Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Windy Last Tuesday of 2008

Today was my final morning commute for 2008!! Fortunately, the P508 was on time. We arrived to South Station at 8:21 a.m.

Boy, was it super windy out this morning. On my way into the office, I went to get a coffee and nearly got blown into a building. I thought March was supposed to come in like a lion, not January.

Wishing everyone a very Happy New Year 2009. May our commutes be better in the New Year!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Where was the P504 Today?

Train Rider is back. I did ask Santa to make sure that the MBTA/MBCR commuter rail performs with a 95% on-time performance. That's all I wanted for Christmas. Too bad Santa didn't listen to me. Today was another fine Monday.

I had a very early meeting this morning. So, instead of taking the P508, I attempted to take the P504. Guess what - the P504, which departs Grafton at 6:19 a.m., was cancelled this morning. I have no idea why the train wasn't running - it seems par for the course on Monday's. Has the MBTA/MBCR been able to make sure the Monday morning trains on the Worcester line actually run when they are supposed to? It wasn't snowing this morning. It wasn't freezing cold. Monday's happen - so where was the train?

Based on feedback shared by one of my coworkers, I do believe the P508 ran on schedule today.

Total bummer about the Pats, huh? That's what we get for counting on the Jets. Stupid Jets. Stupid Brett Favre.

Holiday Weekend News Round-Up

Good morning. I hope everyone's holiday and holiday weekend was enjoyable.

Yesterday's Sunday Boston Globe "Starts & Stops" column focused on the problems New York City's MTA has. The article featured an extensive interview with MBTA GM Dan Grabauskas. I'm not sure I agree with anything Dan had to say (a lot of doom and gloom), as I do believe the MTA is a much better run entity than the MBTA. I'm basing this on my own personal experiences riding the NYC subway system and suburban trains. Dan's comments are typical, but what is even more interesting are the comments that Globe readers made. If you have some time, check them out.

Commuter rail parking is the issue that just won't die. Yet another article, this one from Thursday's Globe, about how people would rather pay private businesses than the T. The owner of Fitzgerald's General Store in Southborough would like to pave a lot near his store and add 80 spaces. Right on Vinnie Patel!! Seriously - if I had to take the commuter rail from Southborough, I would much rather park in Mr. Patel's lot than the T's lot, It is easier to get out of Mr. Patel's lot at night and it isn't that far of a walk to the train. The T is claiming that the private lots aren't impacting their parking fee collections, rather private lots bring in more riders. I would love to know what the T is smoking?

Finally, the T's New Year's Eve schedule has been announced.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Holidays from Train Stopping

From Commute-a-holic and myself ... all the best to our loyal Train Stopping readers for a Happy Hanukkah, a Merry Christmas and a safe, happy holiday season.

A Christmas Wish for All of Us ...

May our commutes be on time
All across the Worcester -Framingham line
May the heat keep us warm
MBTA - Do not fill us with scorn
Let the conductors exclaim as we sit on the track
"We're sorry for the delay, it's fast going we lack"


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Worcester Line Holiday Schedule Update

The MBTA still has not corrected the press release about the 2008 Holiday Schedule. Fear not, Worcester-Framingham line riders, Newtonville Train Rider shared the following:
I called the "customer service" line. I was at least able to learn that the P515 will be going all the way to Worcester, and the P519 will be making the Newton and Wellesley stops.

They didn't have a list of the changes; he just had to compare the two schedules and identify the differences. There could be more than the two I listed!
I don't know if other trains are impacted, but I sure hope this information helps.

In other news, at least the team at Daily Worcesteria is trying to find out the on-time performance reports for the Worcester line. But, neither the MBTA nor the MBCR is being that helpful. Check this out:
The MBTA and train operator MBCR used to be one of the best with responding to information requests: We’d ask for on time performance numbers for the Worcester line for a certain time frame, and get a response; usually within a few hours, occasionally within a day. How times have changed. In November, we emailed Joe Pesaturo at MBTA, asking him for October data. He told us it wouldn’t be ready until December. On Monday, we emailed MBCR spokesman Scott Farmelant, who told us he was out until Wednesday. On Tuesday, Pesaturo told us to email Farmelant; when we told him Farmelant was out, he responded he had forwarded our request to the railroads operation staff. We’re still waiting on the numbers.
Governor Patrick - since you've made a lot of people unhappy with your selection of James Aloisi as the new Transportation Secretary, perhaps you can hold the MBTA/MBCR accountable with providing on-time performance results of the commuter rail lines IMMEDIATELY after the month closes, not months later. Lt. Governor Tim Murray - you seem interested in transportation - what about holding some people accountable?

Happy Holidays!!

Perfect Holiday Gift for MBTA Commuters

Do you need a last minute gift for the commuter in your life? Are you sick and tired of horrible commutes? If so, consider Christian Noise's special Boston T t-shirts.

This is a great way to support a local artist and voice your frustration over bad commuting experiences.

You can either purchase Christian's t-shirts directly online at http://www.christiannoise.com/ or at Sting Ray Body Art located at One Harvard Avenue in Allston.

A Festivus Transportation News Round Up

Here's hoping today's commute on the Worcester-Framingham commuter rail line is better than yesterday's.

Train Rider is away on a pre-holiday business trip. Good luck with those travels.

According to WCVB-TV, Channel 5, commuters on the Rockport commuter rail line are being bused from Lynn to the Blue Line due to a draw bridge stuck in the open position in Saugus. Also, I heard there are delays on the Fairmont commuter rail line.

Seinfeld fans know that today is Festivus. This is a good day to air your grievances.

Remember the MIT students who found the security flaws with the MBTA's Charlie Card? The T tried to sue them earlier this year? Guess what . . . they're now working with the T to help make the system more secure.

Here's more about the car accident yesterday in Abington. Boy, was that driver lucky he didn't hurt himself or the people on the commuter rail. Read about it in today's The Boston Globe or Boston Metro.

A follow-up to the Telegram & Gazette's editorial on the appointment of James Aloisi as the new Secretary of Transportation.

Today's Globe reports that some of the Pike's urgent financial issues aren't so urgent thanks to a complex financial deal the authority closed yesterday.

Finally, Newbury wants to join the on-call transportation service offered by the Merrimack Valley Regional Transit Authority.

Monday, December 22, 2008

See if You Can Locate Worcester Line MBTA Commuter Rail Holiday Schedule

Talk about a bad way to communicate. The MBTA's Holiday Schedule was released last Thursday. I have a MS in Mass Communication and I can't, for the life of me, figure out the "special" Worcester line schedule on Wednesday. Here's the lead paragraph:
The MBTA today announced its service schedule for the upcoming holiday period. To accommodate customers traveling to and from Logan Airport, Silver Line service will be enhanced on Thursday, December 18, Friday, December 19, and Monday, December 22. Logan-bound Silver Line vehicles will depart from South Station every eight (8) minutes between 10:00 a.m. and 11:00 p.m. each day. The one-way fare with a CharlieCard is just $1.70. In addition, schedule adjustments to Worcester Commuter Rail service will be made to accommodate customers departing Boston early on Wednesday, December 24.

When you go to read about the Commuter Rail, you just find this:

Commuter Rail
Commuter rail trains will operate on a normal weekday schedule.

Hmm. I wonder how many people it took to approve this press release?

If anyone has any idea what the Wednesday commuter rail schedule for the Worcester line is, please feel free to email either worctrainrider AT gmail.com or commuteaholic AT gmail.com.

Maybe the Worcester line is just the MBTA's/MBCR's "B*tch" (for lack of a better term). It was not a good morning on the Worcester line (or, really, anywhere else on the MBTA for that matter). Anonymous at 1:35 PM wrote the following in a "Reimbursement Request" about commuting on the P504 today.

Subject: I've really had it with you guys

Today's commute was a nightmare. I was willing to give you guys a little slack on account of the weather and the upcoming holidays.

However several things happened that I think were inexcusable:

  • you didn't notify passengers about a 20 minute delay (to start, we ended up being almost an hour late at South Station) until the train was already ten minutes late. If we had known we could have been waiting in our cars or at home.
  • when the train actually did arrive 25 minutes late it was smaller than usual - 6 singles rather than the usual 5 doubles, and because it arrived at the regularly scheduled time for the P506 that meant less equipment for twice the volume of people.
  • you blame the overall problem on CSX. I'm sorry but that just doesn't fly. It doesn't explain why you sent us inadequate equipment for the P504. And with the storm over yesterday evening you had plenty of time to make sure things were ready for the Monday commute. CSX's role is irrelevant. You are responsible for our safe and reliable service.
  • There was inadequate snow removal at Framingham. There was no way to get from the parking lot to the train without trudging through a foot of snow.
This all comes in the wake of major delays over the past two weeks, and a 20% back-door fare hike via the additional $2 a day on parking ostensibly to avoid having to "reduce service," though frankly this is happening anyways. Your system is broken.

You have to fix this. As fuel and environment issues are on the rise public transportation is a key issue in the coming years.

Thank you.

Meanwhile, Sarah J had this to say:

Today's commute was an absolute NIGHTMARE!!
  1. Missed my usual P502 train out of Worcester due to poor plowing. Didn't it stop snowing at 9:00 last night? Way to go city of Worcester.
  2. Went to park in my usual parking lot but the box for the money was missing. All that was left of it was it's metal legs.
  3. Drove to a different lot that was completely covered in snow (bonus because I didn't have to pay the fee since I couldn't see the number).
  4. Received text from my brother who was on the P502 out of Worcester. Said I didn't miss much because it became a local. Also, they were just inching along most of the way.
  5. Asked conductor about the P502 being a local. Response, "I don't know. The local must have broken down. We're working on getting out of here on time. I'll let you know".
  6. Still sitting at Union Station at 6:10AM, making us 5 minutes late already.
  7. Announcement that our breaks aren't working properly. "We apologize for the delay."
  8. Finally leave at around 6:17AM.
  9. Inch along.
  10. Start going backwards. The train passed the Westborough stop and had to back up.
  11. At the Natick stop, people were packing themselves in like sardines. All cars were single level.
  12. Waited a long time at each stop to pack more people in.
  13. At the Newton stop people were denied boarding because there wasn't enough room.
  14. The P504 finally reaches South Station approximately 20-25 minutes after the P502 train.
  15. Get another coffee because it's already a hell of a day.
  16. Sister-in-law calls the city of Worcester about the parking lot missing it's pay box and no one believes her.
  17. I call the city of Worcester about the pay box at 10:00AM, left a message and still haven't heard back. great.
A Disgruntled Worcester/Framingham Line Commuter.
Tomorrow is Festivus. May all commuters, but especially the embattled Worcester line commuters, have good commutes. If you feel the need, you could always air your MBTA/MBCR commuter horror stories here at "The Airing of Grievances."

Winter in New England and the Train Blame Game

I am so happy that common sense dictated that I not stand around in the freezing cold waiting for today's P508 train. Which was delayed. Yes - that's right - for the third Monday morning in a row, the Worcester-Framingham commuter rail line was an absolute mess. Check out the comments made by Train Stopping readers.

  • Framingham Rider said that the P500 (which departs Worcester at 4:45 a.m.) was canceled. This caused the P502 to be changed to a local. A pretty smooth commute until they hit Allston.
  • Anonymous at 10:34 AM wrote about the P508.
  • Richard, who normally takes the P508 out of Worcester at 6:55 a.m., isn't sure if he took the P508 or the P512, since the train he was on left Worcester at 7:35 a.m. At least Worcester riders can wait in Union station - waiting 40-odd minutes in the cold for the train on the concrete platforms is harsh. Richard said this, noting that the morning commutes have been particularly bad:
"As much as I'm angry at the MBTA, their website stated that the delays were due to CSX not clearing the switches. The snow stopped last night. Can't switches be cleared by the morning commute. We live in a snowy climate and these things should be taken care of. It was an upsetting commute and coming on top of all the other bad ones during December, this doesn't bode well for the MBTA."
  • Anonymous at 11:15 AM was also on the P508, which was really the P506. Anonymous' comments are very similar to Richard's
"What I found irksome about this morning's commute is that this storm, and the snow and ice, was not a surprise. It wasn't a go to bed with clear skies and wake up to snow and a messy commute. It's been snowing for 3 days. Everyone at the MBTA/MBCR should have known what the track conditions would be like and should have been out there at 3am, not 4:30am, digging out the switches. They knew what the situation was before the last train run last night."
  • Anonymous at 12:10 PM was on the P502 and noted "I want to know which part of the weather forecast the T and CSX didn't understand? If the first train is supposed to leave at 4:45 am then parking lots should be plowed and trains should be ready to move. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure this stuff out. The T and CSX need to learn to work together and stop putting riders in the middle of their tug of war."
The mess this morning on the Worcester-Framingham line even impacted outbound commuters. AlisonD Tweeted about this morning's events, which Universal Hub picked up. If you're using Twitter, there is a whole section dedicated to the MBTA. Use #mbtasux in your Tweets and they'll be tracked on the MBTA Sucks Twitter round-up page. This page is organized by MBTA subway line. Perhaps they'll end up adding a section just for MBTA/MBCR Commuter rail riders.

Posted last Thursday, the T has their Guide to WinterTime Travel On The T press release up. I'm sure Dan and his crack team will either blame CSX or the MBCR for this one. Yes, it is probably CSX's fault - I mean - who the heck doesn't clean the switches after a snow storm? Sure, it snowed this weekend, but it stopped snowing in the Worcester area last night. So there was at least 8 hours to clean the tracks. But shouldn't the MBTA be providing some oversight? They seem to be able to step in and take the credit when ridership is up.

This is absolutely unacceptable. Lt Governor Tim Murray - if you care so much about the Worcester area and about mass transit, you need to step in and fix this. Three delayed Mondays is not acceptable. Multiple delays are not acceptable.

Outside of the Worcester line, Boston.com reported on an incident in Abington this morning. Tales from the Commute (another commuter-related blog we just found), also reported on this.

I guess it could be worse. We could have been stuck on this Amtrak train over the weekend.

Refused to be Stuck on the P508 Today

Are the commuters who take the P508 even in Boston right now? I ended up driving to work this morning. When I arrived to the Grafton station at 7:07 a.m. and saw that people were milling around, I didn't think it looked too promising. I asked one of my fellow commuters if there were delays and he said "yes," so I checked the T alerts and it said that all inbound trains from Worcester were delayed 15 to 30 minutes due to CSX not clearing the switches in Worcester.

I turned right around, got into my car and drove into work. Which worked out well, because I do have a lot of errands to run tonight and I had a meeting that I can't miss this morning.

According to commuters who use Twitter, it looks as thought the outbound Worcester trains are delayed.

This is not a good way to start the week. I have a business trip tomorrow, so I won't be riding the rails at all.

Commentary from today's Worcester Business Journal focuses on how the Commonwealth needs to address transportation structure issues.

Yesterday's The Boston Sunday Globe contained a front-page story on how most Massachusetts residents believe a gas tax should be used to fund the transportation budget deficits. The article noted that many residents of the Bay State really question what impact, if any, the Big Dig had since it cost so much money. The "Starts & Stops" column in yesterday's Globe reported that the MBTA station lots have fewer cars in them. The T is still claiming a victory with the parking fare increase, since more revenue was brought in during November due to the fees. There was also this "Letter to the Editor" about the Silver Line Phase III project and an editorial about the T's drug policy in Sunday's Globe.

On Friday, the Governor named James Aloisi the new Secretary of Transportation. Many pundits do not agree with this selection. Read about it in this article.

Saturday's The Boston Herald contained this article about residents upset with how the T chopped down some trees along the Mattapan trolley line.

Similar to the Boston Metro's Q&A, the Examiner is now running a Q&A with MBTA GM Daniel Grabauskas.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Snowy Commute Home?

Train Rider took today off, so we don't have any morning updates regarding the MBTA/MBCR Worcester-Framingham commuter rail line. Seeing that it is about 12:30 p.m. and the snow still hasn't arrived to the Central Mass/MetroWest area, we hope everyone has an easy commute home. Supposedly the storm has already hit Southern Connecticut.

An editorial from today's The Boston Globe criticizes the T for the situation they caused at the historic Old South Church. Par for the course of late, reader's comments are priceless. Do MBTA senior execs care that they are berated all the time for their shenanigans and incompetence? I don't think they do - I bet they're laughing all the way to the bank. They earn comparable salaries to private sector workers, with state benefits rolled in. They're sitting at home today, since the Governor cancelled work today for nonessential state employees.

This Globe article talks about what the T is doing in preparations for today's storm.

SouthCoastToday reported on the Middleboro T station that is being proposed as part of the South Coast rail project.

Safe commutes today!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

At My Wits End

What is left to complain about? Trains were late AGAIN this morning. If you took the p506, p508 or are currently taking the p512 ... you're screwed. I'm not even sure what time the p508 pulled into South Station, all I know is that I'm submitting another reimbursement request.

I don't even have the energy to complain anymore, that's how sad it is. I'm seriously thinking of giving up the T and driving.

My Commute was Atrocious and Other News

Yup, that's right, my commute was atrocious. Don't know why today was all screwed up. It wasn't snowing. Its not raining. It is actually fairly warm. I understand when the trains are delayed due to weather events and I understand that from time to time, the trains won't run on time. But what is going on with the Worcester line? You can't tell me that the line is going to have a high on-time approval rate this month? Because, for the past two weeks, the trains have been beyond bad.

Not only have the trains been horrific in their on-time performance, but what is up with the parking lots? The Grafton lot was absolutely pathetic last night. For $4, the least the T could do is to come by and make sure that someone is sanding or plowing the lots. Dan Grabauskas and MBTA team - I know you read this blog. Care to blow some smoke up our butts and tell us why the lots aren't taken care of? You are one big pathetic organization.

As much as I believe in public transportation, I am seriously contemplated driving to Boston or using a private bus service. Enough is enough.

Since our entire transportation network seems to be unraveling, here is the news you need to know.

Boston Globe columnist Joan Vennochi weighs' in on the Governor's proposed pick as the new Secretary of Transportation. Joan pretty much feels the same way as most of the editorial staffs feel - that Aloisi is not the right person for the job.

Also, in today's Globe and Telegram & Gazette: lawmakers debate if there should be a toll increase or an increase to the gas tax. NECN has video with their report.

Today's Boston Herald reports that Boston Mayor Tom Menino does not think the seatless Red Line cars are a good idea. The MBTA claims that, in a survey on the seatless cars, 2 out of 3 riders said they would travel again in the seatless Red Line car. Approximately 300 people have completed the survey - so 66% of respondents said they don't mind the seatless cars. This is what the Mayor had to say:
“They’re taking the seats out and making people stand up, that’s not a transportation plan,” Menino said during a legislative hearing on tolls this morning. Menino said MBTA officials should come up with another way to handle the increased ridership.

The Bostonist takes a page from San Francisco's MUNI Manners by advising on T-appropriate etiquette. If you have an idea for what consists of good manners on the T, email The Bostonist at tips AT bostonist.com. Here are the first two:

  1. Wearing sweatpants ripped in inappropriate places.
  2. Slurping the crumbs from your finger after eating a Dunkin Donuts muffin. (We've all had them. They're not that good.)
I did enjoy the headline that Boston Magazine's Boston Daily came up with regarding the T employees who failed the drug tests situation: "High Times on the MBTA?"

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Parking Lot Disgrace

I'm livid. The Grafton MBTA parking lot was an utter mess when I got to the station this evening. No one had attempted to either try to clear the ice or to sand the lot at all. Those of us who took the 6:15 PM train out of Boston had to carefully shuffle our way across the lot to our cars, then spend upwards of 10 minutes chipping the ice away.

I should have expected it, these were the same conditions (snow, then freezing rain, then cold temps all day) that caused the entire parking lot to ice over and me to fall last winter. I'm not sure why I expected anything different, it can't be because I'm paying twice as much to park there now, right? That's just crazy! Because, as we know, the money is not going toward lot maintenance, it's going to back pay for MBTA employees.

Since these suburban lots are not patrolled by the MBTA police, they must be maintained by the subcontractors, there's no excuse for the lot to be iced over.

Mass Pike Public Hearing in Framingham Tonight

We received the below announcement from Stop the Pike Hike. Since many of our readers live in MetroWest, we thought this could be of interest.

Public Hearing in Framingham
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Framingham Memorial Building
Nevins Hall
150 Concord Street
Framingham, MA 01702
6:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.

Attending tonight's hearing will be State Senator Scott Brown (R), MTA Board Member Mary Z. Connaughton and Chairman Framingham Board of Selectmen Jason Smith.

If you want to attend the public hearing, you can speak at it. The hearing allows for the public to give up to a three minute speech. You can contact info AT stopthepikehike.org if you want to speak.

Stop the Pike Hike has some recommended speaking points including:
  • Explain how life will be changed for you and your family because of the increase in tolls. Bring in a chart showing how the increase in tolls will affect your family budget.
  • If you own a business, explain how much this will cost you and what cuts you will have to consider making?
  • Ask why it costs 79 cents in overhead for every dollar taken at the tolls, when the average state spends only 40 cents per dollar taken at their tolls?
  • How will this alter your commute?
  • Bring a bag of change showing how much the increase will cost you over the course of a week or a month.
  • Have there been any studies done on what the ramifications will be if this toll hike is enacted? The traffic in communities such as Everett, Chelsea, Somerville, Charlestown, Medford, Newton, Brighton, Allston, Brookline, Wellesley, Natick, and many more may become unbearable, as gridlock will take over local roads.
  • Has anyone considered the costs that the upkeep and maintenance of local roads will have on local government?
  • The Real Estate Values in these aforementioned communities will be severely impacted in a negative way.
  • Local Businesses will also suffer greatly due to lost revenues and increased costs.
  • The MBTA on certain routes, which are already overcrowded, will hit breaking points.
  • The Turnpike board claims to eliminate the tolls would cost 100 million dollars.
  • Have any public officials: Mayors, City Councilors', or Elected officials been consulted regarding the effects of the toll increase?
  • Has the board considered any other solutions to the problem, such as the Christy Plan?
  • Why did the proposed toll increase jump from 70 million dollars to 100 million dollars on the morning of the vote?
If you can't make the hearing, but you still want your voice to be heard, the Stop the Pike Hike recommends you call Governor Deval Patrick at 1-888-870-7770.

One Missing Car Makes the P508 More Crowded

Good morning. Some parts of Massachusetts received their first taste of snow today. It looks like the forecast for Friday could bring more snow. I'm taking Friday off to run some holiday errands, so I hope the snow doesn't interfere with my plans.

Today's commute was fine, although we were a car short so it was quite crowded. We were about 5 minutes behind schedule, which is good for a day like today. Especially since, in the western suburbs, there is more snow/sleet, as opposed to Boston which only has rain. The P508 pulled into South Station at 8:28 a.m. The Silver Line was a cluster, though. The platform was packed and people couldn't even get down the stairs to get onto the platform. Crazy.

Yet not as crazy as yesterday's commutes. Figures, the T&G's article about "things returning to normal" on the Worcester line would run on the same day that the commuter rail trains (again) went out of whack. Kidney Stones was not the only person to document yesterday's mucked up commutes. Universal Hub wrote about how the commute was Tweeted by Alison Driscoll (Tweeted is a term referred to communicating on Twitter, a microblogging site). Alison is a reverse commuter - she takes the MBTA's/MBCR's Worcester line outbound from Boston. From her Tweets, it appears as though she was commuting yesterday on the P503, which departs Boston at 6:50 a.m. Here is a snapshot of some of her Tweets from yesterday:

Frustrating, huh? We've all been there. What's even more disheartening are some conversational Tweets she had with other people on Twitter.
If you use Twitter and you Tweet about the MBTA, consider following Alison's lead and mark your MBTA-related conversations #mbtasux.

People are frustrated. But people are also not just bashing the MBTA/MBCR employees. Commuters who rode on yesterday's P512 train did praise conductors for updating them about the commute. Many of the comments made to yesterday's post provided by Kidney Stones are really enlightening. We should all consider some of the feedback - especially in the courtesy area.

Transportation is the theme of some op-eds this morning. An editorial from today's Telegram & Gazette denounces replacing just resigned Secretary of Transportation Bernard Cohen with James A. Aloisi. Aloisi was someone praised by Lt. Governor Tim Murray, a Worcester native. Meanwhile, The Boston Globe gave their editorial this title: "Our transportation mess." The Globe's editorial team summarized a number of ways transportation has become a daily "100 car pileup" and they closed with this:
Level with people. Many of today's woes can be traced to conflict avoidance - underestimating the cost of the Big Dig; giving in to unrealistic demands by public employees; dealing with spiraling costs by deferring maintenance and borrowing more money.
How true. Many, many of the complaints logged here on Train Stopping result around communicating. Tell the truth - even if it hurts - instead of telling tall tales. I hope MBTA GM Dan Grabauskas and his communications team read that last paragraph closely. We're not a bunch of gullible children - we're adults. We're taxpayers. Tell the truth instead of just a bunch of outlandish fairy tales.

Yesterday, WCVB-TV Channel 5 aired yet another report on the MBTA's parking fee increase. Similar to some recent coverage, this piece focused on how commuters are opting to pay to park at private businesses instead of the MBTA lots. Here's a link to the video. This is such a feel good story: cheaper parking, safer cars (because they're actually watched), a bit of customer service, and helping businesses who are also struggling due to the economy. Simple, simple solutions to the increase.

I would actually love to know how much money the MBTA has raised since the increase went into effect. Are they actually generating more revenue or are they at a break even, since so many people seem to be avoiding the increase by parking their cars elsewhere, carpooling, or getting dropped off at the stations.

Dig published a piece about the illogical of how MBTA Green Line trains run.

Today's Boston Globe noted that a lot of people aren't buying Fast Lane gift cards for Christmas. Another revenue stream gone bust.

This is from the Sunday, but its The Metro West Daily News' take on Stop the Pike Hike.

Finally, since some parts of Massachusetts received snow today, it is beginning to look a lot like Christmas. With that in mind, check out this MBTA-inspired take of "Twas the Night Before Christmas" from The Bostonist.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

When MBCR/MBTA Trains are Late, Commuters Pay

I'm beginning to think that maybe Train Rider possess some clairvoyant skills. Lately, when the Worcester line has been delayed, Train Rider has either been away on a business trip or driven into Boston. It almost seems like Train Rider knows when the trains will be delayed.

Alas, that is not the case. Circumstances have caused Train Rider to not be stuck on the Worcester train. Although today's T&G article said that the Worcester line trains ran on-time yesterday morning, it looks like the delays are back. Here's what Kidney Stones said about this morning's commute on the P508:
You missed another abhorrent commute this morning. The P508 pulled into South Station at around 8:58. This marks the 4th time out of the last 7 morning commutes on the P508 that have been delayed by 30 minutes or more.

I am at my wit's end with the MBTA. This is absolutely inexcusable, and downright unacceptable.

I would like to make a list of the areas of my life that have been negatively affected by the MBTA. This list is by no means comprehensive:

  1. The MBTA has negatively affected my finances. First, it is an absurd $250 a month to commute to Boston from Worcester on a train that is routinely late. Secondly, the recent parking hike to $4 a day makes it REALLY tight financially, as we are in the middle of a recession.
  2. The MBTA has negatively affected my job security. By arriving extremely late last Monday, last Tuesday, Friday, and today, I look like I don't care about my job. This is especially bad in these hard economic times.
  3. The MBTA has negatively affected my sanity. It is literally TORTURE to sit on a non-moving train for 30-40 mins with vague announcements. All commuters know this first hand.
  4. The MBTA has negatively affected my marriage. Since I've been getting in so late, I must stay later at night, taking away dinner time with my family--something I value greatly. My wife is quite frustrated, and this often causes petty arguments between us. I blew up at her last week over something STUPID, when in reality I was simply frustrated at the trains.
  5. The MBTA has negatively affected my social interactions with both friends and customers that I deal with. This morning, for example, when I finally got in the office, my phone rang. I literally stared at it and let it go to voicemail. I was so heated, that I probably would have said something I'd later regret.

This is pretty serious and it is something that has impacted people who rely on the trains. I'm not sure what the solution is. No doubt, someone will blame Kidney Stones for being whiny or complaining. What should he do - start driving into work? Stop buying a monthly pass and winging it? For the latter, if the train is late, no biggie (other than possibly losing your job or causing your marriage to implode), you've only spent $4 getting into the city if passes aren't checked.

The Worcester line obviously has some serious issues occurring. Sure, today's T&G article was all fine and dandy - everything looked fixed. But something needs to be done . . . this needs to be addressed beyond "we know it is bad." Start developing solutions. Too bad transportation is imploding in Massachusetts.

Here's a thought - why can't the Worcester line get the trains (the newer cars) that run on the Greenbush line? If some lines (Worcester, Fitchburgh, Franklin, Providence) have a lot of delays and if the delays are due to mechanical issues, why can't trains be moved around. That way, the bulk of the delays just don't happen to commuters who have the unfortunate occurrence to live along an unlikely line.

Any thoughts? Any suggestions? The boiling point has been reached.

Changes Ahead

For the second day in a row, I had to drive into work. Today, my team is having our holiday party - a pot luck lunch. So it is a lot easier to bring stuff into work in my car then hauling a lot of things on the train.

I still cannot get over last week's ice storm. It is utterly amazing, when you think about it, that the Blackstone Valley was virtually untouched. Yet, many parts of Worcester and towns west and north of Worcester are still cleaning up. Some towns still do not have school today. Luneburg has canceled school through the New Year. Crazy, huh?

Thinking about all of the destruction the ice storm has caused, I was pretty surprised to see an article in today's Telegram & Gazette about last week's commuter rail delays. According to the MBCR, the Worcester line is back on track - yesterday the morning commutes were 100% on-time.

So why were things so messed up last week? Well, before December 8th, delays were due to speed restrictions put into place by CSX. "Significant mechanical problems" combined with cold temperatures caused the delays last Monday through Wednesday. The ice storm caused flooding on the tracks in Natick and Wellesley and caused a felled tree on the tracks in Worcester. Due to these issues, the inbound tracks (I'm assuming inbound to Worcester) didn't open until 10:30 a.m. on Friday. Mechanical problems on Friday also delayed 12 trains, with five of them delayed for at least 1 hour or more.

The ice storm also caused a lot of damage to the Fitchburg line. Even the MBCR's spokesperson acknowledge that last week's mechanical issues were too much:
“The breakdowns last week were unacceptable,” Mr. Farmelant said.
While the MBCR said the November on-time performance for the Worcester line was 90%, for the first two weeks in December that performance is now 84%. This is considered an improvement over last year, when only 57% of the Worcester line trains arrived on-time. The article also noted the following:
The state has taken steps to improve train service over the past year. Three new inbound and two new outbound trains were added to the Worcester line in late October. State officials are still negotiating to purchase the Worcester track from CSX, with the goal of adding more trains in the future.
Yesterday's The Boston Herald contained an article about the state's transportation woes. Lt. Governor Tim Murray was interviewed. The Lt. Governor is blaming past gubernatorial administrations for the current transportation crisis. Per the media speculation yesterday, State Transportation Secretary Bernard Cohen did resign yesterday. His resignation is effective January 2, 2009. According to The Boston Globe, the Governor is considering James A. Aloisi, Jr. as Cohen's replacement. Aloisi was on the short list to be Transportation Secretary two years ago, but he was passed over due to his ties to the Big Dig. This is what The Globe had to say:
The new leader will take over at a crucial time for the millions of people who rely on the state's roads and transit systems each day. The financial crises at the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority and the MBTA, which are both facing crushing debt and yearly deficits, have pushed the transportation debate to the top of Beacon Hill's agenda as commuters worry about large toll hike proposals this year and the potential for heftier transit fares that could follow. Legislators have complained that Patrick has dragged his feet in delivering a specific reform plan, which he first promised more than a year ago.

Last night, Cohen did attend the Mass Pike public meetings. Read about it in today's The Patriot Ledger.

Today is the Stop the Pike Hike protest. If you use the Pike, the Stop the Pike Hike group requests that you don't use your Fast Lane transponder and you pay using inconvenient currency.

Monday, December 15, 2008

WiFi on North of Boston Trains

The Boston Business Journal reports that free WiFi service is now available on commuter rail trains that commute into / depart out of North Station. The Lt. Governor announced the service at a press conference today. Here's the scoop:
“The positive feedback we’ve received from commuters who are using Wi-Fi on the trains has been fantastic,” Murray said in a statement. “It became clear early on in the pilot that this service should be expanded to all commuter rail trains, and is just one way we can improve commuter services in the commonwealth. I commend the MBTA and General Manager (Daniel) Grabauskas on their efforts to expand this program.”

Under the expansion project, 258 of the MBTA’s 410 commuter rail coaches will be equipped with Wi-Fi service. Installation of the units began Dec. 1, and will produce 30 Internet capable coaches per month. A Wi-Fi logo will be posted on the exterior of coaches with wireless access.

Where's Bernard?

Saw this Boston.com headline and figured might as well post about it:
"Embattled transportation chief a no-show"
Massachusetts Transportation Secretary Bernard Cohen didn't show up at a scheduled press conference this morning. His no show could mean that Governor Deval Patrick may be replacing Cohen. Deputy Secretary Thomas Cahir replaced Cohen at the previously announced press conference. Cohen's spokesperson directed reporters to Governor Patrick's office. Lt. Governor Tim Murray was at the press conference, but wouldn't confirm if Cohen is being replaced.
“I think it’s premature for speculation,” he said, when asked about it. “If and when, I’m sure it’ll be announced.”

Murray said the entire state has “real challenges” with its transportation system and that fixing it is not about “any one person or individual. This is a team.”

The article goes on to detail some reasons, beyond just the massive transportation mess, that could cause Cohen to be replaced.

Could Have Used a Train Nap

Due to a post-work commitment this even, I had to drive in this morning. I was sad to not be on the train today. I'm so tired from the weekend, I could have used a train nap.

Yesterday's Boston Sunday Globe ran an article about how the MBTA is approaching dire financial straits. Due to the T's financial situation, fare increases and service cuts are very likely to occur sometime over the next 12 to 18 months. The T's budget deficit is expected to be about $142 million during the 2009-2010 budget year.

One project that may not see the light of day is the last phase of the Silver Line. This project was touched upon in both the main Globe article and in yesterday's "Starts & Stops" column. Since the T is essentially broke, the Federal Transit Administration does not want to grant matching funds, so the T won't be able to move this project to a final design until it can prove it has the money to support it.

An interesting inquiry was raised in yesterday's "Starts & Stops" column: the inability of transit riders to park at a MBTA lot and take the commuter rail to Logan. Basically, since you can't park in a T lot overnight, if you want to park your car and (to crib the slogan of a famous NY-NJ Port Authority commerical) "take the train to the plane." In reading why you can't park overnight, I'm thinking that sometimes the T should just not answer questions. This is why you can't park overnight:
Joe Pesaturo, the MBTA spokesman, said the lots are not staffed overnight, and parking is prohibited in those hours for liability reasons. He said overnight parking is allowed in several subway garages and ferry yards, which could work for passengers such as Fraser if she is willing to take the Quincy ferry directly to Logan, the Red Line from Braintree, or some other route with an overnight option.

Joe - let me ask you a question - have you actually been to a MBTA commuter rail lot? Guess what - most of them aren't staffed during the daytime. Does that mean we shouldn't park our cars there?

Good grief - what stupid answer.

Considering how much it is to park and pay tolls at the airport, you would think more people would be encouraged to use other means to get to Logan. Logan Express may not be handy to a lot of people, so why not be able to take the train. Also, what if you want to take Amtrak to NYC? Unless you park at the Route 128 lot, you really can't. So I couldn't get on a Worcester line train and either take it inbound to Boston or outbound to Worcester to hop onto an Amtrak train if I needed to park my car overnight. That's nuts, huh?

The Stop the Pike Hike protest tomorrow has been altered. Instead of not using the Mass Pike, the organizers have asked participants to not use their Fast Lane transponder and to pay in cash instead. They recommend paying with coins. Read all about it in this report from WBZ.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Wacky Weather and Pay By Phone

The "interesting" weather New England is infamous for certainly appeared over the past 24 hours. Train Rider didn't commute into the city, not because of the weather but due to a vacation day.

As so many people already know, parts of the state got slammed by a severe ice storm. Worcester was impacted, as were some neighboring towns to the east and west of the city. But some towns just got rain. The North Shore/North of Boston was also hit hard, but the South Shore/Cape could be experiencing higher temperatures later this afternoon. Strange.

I had an easy, albeit a tad elongated, commute to work. My town was right on the rain/ice zone, but we only got rain . . . and we got a lot of it. A few roads were flooded, but everything was relatively normal. Many of my coworkers also hit flooded roads in towns along Route 135.

Amazingly enough, when you expect the worst commute possible (due to the weather), you get some surprises. Check out the comment posted this morning by Framingham Rider:

Haha, the one morning I could have used a late train and it was right on time. I was a couple minutes late getting out this morning, and with the weather I guess my walk took a few more minutes longer than usual, too. So a 5 minute delay wouldn't have been the worst thing for me today, but alas, it was right on time, even with the weather conditions. So my hat goes off to the T this morning, and I guess this falls into the "be careful what you wish for" category, haha.

It has been a crazy week. First massive delays, now weird weather. I bet everyone is looking forward to the weekend.

The big news this morning is the pilot Park & Pay by Phone program.

Beginning today, the MBTA is running a pilot program for Kingston Line commuter rail customers and Quincy and Hingham commuter ferry commuters. Using the Verrus Park and Pay by Phone automated system, commuters will be able to set up an account for automatic payment. Once an account has been established, commuters will be able to dial a phone number, enter their station location number and enter their parking space number and the transaction will process. If the pilot is successful, this will be rolled out to other stations. This could alleviate the pain of shoving dollars into the honor boxes.

If you commute through one of the pilot stations, here is a listing of your station code:

You can read about the Pilot in the Brockton Enterprise, The Boston Globe, Boston Metro, or The Boston Channel.

This is crazy graphic day, huh? When I went to the MBTA website to read about the Park & Pay Program, I noticed that a survey about the Red Line "High-Capacity" Car. So, if you've got an opinion about the Red Line "seatless" cars, fill out this anonymous survey.

Finally, the Mass Pike has announced the first wave of job cuts to reduce its headcount to 100 employees. Read all about it in this Globe article.

May you have safe travels today!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Systematic Failure

A December miracle!!! The P508 arrived on time today. We got to South Station around 8:22 a.m. I made it into the office around 8:30 a.m. That's amazing, isn't it?

Based on my own personal experiences riding the Worcester line this week, not to mention the experiences of both posters (and individuals who correspond via email with either Commute-a-holic or myself), the MBTA/MBCR seems to be on a Systematic Failure this week (hence the title of today's post).
  • On December 8th, it was the start of the work week and the start of the woes plaguing the Worcester line. This is not just me, Train Rider, complaining. Many people are impacted when a train does not arrive at its designated time. You can expect delays from time to time, but not every day and not for a run of different trains. And I'm not complaining for the sake of complaining. I would like nothing than for the commuter rail to run at a 95 % to 100% on-time performance rate. Then maybe I would stop blogging. But until then, we have a lot of work to do. The breakdowns impact a lot of people.
  • Of the 19 comments to the "MBTA/MBCR - Late Trains are not a Joke" post, one person thanked the MBTA for helping her decide to leave her Boston-based job and work in the 'burbs (thus avoiding MBTA services), someone posted about how bad the Red Line has gotten, someone else said that the service delays will cause them to go from a monthly pass to a 12-ride commuter rail pass (since fares aren't collected), the Providence line has pretty poor performance, the Green Line isn't functioning, someone got fired because they didn't have a car and relied on the T to get to work, and the Worcester line has pretty much just sucked this week. To boot - most of these comments were made on Tuesday, December 9th. One day - 19 mostly not-so-great stories.
  • So you have a few horrific commutes and who's in charge? It seems like the MBTA takes credit whenever it is a good story - there are more riders, we got funding, etc., etc. But when it is a bad story, it is definitely "pass the buck." The MBCR runs the commuter rail lines, but the MBTA owns the stations.
  • Why can't we just have one authority run everything? Also, if the trains were running with such great delays on the Worcester line this week, why couldn't buses or other stop gap measures be implemented? If the trains aren't running and we need to drive into work, why can't we get our refund for parking? When parking was $2 a day, you just sucked it up and drove a way. At $4 a day, now we're talking cash. It is a bad economy, everyone needs to try to retain as much of their cash as possible. When I drive away because the train isn't there, I would like my parking refunded.
  • Why did it take the MBCR (because they usually are the bearer of the really bad news) nearly three days to address the issues on the Worcester line? As Anonymous at 4:23 PM on 12/10 noted, we only got letters from the MBCR on Wednesday afternoon at 3:34 p.m. EST. Why the delay?
Here is the letter in its entirety:

To Our Worcester Line Customers;

We have received many emails regarding the service experienced by our Worcester passengers this week, and understand that many of you have been affected on each train that you commute on. We want you to know that we are in agreement with the many letters and phone calls that we have received expressing your dissatisfaction with the current level of service; we concur, it is completely unacceptable.

We could provide you with chapter and verse on the reasons for each delay but we are certain that at this point it would be nothing more than an empty gesture when there is no way to justify being delayed daily. The problems are the result of a myriad of mechanical breakdowns. These issues have been raised to the highest level of management including, the General Managers from both MBCR and the MBTA. We have been assured that there will be a mechanical department management and technical presence at the Worcester facility both tomorrow and Friday to ensure that all locomotives are serviceable and ready to depart for their scheduled trips.

We are aware also that many of our customers have stated that the LED monitors at the various stations along this line were not displaying any indication of delays but rather that service was on or near schedule, which was clearly not the case. The communication logs have been thoroughly reviewed by our Chief Dispatcher which shows the times and updates for all train delays were indeed transmitted. That said we have a crew out in the field to determine why this information is not being displayed on the station monitors; this system is unquestionably outdated and in need of replacement. The MBTA is in the process of procuring a new GPS messaging system which will greatly enhance our ability to provide this information in real-time, without the glitches that has resulted in the current lack of information reaching its intended destination.

In closing, we want to assure you that MBCR will do everything in our power to restore the service on this line to a level that you can rely on.

Thank you for the opportunity to provide you with this explanation and apology and thank you for riding the commuter rail.

Boycott the Pike, Boycott the T?

In a protest against the proposed Mass Pike tolls, Stop the Pike Hike is calling for a boycott of the Mass Pike on Tuesday, December 16th, according to The Boston Globe. Tuesday is the 235th anniversary of the Boston Tea Party. Since service has been beyond dismal on the MBTA/MBCR commuter rail, the subway lines and the MBTA buses this week, perhaps mass transit commuters should also consider making a statement and not using public transportation on Tuesday. Wouldn't that create a cluster of traffic beyond belief here in the Commonwealth?

Here is the link to the Boston Metro Q&A with MBTA Big Pubah Dan Grabauskas that Train Rider mentioned in a post from yesterday. A commuter from North Andover asked about the 100% parking rate increase. Dan gave a typical canned answer, but EA Silver raised some excellent points. It seems pretty obvious that the T is dismal at strategic planning. If they actually cared about the parking experience, long ago they would have instituted systems beyond just shoving dollar bills into an "honor box" that has a hole barely big enough to get your dollars into. Plus, when the trains are late (such as this week), how can people obtain a refund for not parking? Honestly, the parking lots just seem another way for the T to generate "free money." It is really sickening.

Earlier this week, The Bostonist actually asked if the T did something sensible. That seems like a crazy question to ask, huh?

Funding for the Silver Line expansion could be in jeopardy, according to this article from today's The Boston Globe. Duxbury and Marshfield now have bus service provided by the Greater Attleboro Taunton Regional Transit Authority (GATRA).

WickedLocal Wellesley reports on efforts by State Rep. Will Brownsberger (D-Belmont) to obtain community feedback on transportation-related issues. There are some interesting suggestions about ways to fund transportation.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


AJ has succinctly articulated all of the frustration that we commuters feel:

"It really chaps my ass when people like Anonymous (12/10 at 626) chime in on something they either know nothing about, or are pointed in the complete wrong direction. People are finding alternate ways in, and discussing it. The grip is that we pay (good money at that) for a service which is not provided, and there's no accountability.

The response is always the same, and the indifference is always there. The fact is, some people have to take the Commuter Rail. They don't have options. And even if they did, they pay for something which is withheld with no sort of recourse. That's the problem. Terrible service that continues to get worse. A lack of communication that the GM refuses to acknowledge exists. Old trains that continually break down while we wait 2 more years for cars that we need today.

It's not on us to take responsibility for our commute. It's on the T to take responsibility for their deplorable service."

There are no words ...

I'm at my wits end with the MBTA. WTF!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Again this morning, another train was cancelled. This time the p502. I thought I'd outwit the p508 and got up early to take the 5:40 AM train because I had an early meeting (and if you know me, this is a big deal, I am so NOT a morning person).

But no, forces were conspiring against me, again. The p502 was cancelled. No reason was given according to my T Alerts. But, they were nice enough to tell me that the p504 was going to become local and run 10-15 minutes late. This gave me just what I needed to drive in. Even though I stopped for gas, at the ATM and coffee, I was still at work in about an hour and 10 minutes ... this with Pike traffic.

On days like today (well, all week actually), not only am I pissed about late trains but I want a refund of my parking fee. Why should I have to pay $4 for a now empty spot because MBTA trains do not run on time? I think the On Time Service Guarantee should include a parking rebate as well as the train fare rebate, it's only equitable.

Interesting observation came in from one of our anonymous posters: don't rely on the train, take other forms of transportation instead like van pools, buses, etc. While these are excellent suggestions, I know they don't always work out schedule wise for people like myself, as I need to be flexible in at work in order to handle client requests or last minute project updates.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

MBTA/MBCR - Late Trains are not a Joke

It feels like I just finished writing this post. No sooner had I published the post, when a comment by Kidney Stones appeared.

Unfortunately, the train was delayed. What the T doesn't seem to understand, but what we have been blogging about over the past few weeks, in today's economy a missed train could mean lost job. If you live in MetroWest or Central Mass, with the lower prices in gas, you could almost rationalize about driving to Boston. If that happens, while the T will generate funds from the gas tax, they lose out on ridership.

I guess Dan Grabauskas never really has to worry about his job. If he gets canned, he gets a parachute. What an American way, huh? And even better - he gets a state-supplied car to drive to work.

Kidney Stones isn't as lucky. This is a horrible scenario, but it is articulated very well. I do hope that employers who have employees who rely on Mass Transit understand that this is not a result of a lazy employee, leaving for work at the last minute. These late arrivals are beyond a person's control.

I really have no words to describe this morning's commute. So, rather than use words which would require me to wash my mouth out with soap, I'll just give the details.

The P508 never came, and was eventually cancelled. Worcester commuters like myself waited from approximately 6:45 AM until roughly 7:43 AM, when the train finally arrived. In addition to being nearly an hour late, the train then turned into a local, as it was really the 7:35 train and not the 6:55.

I would like to personally thank the MBTA for ruining my Christmas. I was supposed to set up and decorate my tree last night, but I got home too late (had to work late
because I arrived late). So I was going to do the tree tonight. Clearly, that won't be happening either.

I'd also like to thank the MBTA for increasing my chances of being fired. Being 30 mins late yesterday, and an HOUR late today really bodes well for my end of the year review. Had I not arrived this morning by 10 AM (thankfully arrived at 9:46ish), the company I work for would have lost 1.4 million dollars.

Think I could have sued Danny boy? Oh, that's right. They have no money anyway.

Are Cancelled Trains a Sign of Winter's Arrival?

Train Rider is away on a business trip today. Perhaps this is a good thing, as it appears that the P508 train was cancelled this morning. Thanks to Anonymous at 7:39 a.m. and Anonymous at 9:37 a.m. for the updates posted to Train Stopping. AJ posted a comment to The Greater Grafton Blog (which has a lovely photo of the platform at the Grafton MBTA station).

With the Thanksgiving holiday and heavy workloads, neither Train Rider nor I have been able to post some updates from readers. We'll start with news from Grafton Train Rider. The week of Thanksgiving was not a good one, commute wise, for Grafton Train Rider.

Grafton Train Rider started with the following message: "As we approach Thanksgiving, it sure has been a back week on the Worcester line. Tuesday night, P529 was delayed departing South Station due to a signal problem so we arrived in Grafton about 10 minutes late. Wednesday morning, P520 was delayed at least 15 minutes (stopped in Framingham and Allston then slow travel in between). The conductor thought that the cause was due to flooding."

On Tuesday, November 24th, both the P502 AND the P504 were cancelled. Grafton Train Rider submitted the following to the MBCR's Commuter Rail Customer Service:

Subject: No updated signage, invalid date.

It's bad enough to cancel the express train but waiting in the cold with a sign that says "All trains operating on or near schedule 11/11/08" is even worse when the date is 11/24/08. I arrived at work 45 minutes late. I submitted for the cancelled P502 and hope my refund is forthcoming. If not, I will write back to complain on that as well.

Here's some feedback Grafton Train Rider received regarding the malfunctioning LED sign:
I appreciate that you brought this information about the LED board to my attention. Unfortunately, our communications department, tries to ensure that all boards are running with the appropriate information, however until someone informs us that it is not running properly, we have no way of knowing there is a problem. I have forwarded this information on to our communications department, asking that they further review this information.Unfortunately, this department does not handle the issue of fare reimbursement. This request is handled through the MBTA's website. If you have any trouble regarding your request, you may contact them by calling 617-222-3200 and asking for the Revenue Department. Thank you for taking the time to bring this concern to my attention, I appreciate it.

Meanwhile, Fitchburg Train Rider expressed some concerns regarding the recent announcement about the removal of seats on some MBTA Red Line trains.
I heard on Channel 7 news this AM, that Red Line is going to RIP OUT ALL SEATS except for a few for handicapped and elderly. They claim to many riders. Now this is MORE THAN OUTRAGEOUS. Instead of
  1. better seats
  2. better customer service
  3. more cars added to the Red Line if more passengers
  4. more scheduled subways to accommodate the increase in ridership,

the MBTA, in all their infinite wisdom, decide to:

  1. rip out seats
  2. make present riders VERY MAD
  3. make the Red Line now very unsafe, and probably unlawful
  4. worsen their already bleak customer service reputation

Upset, Fitchburg Train Rider contacted the MBTA. Here is an excerpt of what the T had to say:

If I could set the record straight, the MBTA is testing two cars aspart of a pilot program where thy have removed the seats and these two cars would be put in the middle of a six car train. Currently the MBTA is operating 28 six car trains and starting on Monday one train will have two cars with the seats removed to address the over crowding the Red Line has experienced. Customers will be given the option to either utilize any of the cars with the seats or opt to board the train with the seats removed. The MBTA has added additional grab handles and straps for customers to hold onto during their commute. The Red Line had already added two additional trains beginning in the Fall to help address the overcrowding and we are responding to the still overcrowding conditions that still exist. Transit Agencies around the Country who have experienced similar problems removed seats as a way to increase ridership during peak periods.

The removal of the seats on the Red Line is a pretty controversial topic in Boston mass transit at the moment. Today's Patriot Ledger published an op-ed on this experiment. This well written editorial calls for the state to create a public transportation plan that will lessen our dependence on individual vehicles. The Ledger's editorial team makes some outstanding points about the logic of the T's experiment with removing Red Line seats. In the editorial staff's opinion, only 27 more riders will be able to get into Boston for about the cost of a gallon of gas. Do people really want to stand for a 1/2 train ride into Boston? Even a Tufts University blog has weighed in on this. We will have to see if this experiment works.

Now for some good news related to a follow-up story. Westborough Train Rider, who received mixed messages about paying daily parking fees with a personal check, sent this update:

They did indeed cash my check, see attached. Good news, they finally came back saying that paying by check is acceptable even though they have posted signs saying that paying by check is not an acceptable form of payment. Tomorrow will be my first test since 11/19. I'm curious to see if after paying by check I get back to the parking lot to find a slip on my vehicle stating I owe $5.

My aim is to let people know they can pay by check. People should know they have that option even though some station parking lots post that is not an acceptable form of payment, especially with it getting colder out there.

Thanks to Grafton Train Rider, Fitchburg Train Rider and Westborough Train Rider for sharing your experiences!

While the subject of parking is still top-of-mind, here are reports from WBZ-TV.com and the Brockton Enterprise about how a zoning conflict may not enable people to park at a private business in Kingston.

A Letter to the Editor in today's The Boston Globe about portable bikes, written by the executive director of MassBike. We actually missed this story - it ran in the November 30th edition of The Sunday Boston Globe. Folding bikes are used by some commuters to augment their transit commutes.

Finally, in case you didn't see or hear this, the Mass Pike reportedly saved $31.6 million thanks to budget cuts since January 2008. This is twice the amount that the Executive Director thought they would save in 2008.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Stupendously Long Commute on a Blistery Winter Morning

I knew it was not going to be a good commute this morning when I first arrived to the Grafton station for the P508 train. As I was parking, I noticed some people were walking back to their cars. I checked my T Alerts and it said the P508 was delayed by 15 minutes from the scheduled 7:09 departure time. At 7:20 a.m., I check the MBTA website from my Blackberry and the new alert said the P508 was delayed by 30 minutes.

At least the Worcester line wasn't alone in experiencing delays on the, thus far, coldest day of December. It looked like there were delays across the commuter rail system, according to the MBTA service alerts and advisories.

The P508 finally arrived at 7:35 a.m. I immediately asked a conductor if they were going to turn the P508 into a local train. At that point, the conductor said they had not received a notification to turn the train into a local. Fortunately, we stayed an Express train. Even with the express service, we didn't arrive to South Station until about 9:05 a.m. I think I'm still frozen!! It was blistery cold and windy standing on the concrete platform.

This was not the best way to start a Monday or the work week.

Yesterday's "Starts & Stops" column in The Sunday Globe was about how the economy could impact mass transit. Across the country, transit systems are experiencing a dramatic increase in the number of users. Will the numbers increase? No one can predict. Yes, gas prices are dropping, yet many people are trying to conserve their funds. Also, if unemployment continues to increase, there will be fewer commuters. Train Stopping was mentioned in the article. I've noticed a decrease in the number of parked cars in lots along the Worcester line and many of our readers have noticed the same in lots on other lines.

Today's The Washington Post also wrote about the national increase in mass transit usage.

Wicked Local Plymouth wrote another article about the parking increase, published yesterday. Another local business, which abuts the commuter rail line, is offering commuters a chance to park for a monthly fee that is cheaper than the MBTA's monthly costs.

The Sun Chronicle published an op-ed piece last Friday about the need for gates/whistles at some train crossings along the Providence line.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Thought Today was Saturday

It was worth driving into work yesterday. The Dan Band was AWESOME, a super fun show. If you know anything about the Dan Band, you'll know that the choreography makes the show. Good times!

Not so awesome, not so super fun, waking up the following day. I really thought today was Saturday. After shutting my alarm off a few times, I realized it was Friday and I needed to haul some butt to get to the train. The P508 was on time today, we arrived into South Station around 8:22 a.m.

Three weeks after the fact, the increased parking rate story is one that just will not die. Today's MetroWest Daily News contained an article about commuters on the Worcester line who are upset about the new fees. Regardless of what the MBTA officially says, it does seem like more and more commuters are finding ways to avoid paying $4 to park their cars at the local commuter rail lots. People are getting dropped off if they can or they're finding other places to park. Why not - it beats handing over your money to the T. Kudos to businesses that abut the commuter rail for joining the market economy and providing an opportunity for people to park at the business for less than it costs to park at a T lot. The owner of the Fitzgerald General Store near the Southborough MBTA lot is planning to offer a monthly parking plan that costs less than the T's rates. I'm sure this will also be easier than shoving $4 into the little pay box.

Picking up from The Boston Herald's story published yesterday, Boston.com has a photo of the "seatless" Red Line train.

On to some road news.

It looks like the State of Rhode Island is exploring ways to generate tolls at their state lines (a la New Hampshire). Thinking of the Rhode Island-Massachusetts I-95 border, how the F would this work? When you cross into our out of RI to Massachusetts on I-95, that's a treacherous piece of road. Its all curvy because they didn't want to totally cut into Pawtucket. You have some really groovy curves. Yeah, putting a toll booth there would be so logical.

If Rhode Island starts charging tolls at the state lines, Massachusetts better do the same to NH and RI drivers. They may as well contribute towards the Big Dig.

Here are articles from The Providence Journal and Forbes.com.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Weird Way to Collect Tolls

Train Rider drove to the office today for two reasons - an early morning meeting and, more importantly, because of the Dan Band concert tonight.

Since my commute to work is much closer to home, I always drive to work. I live close to my office and my home/office are located in areas where there are no public transportation options. However, this morning, I had to drive into the Route 128 area for a quick meeting. Driving back to my office, I got off at the Route 9 Mass Pike Exit (Exit 12). Can you say "cluster." This has always been a very popular exit - Bose and Staples headquarters are located right near the exit, along with a bunch of other office buildings. In the brilliant strategy that is the Mass Pike, there are only two Fast Lane toll booths, with three cash-only toll booths. Of course, most commuters use a Fast Lane, so those exits were super backed up. If you paid with cash, you could zip through. I still don't understand why the Mass Pike seems to be the only toll road system that doesn't do more combo cash/Fast Lane (rather E-Z Pass) toll booths? Nuts!

Looks like the MBTA did some PR media relations outreach. Most Boston media outlets either aired or ran a story about how commuters are still using the MBTA and the MBCR commuter rail even though gas prices are dropping.

I'm not sure who The Boston Globe spoke to, but in their article about T usage, someone was quoted as saying that parking lots don't seem to be any emptier. Train Stopping readers who use the Worcester and Providence commuter rail lines actually have observed that the lots do seem less crowded since the parking rate increase went into effect. MBTA GM Daniel Grabuaskas was quoted in the article. I wonder if he is still driving his MBTA vehicle to work? This comment made to the Globe article cracked me up because you can see the truth in the remarks:
Of course Grabauskas will take credit for this, telling us all how great they are, but the truth is we take the T DESPITE its performance, not because of its performance. Late, dirty trains; rude, uncaring workers; overpriced parking (when you can find a spot) ... the T is awful, but driving is far worse.
The Boston Herald's take on the increase in the T's ridership had a different slant. The T is removing seats on the Red Line to accommodate more riders. This is being discussed at today's MBTA board meeting. If the seats are removed on some cars, it will cut the available seating in half. The article T will mark the "high capacity" cars with the removed seating and they will run a promotional campaign. WCVB-TV Channel 5 also reported on this.

In other news, WickedLocal Somerville reports on the proposed Green Line extension.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Zippy Wednesday Morning Commute

Good morning. What a lovely, sunny day. Albeit, for those of us from the Worcester area, today will always be a sad day. This is the 9th anniversary of the Worcester Cold Storage fire. We will always remember the Worcester 6.

My commute this morning on the P508 train was zippy. We arrived to South Station at 8:21 a.m. It seemed crowded on the train, although I still think the parking lots themselves are not as crowded as they used to be. I know I would love to have an extra $10 in my wallet instead of paying to let my car sit in the Grafton lot all day long.

The Salem News reported that the Salem Parking Board voted to increase parking from $2 to $4, just like the T decided to do. Commuters are not happy.

The main story today is the Mass Pike. The Stop the Pike Hike rally is this afternoon. WHDH-TV Channel 7 aired a story about the Pike debate today, while The Boston Globe published an article about how lawmakers may consider leasing the Pike to a private entity. WBUR aired a similar report.

While it could make sense to lease something like the commuter rail system or the subway, I'm really not sure if leasing a highway makes a whole lot of sense. It seems like everyone is just running around like crazy because we are running out of money. I'm concerned a lot of bad decisions are going to be made to cover short-term budgets.

WBUR also aired an analysis of the future of the Mass Pike.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Stop the Pike Hike

I had to drive into the office this morning because I had an early morning meeting. There was lots of traffic on the Pike today. It took forever to get through the Newton tolls. You know it's a crazy traffic day when the cash lanes move faster than the Fast Lanes on the Mass Pike.

If you're concerned about the Mass Pike toll increases, listen up. According to today's The Boston Globe Mass lawmakers are scheduling hearings about the toll increases. WCVB-TV reported on a rally scheduled tomorrow by Michael Kelleher of East Boston to protest the proposed toll hikes. Michael is part of a group called Stop the Pike Hike. Tomorrow's rally will take place at 4 p.m. at the Ecco Restaurant & Martini Bar located on 107 Porter Street in East Boston. There is also an online petition and a listing of the public hearings scheduled across the state.

The toll increases directly impat East Boston. As Michael said in his interview with WCVB-TV, "it will actually be cheaper to drive to a Fenway game from the Bronx than from East Boston." Isn't that nuts?

Former Gubernatorial candidate Christy Mihos wrote an op-ed about the Pike in today's The Boston Herald. Mihos thinks the Pike should be disbanded.

Now, onto train news.

Commute-a-holic and I have both been pretty busy at work. We have another update from Grafton Train Rider which we should hopefully be able to post later today.

Yet another article about the Salem garage, this time from WickedLocal Rockport. The Patriot Ledger reports on efforts by the town of Weymouth to have permanent signs installed near the new connector road near the Weymouth Landing MBTA commuter rail station. This has been a project that has been a year in the making. The town wants flashing lights installed to relieve rush hour traffic.

The Milford Daily News reported on how the Mass Highway Department will be closing an old bridge that runs over the MBTA/CSX tracks near the Franklin BJs. This bridge is a popular bypass into and out of the Franklin Forge Park commuter rail station.