Saturday, March 1, 2008

Comments on WBUR webcast "Is the T on Track?"

Readers - you can access the webcast of the radio show w/Dan Grabauskas on WBUR from Friday by going to the following URL and choose the "Is the T on Track" link.

Most of the show focused on buses and the T. Only about 4 minutes actually related to the commuter rail and the issues that were raised were relatively dismissed by Dan Grabauskas. When he did have to account for the poor performance in 2007, he blamed the work stoppage by the conductors/engineers. Nice way to pass the buck yet again!

Here are my observations from the webcast:

- When a question was posed by a caller in relation to what could be done about bus overcrowding, Dan Grabauskas said that "well, some routes are more popular than others." Nice response Dan, so basically what you're saying is too bad if you take the #1 or the #86, it's popular therefore you have to deal with the crowds! In addition, Dan Grabauskas mentioned that the well documented financial constraints of the MBTA will make it difficult to add additional resources to address overcrowding issues.

- A question from another caller related to being able to use their collegiate ID as their T pass. Dan Grabauskas actually seemed amenable to this idea, especially since the chip technology that drives the Charlie Card can be used in other technology. This would actually be great in commuter rail parking lots, your monthly pass would not only serve as your fare, but also as your parking lot fee. I hope this initiative gets off of the ground sooner or later.

- Fares only account for 1/3 of the T revenue. The majority of their revenue comes from the % allocation from the Massachusetts state sales tax. Poor sales tax revenue growth has contributed to the debt load of the MBTA. So, even though fares are only a small portion of revenues, expect more fare increases over the next few years ... seemingly to deal with higher fuel costs and maintenance.

- MassPIRG reported that there would need to be 40% increase in fares over the next 5 years to even begin to address the issues the MBTA faces. If that were the case, my monthly pass would go from $250 to $350. For crappy service! Hmmm ... I don't think so.

- 27 cents of every dollar goes to provide debt relief to the MBTA. That is outrageous.

- WBUR sent a rider on the Worcester/Framingham line to report back for the show. Although the train ran on time, the rider noted cold/dark cars and lack of fare collection from the conductors. In typical MBTA response, Dan Grabuauskas said that the commuter rail really falls under the umbrella of the MBCR, so they're responsible for ensuring maintenance and fare collection.

- WBUR asked Dan Grabuaskas to address 2007 worst performance on the commuter rail (across all lines), which incidentally was the worst performance in the history of the commuter rail. Dan Grabauskas replied that there was a pushback from the unions which resulted in a purposeful slowdown/working delays.

I agree that the work slowdown happened, but I do not think you can explain the poor on time performance across the entire system on this reason alone. It just goes to show that they're not really interested in solving problems, just blaming someone else for what happened.

- In relation to the concerns of commuter rail riders, Dan Grabauskas said he though it was "not quite as severe problems as people make them out to be." Oh please. Ride the Worcester/Framingham, Franklin or Middleborough lines. Those are the worst performing lines on the commuter rail. I know for a fact that the Franklin line is consistently 20 minutes late EVERY DAY due to a bridge problem whereby the train has to sit and wait in order to cross, adding to their delays.

It's an attitude like that which will mean the problems that we commuters encounter will never get addressed. I am so irritated that Dan Grabauskas was so flippant about legitimate concerns that commuters are posting.

If anyone listens to the show, let me know your thoughts and comments.


Anonymous said...

"In typical MBTA response, Dan Grabuauskas said that the commuter rail really falls under the umbrella of the MBCR, so they're responsible for ensuring maintenance and fare collection."

Funny... the trains have a rather large (T) on them. They're "owned and operated" by the MBTA.

I would love to comment further but it would take volumes and lead nowhere.

I would just offer my standard aphorism for this occasion, "At the MBTA, the finger of blame always points outward".

Anonymous said...

I listened to the broadcast friday and it was totally predictable. In a nutshell it was a lovefest between two boston centric entities. WBUR & MBTA. you missed nothing. It ain't worth the time to even download the podcast. Save your time.

Train Rider said...


It's sad that this is true!! The T has perfected passing the blame for their poor performance onto everyone else. . . MBCR, CSX, high cost of fuel, the weather, etc., etc. If they don't want to take responsibility for the commuter rail trains, they should paint the trains with a MBCR logo on them.

My other favorite part of the radio show was when Dan Grabauskas said that "Whatever city you're in, you pick on the transportation system in that city." You know, I've been to Washington, D.C, Paris, London and New York ... all fine examples of good transportation systems ... I definitely have never had consistently poor experiences on those systems as I have in Boston.

In order to be a world class city, Boston needs to fix the T. We fixed the Central Artery, now let's fix the T.

Thanks for visiting.
Train Rider

Train Rider said...


I know what you mean about the radio show being a waste of time. There was really no hard hitting journalism here. Even the segment on the commuter rail, I felt like all they did was take the comments from the emails posts to WBUR's website and purport that someone actually rode the Worcester line and complained about lack of fare collection and unheated cars.

I thought it was telling that they sent one of their radio personalities on the #1 bus at 1:00 in the afternoon, when they were pretty much assured of completing the route on time. The reporter tended to dismiss the concerns of the passengers as well, saying "well, it seems the bus is running on time."

There is a big perception problem plaguing the MBTA! The T thinks things are running smoothly, they tell the press that things are running smoothly, yet commuters know that things aren't running smoothly and no one seems to pay any attention to that. Anytime you criticize the T, they just cry and bellyache that you are a complainer.

Thanks for the comments.

Train Rider

Anonymous said...

Regarding the comment that "a 40% increase would be needed in fares..."

I have already decided that starting with the month of MAY, I am suspending my purchase of a monthly #7 T Pass for $235 and will buy the 12-ticket fare, so I save a LOT of money. I refuse to pay the MBTA $2,820 per year for the lousy service and bad trains.

A Fitchburg Line Rider

Keith said...

When it was first announced that Dan Grabauskas was going to be the new General Manager of the MBTA, there was hope. After all, he's the guy who cleaned up the Registry of Motor Vehicles and made it more user friendly. If anyone could clean up the RMV with all the patronage that went on there, then he'd be a logical choice for the MBTA, right?

Well, it seems as if Mr. Grabauskas has met his match in the MBTA. It's an agency that just can't be fixed.

His predecessors were bus drivers who rose through the ranks. One of them left the T, grabbed his exorbitant pension, then came back to manage the T's pension funds, making triple figures in that job as well as getting that handsome pension.

I was looking forward to a frank, honest discussion about the MBTA and how it's going to be fixed. But when I listened to the replay of the WBUR show this past Saturday, I turned off my radio half-way through the interview.

It was nothing but the same lip service that's been fed to us for years. His comment about the Framingham-Worcester line really pissed me off, he doesn't have a clue as to what is really going on out there. He's become like every other bureaucrat in this state, pointing the finger in every direction but back at his own agency.

So get ready folks. He's greasing the skids already for the next fare increase. Remember the old Army saying, "Bohica?" Well, here it comes again!

Train Rider said...


That web cast/podcast/whatever the WBUR "interview" was . . . it was a colossal waste of time. I kept plodding through it, thinking "oh, they'll address my concerns sooner rather than later." Um, yeah, not so much. I agree, I definitely think a fare increase is imminent.

Perhaps it was a fluke that Grabauskas "cleaned up" the Registry. At this point, if he can't "fix" the T, the Governor and the Legislator need to work with the MBTA Board to get someone who has the power to actually enact changes. The only thing Dan seems to be able to do is garner somewhat positive media attention from the Boston media.

It is so frustrating!


Train Rider

Train Rider said...

Fitchburg Rider,

You will have to let us know how your fare pass experiment in May 2008 works.

I know I've contemplated ditching the monthly pass for just the 12-ride tickets. My pass is $250 a month, so I would also see some huge savings.

Too bad the T doesn't think fare revenue is important. I've never heard of any business or government entity involved in revenue collections state that the revenue collected isn't important.

Keep us posted!

Train Rider