Chapter 2. Triggers

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In the 1990s, New York City Transit began converting its seven million daily bus-and-subway passengers from paying fares with tokens—which had been in use since 1904—to paying with a MetroCard, a thin, paper-like plastic card. One of the key pieces of the city’s conversion plan was the installation of hundreds of vending machines all over the five boroughs for riders to purchase and fund these new MetroCards. This was no easy task. New York City is home to over eight million people, and tens of millions more live in the surrounding tristate area. According to a report by the Department of City Planning, in 2000, 36% of New York City residents were foreign born; there were enough people speaking a language other than English in 2002 to support 40 magazines and newspapers in another language.[6] Tens of thousands of residents are visually impaired, physically disabled, have little or no schooling, or are illiterate—or some combination thereof. The official guide to New York City reports that over 35 million tourists visit every year (in some years as many as 50 million), many of whom will ride the subway, but few of whom are familiar with it or know how to buy a MetroCard. In fact, the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) had done studies of early MetroCard vending machine prototypes and had found that users were intimidated by the physical form and found the user ...

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