Wednesday, August 6, 2008

"Frustration" with the "Big Mess" at the MBTA

A great article from today's The Boston Globe titled "Big mess at the T." As many people may know, former Governor Michael Dukakis has always been a big proponent of public transportation. So the "frustration" quote is tied to our former governor:
"People ask me if I feel vindicated" by all of the new riders, former governor and Riverside line regular Dukakis said yesterday. "No! I feel frustrated."
What should be a pinnacle in time for the MBTA, is a nightmare. Yes, while ridership is up, the T has a legion of problems - many caused by the agency itself. I'm sick of the media's leniency with Grabauskas - he has been in charge long enough to assume some accountability for the T's issues:
This is because the T's finances, which Grabauskas inherited, are a gargantuan mess.
This is more like the truth, though:
So, instead of a world class system, we are left with the prospect of one with major problems - crowding, crumbling infrastructure, and too much debt to fix inevitable problems.
The article went on to describe the relationship most of us have with the T - a love/hate relationship. Commuters are sick of the lack of reliability and the lack of communications when trains or buses are delayed or canceled. Plus, riders want more, cleaner trains without spending more than what they are spending.
"The last thing in the world we need at this point in time is a fare increase," Dukakis said. "All it will do is drive people away from the system at a time when we want more people, and not fewer, riding it."
Finally, if you have the time, do consider reading Charlie on the Commuter Rail's most recent post, published today. I think most of us can relate to the reliability issues, the not late trains that are late, and the overall plain disgusting antics of Danny G. and the T.

Speaking of late trains that are not really late but are late, has anyone seen any recently published on-time performance stats? The MBCR was sending this information out earlier this year, but it seems to disappear. As a public entity, the MBTA and the MBCR need to be MANDATED to publish this information. Otherwise, there is no official accountability. Oh, I get it, they don't want to be accountable.


Steve@Pioneer said...

Take a look at Section in this year's transportation bond bill:

I supported this legislation and believe it will result in on-time performance by posted publicly.

Quasit said...

"Not-late late" trains is a really apt name for them. I'm going to start specifically recording the arrival time for my regular commute; it's supposed to arrive at Franklin/Dean at 5:10pm, but it never does. A few weeks of data will give me something to work with.

The problem is that no one is holding the T accountable. The T spokesman could claim that they have a 200% on-time record (yes, I know that's impossible), and the local media would simply parrot the line mindlessly...perhaps with a quote from a passenger suggesting that it might be possible to have a different view. That's part of what got me started with Charlie On the Commuter Rail - the T lied about hot cars, and BostonNOW! printed it without bothering to check.

I'd like to encourage anyone who rides the commuter rail regularly to start keeping records of actual arrival times vs. the scheduled time. I have a feeling we'll find that the T has been lying their asses off!

Commute-a-holic said...

It appears that steve@pioneer may have been referring to Section 5 of Chapter 86 of the Acts of 2008.

Here it is, in all its legal glory:
SECTION 5. Subsection (e) of section 19 of chapter 6A of the General Laws, as appearing in the 2006 Official Edition, is hereby amended by inserting after the first sentence the following 11 sentences:-Performance measurements shall include, for at least the then current fiscal year and the previous 5 fiscal years, all modes of transportation. Performance measurements shall include the number of projects completed, the percentage of projects completed early or on time, the percentage of projects completed under budget or on-budget, the number of projects in construction phase and the percentage of projects advertised early or on time. Performance measurements shall include usage information for all modes of transportation, including measures of throughput, utilization and ridership. This information shall be presented with measurements of congestion, on-time performance, where appropriate, and incidents that have caused delays or closures. Performance measurements shall include assessments of maintenance performance by asset class, mode and region, including a breakdown of highway pavement, bridge and Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority and track, for subway, commuter and commonwealth-owned freight rail, by condition level, with an explanation of current year and future year planned maintenance expenditures and their expected result. Reporting on planned maintenance programming shall include an assessment of the categories of maintenance-related activity as described in the American Association of Highway and Transportation Officials’ Maintenance Manual for Roadways and Bridges. The department of highways shall expand and enhance its project information system and shall develop additional means to establish a centralized system, available on the internet, to document performance measurements and the progress and status of all planning, design, construction and maintenance projects of the executive office of transportation and the department of highways, and all road and bridge projects of any city or town that are funded, in whole or in part, by the commonwealth. A municipality shall have access to the system at no cost, shall enter such information into the system as may be required by the department of highways and shall otherwise fully participate in the system as a condition of receiving financial assistance from the commonwealth. All information in the project information system shall be a public record unless otherwise exempted by law. A report of the project information system and performance measurements shall be published annually and made available to the public not later than December 31. The report shall also be filed annually with the clerks of the senate and house of representatives, the chairs of the house and senate committees on ways and means and the senate and house chairs of the joint committee on transportation.

So the question is, if this is in place as law, why are we not seeing this information published? At a minimum, it should be published once a month. Timely - they should be able to run these reports and publish them by the 2nd or 3rd day of the month.

Steve@Pioneer said...

Thanks for posting the section (and deciphering my semi-literate post). The bond bill just passed this session so that info won't be posted anytime soon. This December 31st would be my guess at the earliest.