Wednesday, June 25, 2008

In the News - Teen Struck, WiFi, New Worcester Schedule and Lots More

Why oh why do people still walk on the train tracks? Yesterday another fatality occurred, when a 15 year old was struck and killed by a train on the Needham line. This was a pure accident, but it touches so many people. The teen's family, the conductor at the helm of the train, the passengers. Just stay off the tracks - they are not a short cut to get somewhere quicker unless you're actually riding a train.

Train Stopping extends their sympathies to the teen's family and to the train staff involved with the accident.

On to some lighter news. The MBTA has annouced that WiFi will now be available on the commuter boats. There are 11 commuter boats that travel to Boston, Logan Airport, Quincy, Hingham and Hull. Along with the commuter boats, the WiFi is currently available on the Worcester-Framingham commuter rail line.

So it looks like the T has extended the WiFi program to the commuter boats because there has been a decrease in the number of commuters using the boats. In the WiFi article published in today's The Boston Globe, Dan Grabauskas was quoted as saying:

Wireless Internet, is a "difference-maker," Grabausaks said, adding that he hopes new riders will enjoy the wireless enough that they continue to take the boats if gas prices fall. The boats cost passengers between $6 and $12 each way. Monthly passes cost at least $198.

It cost between $1,300 and $1,500 to outfit each of the 11 boats for wireless, Grabauskas said. He said he hopes to expand the wireless service to other commuterlines by the end of the year.

Hey Dan, here's an idea - just provide reliable service and people will consider public transportation as an alternative to driving. The bells and whistles might make a nice press event, but is that really the best way for a cash strapped agency to be spending its budget?

So in this time of high gas prices, why are the commuter boats transporting fewer people? WickedLocal Hingham says that the Greenbush line has taken passengers away from the commuter boats. I know we harp on this topic a lot, but why did our state let the Greenbush commuter rail extension get built, when the towns immediately south of Boston had numerous options for getting into Boston, including the Red Line and the commuter boats? I remember in the early '90s when people in Hingham and other towns were fighting the state over this extension. This is an example of public transportation strategy run amok. The money used to build Greenbush could have been spent in other parts of the state. Right now, people are looking favorably to public transportation as gas prices continue to climb. But it is still a hard sell.

Since the T can't admit failure, the "positive" story about the Greenbush line is that it has seen its passenger growth increase from "the hundreds to 2,000 daily riders." That is pathetic. OK, I'm done ranting for now.

In other news, the Telegram & Gazette finally ran an article this morning about the "new" weekend schedule on the Worcester-Framingham commuter rail line. This schedule will impact Central Mass residents who consider using the commuter rail to get into Boston for Red Sox games at Fenway and other events. The new schedule is "realistic," just like the weekday schedule that went into effect in February. However, though it is more realistic, it won't be able to adjust for heat delays that often occur in the summer.

This is what the T&G had to say:

Transportation officials say the schedule change will reflect what already occurs. “Most changes to arrival and departure times are within a few minutes of the prior schedule, and have been made to accurately account for travel times,” states a press release from the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority and its contractor, MBCR.

Earlier this year MBCR listed several reasons why trains are slower than they used to be. Ridership has increased at least 40 percent since the line opened in 1995, causing the trains to linger a few extra minutes at each of the 17 stations between Worcester and Boston.

The combination of recent federal regulations and restrictions from CSX Corp., which owns the track from Worcester to Framingham, also has forced trains to slow down on some stretches of the line. Commuter trains share the track with freight trains.

More updates about the Amtrak bridge replacement project going on in Connecticut.

Finally, yesterday's nasty thunderstorms caused delays on the Fitchburg line. A tree fell near the West Concord commuter rail station, causing both the eastbound and westbound trains to literally stop in their tracks.

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