Thursday, August 21, 2008

Sweet Fun and Other News of the Day

So this is sweet fun . . . featured Train Stopping again.


Thanks to the North Shore drivers who mentioned that some North Shore drivers incur tolls if they use the Tobin Bridge or one of the tunnels for their commutes into Boston. But we still have drivers in a great portion of the state (north of the city along I-93 and south of the city) who don't incur any tolls, yet directly benefit from the Big Dig project. I could even argue that residents directly north and south of Boston benefited more from the Big Dig than others did.

Adding toll booths might not be feasible and could cause massive delays. However, I would like the idea to be researched, not just glossed over. Some cities - such as London - use electronic transponders to charge drivers for accessing roads. Massachusetts already has the Fast Lane program in use on the Mass Pike. I'm all for seeing if it can be extended to other roads. I would love to make sure that everyone is paying a fair amount towards our state's transportation infrastructure costs.

My commute this morning on the P508 was good, right on time again. The train pulled into Grafton at 7:08 a.m. and we arrived to South Station at 8:20 a.m.

From today's Boston Globe, there was an article in the Business section about the NorthPoint development project near the MBTA's Lechmere Green Line station. The state is going to take over building a new MBTA station at the Cambridge site, due to delays caused by the NorthPoint development team in building the $70 million station. The development team was supposed to build the new Lechmere station because the state gave them property for the NorthPoint project.
So the state Executive Office of Transportation said it instead will build the new station, and incorporate the project into its massive extension of the Green Line to Medford. This adds a new wrinkle - and potentially millions of dollars in costs - to a transit upgrade that has been promised for years.

Transportation officials yesterday did not answer questions about how much it would cost the state to build a new Lechmere Station, nor would they say if it will affect the timeline. The project was schedules to be completed in 2014.

The station must be moved to place it along the tracks that are being used to extend the Green Line through Somerville to Medford. Currently, that Green Line ends at Lechmere.

This is a day late, but I loved the headline from yesterday's Bostonist story. Psych! I used that all the time back in the day.

Interesting article from yesterday's The Milford Daily News about a project in Hopedale, MA. The Draper Mill in Hopedale is being redeveloped. Since there is a direct connection between the Draper complex and the Forge Park MBTA station in Franklin, both the town of Hopedale and the Draper's developers would like to see if the commuter rail can be extended to this mill.

This is interesting on a number of different levels. First - residents in many of the towns around Hopedale (Upton, Northbridge, Medway, Milford) either have to go to Franklin or go to one of the Worcester line's stations if they want to use the commuter rail. Second - the reinvigorated Grafton-Upton line could play a role in this. Third - money, if the T does get involved, will be an issue.

Tom Conroy, who is a state rep for the towns of Lincoln, Sudbury, and Wayland, wrote this commentary for WickedLocal Lincoln. It is about fiscal responsibility, especially our state's fiscal issues.

Neal Templin, columnist for The Wall Street Journal's newish "Cheapskate" column, wrote a fun piece on commuting into Manhattan. Neal recently located to the metro-NYC area from Dallas. While the ferry is a better experience, it costs $5 a trip. Neal opts for the $1.75 train that takes him from Hoboken, NJ to the World Trade Center. I'm not sure if today's column would have had the same relevance a year ago. But now, people really are factoring in the cost of their commutes. His article is a quick, easy read, however most WSJ articles do require a subscription to read.

Finally, Commute-a-holic tipped me off to this article from a marketing industry publication called ClickZ. The article is about email marketing, which frankly, I'm not that familiar with. However, I got a kick out what the author used to make his point that (apparently) many marketers are living in a denial regarding digital media tactics. What example did he use . . . trains. Here is an excerpt:
Commuting to New York City frequently, I opt to take the Metro-North Railroad. Each day, it feels like millions of straphangers jam these trains, scurrying for seats for the daily hour-plus ride from the suburbs into Manhattan. This being New York, the trains are a living example of the premise that "if it can go wrong, it will." These trains don't always run on time. It's not unusual for a train to be stopped dead in its tracks for anywhere from a couple of minutes to an hour. Commuters are often left in the dark, without air conditioning, wondering, "What is going on?" Smartphones appear, wireless modems are turned on. Everyone's trying to understand what is happening.

When tempers peak, the lights return, the air flows, and we move on. The train operators realize that angry customers aren't a good thing. In their great wisdom -- and with a focus on customer service -- they leave commuters with a 5 in. x 7 in. piece of paper on the seats for our evening commute, entitled "An Explanation for the Morning's Train Delay." If passengers aren't careful -- and, really, who is after a long day? -- they'll sit on the sheet of paper without looking at the message.

Here we are, in the media capital of the world. The year is 2008, not 1878. And the mass transit organization hasn't figured out how to send breaking news alerts and apology notifications via e-mail? Can you imagine how many hours it took the department to format this printed notification, then put it on the seats in every car of every train leaving Grand Central Station during rush hour? It's absurd! Especially in light of the fact that all this work was done for one day's train delay.

Trains are delayed all the time. This practice gets replayed hundreds of times a year. What part of the e-mail and Internet movement has the transit authority missed? If it started looking at the technology that its customers use each day, it would figure out that the best way to communicate -- the essential way to communicate with customers -- is real-time e-mail.

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