Cashless Metrocard Machine Observation

I decided to observe the use of a cashless metrocard machine for this last week’s Physical Computing assignment. I chose the metrocard machine on the Bogart St, Morgan Ave L train stop because it is a highly trafficked stop in my neighborhood. The purpose of these machines is to dispense new metrocards, refill existing cards, and to check the available balance on cards.

I observed people using the machine around rush hour, so it seemed that a majority of the people using it at that time lived in the area and were commuting to work. I watched 10 or so people use the machine and the part that held people up the most, from what I could tell, was swiping the card. There are no clear instructions on how to insert the card. Whether you should leave the card in or pull it out is not made clear and even if a person has used the machines before there are still issues with the swiping.

The touch screen interface was very quick and responsive for the people using the machine. Navigating the different pages seemed easy for people and not much backtracking needed to be done. I have to admit that if I had been doing this observation somewhere more tourist centered that may have yielded different results but being that these machines need to be streamlined and allow the everyday commuter to use quickly I think the observation was fair. Finally, The average time each person spent at the machines was around 15 seconds.

If there was a cash accepting machine next to the cashless one it would have been interesting to compare the accessibility of both.


When looking for accessibility options on the machine I was able to see a few design elements. The first being braille and an audio jack next to the touch screen. After doing a bit of research online I was able to find that the braille gives instructions to visually impaired people to use the audio jack to give audio and personal keypad instructions to the machine instead of using the touch interface. The design of the machine is not trying to hide any of the accessibility features like the color coding or braille signage. Instead it takes the opposite approach and makes those features prominent and works the rest of the design around them.