The Charlie Card Reusable Ticket System

The Charlie Card is what is used for fares on the MBTA, the Boston transit system. This was created several years ago and the theme was based on a song that was made popular by the Kingston Trio in 1959.

The well-known folk song about Charlie on the M.T.A. is actually entitled "M.T.A.," which stands for Metropolitan Transit Authority, the predecessor of today's MBTA (Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority). The song was written as a campaign song for the 1949 Boston mayoral race of Walter A. O'Brien, Jr. (changed by the Kingston Trio to "George O'Brien"), who was the candidate of the Progressive Party. The song was meant to call attention to O'Brien's opposition to the recent fare increase, which saw subway riders charged an extra nickel to exit trains at stops above ground.

Charlie on the M.T.A.

Spoken intro...

Well, let me tell you of 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.

Well, did he ever return? No, he never returned, and his fate is still unlearned.
He may ride forever 'neath the streets of Boston, he's the man who never returned.

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 couldn't get off of that train.


Now, all night long Charlie rides through the station, crying, "What will become of me?!!
How can I afford to see my sister in Chelsea or my cousin in Roxbury?"


Charlie's wife goes down to the Scollay Square Station every day at quarter past two,
And through the open window she hands Charlie a sandwich as the train comes rumblin' through.


Instrumental break...

Now, you citizens of Boston, don't you think it's a scandal, how the people have to pay and pay?
Fight the fare increase, vote for George O'Brien, get poor Charlie off the MTA!


Et tu, Charlie?