lesson learned: the bus ticket options shown are limited by the location you’re buying from.
Since the 13 was a three-zone intrastate route, I couldn’t buy a combination of tickets and use them on the 139 either. Under the circumstances all I could do was buy the ticket during my ten-minute layover at the Port Authority Bus Terminal (PABT) the day of the trip. As expected, I was able to select the 139 route there, but the lowest zone number shown was nine. Now it’s obvious what the designers of the TVM were trying to do (prevent people from accidentally buying tickets that wouldn’t cover their trip), but by not offering overrides they created a situation where I was forced to buy at an inconvenient location and overpay in order to make my trip.