Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Where's my Wage Works October Pass?

Tomorrow is October 1st. Yes, you are probably thinking "Train Rider, you are stating the obvious."

So why do I care that tomorrow is October 1st? Other than I love getting and giving Halloween candy on the 31st, I care because no one at my company has received their October 2008 MBTA passes from Wage Works. My company outsources the T pass process to Wage Works. This has happened a few times in the past. In fact, I think the same thing occurred last October. If I remember correctly, most Boston-based commuters (and not just at my firm) were affected. I heard someone asking the conductor about it this morning - if people who receive their passes from Wage Works will have to pay. But I was dozing so I can't honestly remember what the reply was.

Speaking of this morning's commute, it was fine. The P508 train was on-time. We got to South Station at 8:24 a.m.

Looking forward to finally receiving my October 2008 commuter rail pass.

The Games People Play

As if the "circus" in Washington, DC isn't already bad enough, an article in today's The Boston Globe definitely adds some fuel to the fire for Boston-area commuters. I'm beginning to think that adulthood is just one giant sand box in which nobody plays well together.

If the cash-strapped MBTA Board cannot find a way to pay back wages to members of the Boston Carmen's Union Local 589 during its October meeting, union president Steve MacDougall said that the members have a plan to "impact service."

This is some of what could happen:
MacDougall stopped short of saying workers would deliberately slow service down, which would be illegal under collective bargaining rules. But the effect could be the same if workers decided to take advantage of all rights they have under their contract and to follow often-overlooked regulations: by calling in sick en masse, refusing overtime shifts, obeying speed limits that require significant slowdowns in advance of subway platforms, and holding buses at every stop until all passengers are seated.
Honestly - our nation is on the brink of an economic crisis and this is how the union wants to receive their back pay? I understand that the members may need this money, but there are a lot of people out there right now without jobs. Can't we all just work together?

This is the back-story to this situation:
Union members had been without a contract for two years before an arbitrator ruled on July 7 on a four-year contract that awarded them a 9 percent raise, as well as back pay for the two years they went without a cost-of-living increase. Some of the T's other unions have approved similar contracts, and others are expected to follow suit.

The pay raise went into effect immediately, but the T withheld the back pay until it could amend its annual budget. The T has not said how much is owed the Carmen's union, but estimated that covering back pay for all the unions would cost $43 million.

To pay the debt, the heavily indebted T is contemplating a plan to borrow more money, use the last $1 million from its emergency fund, and deplete a modest capital fund set aside to keep equipment maintained.

I've taken Labor Relations courses. I understand negotiations. I'm not sure a "deliberate service slowdown" would be the best tactic at this point. Commuters are taxpayers and everyone is feeling the pinch at the moment.

Obviously, I hope something can be worked out prior to the October deadline.

In other news, The Eagle-Tribune ran a story today about the Haverhill-Bradford MBTA commuter rail layover facility. It may be moved to Plaistow, NH.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Great Way to Start the Work Week

My commute this morning on the P508 was fine. We were on-time into South Station, arriving at 8:24 a.m. On-time commutes are the best way to start a Monday.

I wish I had been on the train Friday night. It took me over 2 hours to get into New Hampshire. When you take a pounding rain storm and mix it up with a Friday night commute, things need to be a little hairy. But I arrived to my destination safe and sound, which is really all you can ask for.

Fast Lane and Leaves on Tracks

Yesterday's "Starts & Stops" column in The Sunday Boston Globe was full of interesting nuggets.

The lead story is about a program the cash-plagued Mass Pike is launching. The Pike has a pilot program launching sometime in the near future where 5,000 free Fast Lane transponders will be given to drivers willing to participate in a survey to understand why the drivers are not using Fast Lane. If you were to run out and get a Fast Lane transponder right now, it would cost you $25.95.

Automating the toll fares is one way the Turnpike can cut costs. If there are more Fast Lane users, there can be fewer toll collectors. It costs $.47 to manually collect a toll, while it only costs $.14 to electronically collect the fare. Yes, people would lose their jobs, but the Pike was supposed to be toll-free years ago. So if that had ever happened, theoretically people would have already lost their jobs.

Currently 61% of all the Pike's tolls are processed electronically.

There was a short story on the Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad Co. (MBCR). The MBCR has built a machine that washes away leaves from the tracks, a cause of delays in the fall.

The article noted that the commuter rail trains haven't been running on time over the past few months. In August,17.5% of all trains were at least 5 minutes late. For September from 9/1 - 9/25,the trains were 14% late. I wish they would publish a line by line listing of the on-time results. How else can commuters keep track of this?

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The NY Times Comes to Grafton

Both Train Rider and I have ties to the town of Grafton. Needless to say, I nearly died when I saw the Grafton, MA dateline in this article published in today's The New York Times. The article focused on the Question 1 Ballot initiative to repel the state's income tax. A number of area residents along with State Senator George Peterson (R-Grafton) and Grafton Town Selectman Brooke Padgett were interviewed.

While I do not like to see wasteful things happen with my hard-earned tax dollars, I am opposed to Question 1. I do not want to see funding in our state reliant on property taxes. I would rather pay a consistent tax then see my property taxes fluctuate to support my town's services. Not to mention, our state's already tapped transportation infrastructure will be hard hit if this Ballot Initiative passes.

Since we fortunately live in a democracy, you can read about why some people want Question 1 to pass. Although, in really thinking a bout New Hampshire, I don't see a whole lot of companies opening up shop up there. If anything, it seems like a lot of people live in NH but work in Massachusetts.

Honestly, I really do not dig ballot initiatives. We live in a state with a full-time legislature. They should be working out these issues.

Splitting the Tab

The Boston Globe/Boston.com published a joint story today regarding the Mass Pike toll increases. Below is the Boston.com video interview of Boston-area commuters.

MetroWest legislators are working to make sure that the burden of financing the Big Dig's deficit is not placed solely on the shoulders of Mass Pike commuters.

In other news on this rainy Saturday, Bostonist.com interviewed the BusRyda crew.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Rainy Day Drive to Work

I'm headed up to New Hampshire tonight after work, so I drove into the office today.

The Boston Globe ran a great graphic today illustrating how the proposed Mass Pike toll increases might work.

There is no word yet on when the Mass Pike's board may vote on the toll increase proposals. The Globe's article did include some reaction from commuters:
Commuters, already burdened by high gas prices and a floundering economy, greeted the prospects with angry sighs when interviewed at the Natick travel plaza yesterday.

"The economy is just horrible, so any increase would be hard," said Randy Carpenter, 49, a salesman from Hudson who uses the toll road three times a week. "It would change the quality of life, but people have to use the Pike."

The article also noted the following:

Board members said they would like to structure an increase to spare drivers from the western suburbs as much as possible, meaning higher rates on the Sumner and Ted Williams tunnels.

Eric Tucker, a 37-year-old software engineer from Charlton, said $1 more at the Allston-Brighton and Weston tollbooths, the worst-case scenario, would add $40 a week to his commute to Cambridge.

"Not cool," Tucker said. "I pay enough taxes."

Since Commute-a-holic and I both reside West of Boston, we are both in the camp that would like to see drivers from the western suburbs spared as much as possible from the rate increases. Universal Hub has had some great commentary on this. North Shore drivers are also impacted if they use the tunnels to get into Boston. Currently, South Shore drivers can get into the city (theoretically) without incurring a toll.

In light of the looming Mass Pike toll increases, perhaps more commuters will take advantage of this. The Worcester Business Journal today reported that the MetroWest Transit Authority has received approval for a commuter rail shuttle that will travel between MBTA's Woodland station and Framingham. The MRTA is also exploring a pilot program that would let people pay to ride the new shuttle service using their MBTA Charlie Card.

Emerson College's student newspaper The Berkley Beacon published an article this week about plans to extend the MBTA's Silver Line down Boylston Street.

In the "not too good news" department, a bunch of media outlets picked up on the story of the MBTA Green Line Trolley driver who let children "drive" the train. Read all about it in this article from today's Telegram & Gazette.

Finally, on the BusRyda front, I received this announcement the other day:
Today, BusRyda announces the addition of Trip Planner to create a duo of helpful mobile applications for finding your way around Boston on the MBTA on its main website, http://busryda.com.

BusRyda's Trip Planner operates similarly to the Trip Planner already available on the MBTA's web site — http://mbta.com — but is streamlined for mobile use. Text fields allow you to input an address, intersection, station or landmark of one's origin and destination locations, and provides three options of departure times: now, in 1 hour, or in 2 hours. Most results provide two itineraries for convenience.

Unlike BusRyda's original bus schedule tool, Trip Planner allows users to find travel routes and connections on any of the MBTA's services: buses, subways, and even the Commuter Rail.

BusRyda and its services are not affiliated with the MBTA.

For more info visit http://blog.busryda.com or contact info AT busryda.com.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Forgot My Commuter Rail Pass Today

Boy, was it chilly this morning. I didn't have the best of mornings today. I forgot to bring a coat, so I was freezing. I also forgot my T pass and my work badge. Ugh.

The commute on the P508 was fine. We were on time, although I didn't check my watch for our exact arrival time into South Station.

And in case you were wondering. . . . yes, I had to pay for my commute in this morning. In the past, I've seen monthly pass holders ride without paying when they have forgotten their passes, as the conductors have remembered them. But I've noticed that the conductors have been cracking down and really working to collect fares. So, while it actually hurt to pay for today's commute on top of what I may for my monthly pass, I am happy to see fares getting collected. But the revenue is certainly needed!

On the revenue front, it looks like substantial Mass Pike toll increases could be forthcoming. According to Boston.com, one proposal discussed at today's monthly Turnpike board member meeting involves increasing tolls on the eastern portion of the Pike by $1.00 and raising tunnel fares $5.00.

In other news, The Salem News reports on a "dark secret" held by a new MBTA board member. Ferdinand Alvaro is . . . wait for it. . . Ferdinand, a Marblehead resident, roots for the Yankees! Shocking!!! So this is where I get to say "Let's Go Red Sox!" Yes, we clinched the wild card two nights ago. The Yankees - well their bags are packed for winter break.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


Commuting fans! This is a neat little tool that I learned about through my Twitter account: CommutePrice.com.

CommutePrice.com is a cool tool that lets you calculate your one-way, roundtrip, weekly, and monthly auto commute costs. You can select both the model year/make of your vehicle, find the miles per gallon cost and then calculate your price per gallon.

The tool is a bit archiac, from a web standpoint. Meaning, if you do not select to open the car info link and price info link into a new browser window, the link just opens into your browser so you have to use the behind arrow/button to get back to the first page.

My monthly commute is currently at $100.69 a month. Who knew?

Silver Line Could be Renamed Cluster Line

Good day. I've been a bit busy of late, so my apologies for the mid-day post.

My commute was fine this morning. The P508 train arrived to South Station at 8:24 a.m. It was a cluster getting a Silver Line bus, though. Four of them went by until I was able to get on one. Crazy! And not a good time at all.

All is so very quiet on the MBTA/MBCR news front. Read this on The New York Times City Room blog. With the economy, it seems like the other states are facing the same transportation issues that Massachusetts is facing. New York state's Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) is looking to charge NYC and NY state agencies for the use of their E-Z Pass transponder.

We are all certainly facing some tough times.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Coats, Flip Flops and a Sluggish Commute

I'm back riding the rails again this morning. I love the fall!! And early fall can be a hysterical thing in the world of fashion in Boston. Saw a lot of people this morning wearing coats and flip flops. As much as I enjoy wearing a good flip flop, I'm thinking that Bostonians need to retire them for the rest of '08 in lieu of some more appropriate footwear.

My first day back on the P508 was all-right. We were slightly late-ish this morning. Almost sluggish. We were going quite slowly through Wellesley and then we had to sit outside of South Station for a couple of minutes waiting for a track. We arrived to South Station at 8:28 a.m.

Thanks go out to AJ for sharing an update about yesterday morning's commute. I almost feel guilty about my zippy ride in yesterday morning on the Pike. But then I think about how much my car's repairs cost and all my guilt goes away.

Train news was pretty quiet today. The Boston Herald published an update this morning to the 2006 settlement that the MBTA made with the Boston Center for Independent Living and 11 other individual plaintiffs. According to a Herald survey, One-third of the T's 127 stations continue to remain inaccessible to individuals with disabilities. The T says it will take another 5 to 7 years to make all stations 100% accessible. The accessibility of T stations has increased from 26% to 81% over the past eight years.

Monday, September 22, 2008

First Fall 2008 Commute

Fall officially started this morning. I do love autumn!

I didn't take the train into Boston today. I needed to drop off my car for some minor repairs, so I have a loaner vehicle an I drove into work. The commute was very zippy on the Mass Pike, which was really nice. Since my car has a satellite radio, I was listening to some regular (non-satellite) morning radio drive-time shows this morning. Did all the Boston and Worcester-area stations just dump their DJs because there were some familiar voices missing?

Per last week's request, I received some feedback from a Train Stopping reader regarding last week's train derailment. Here is the email, from a Worcester Line Rider:
I'm sending you a brief email about my experience yesterday. A co-worker told me at about 4:15pm that there was a derailment near South Station and that the Worcester line was experiencing delays. I checked the MBTA website and read that delays of 15-20 minutes were occurring. Based on that, I arrived at South Station 15 minutes later only to find that the 5pm had already left. I took the 5:35 local which was actually not very crowded at all, considering that they cancelled the 5:15pm to Framingham.

My lesson learned from this is not to believe the MBTA website and just show up on time and wait if I have to.
Worcester Line Rider - thanks for the update!

In other news, last week The Boston Globe wrote an update about the Ipswich train whistle issue. As of 4:30 p.m. on Friday, September 12th, all train whistles have stopped.

Yesterday's Sunday Globe published an article about the proposed Green Line extension to Medford.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Problematic Silver Line Bus Rider

Good morning. Sorry the blog has been quiet over the past few days. Commute-a-holic is out of town for a few days, enjoying some R&R in NYC. I have been sick. In fact, I left work early on Wednesday and was home sick yesterday. Bleck.

This morning's commute on the P508 was fine. We arrived to South Station around 8:25 a.m. We had a problem on the Silver Line bus, though. A rider stumbled getting off at the courthouse station, I guess claiming that the driver was too far away from the curb? No one else seemed to have a problem though. Weird, huh?

Since I was home sick yesterday, I missed the train derailment at South Station yesterday. While I'm glad that I didn't have to deal with the delays or the cancelled trains, what an overall mess. Feel free to share your experiences yesterday by emailing us at either worctrainrider AT gmail.com or commuteaholic AT gmail.com. We'll write a round-up over the weekend.

Today's The Boston Herald published a timely article this morning with MBTA riders voicing their concerns about our transit system. With more riders, the MBTA is seeing more complaints. From April 2008 to August 2008 there was a 13% increase in complaints - 14,355 bus, subway and commuter rail complaints were filed. Of course, when quoted, MBTA GM Dan Grabauskas sort of just glossed over the number of complaints.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Status Quo Commute

Well, at least all is well in the commuting world. My thoughts are with those people who worked for Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch.

Today's commute on the P508 was status quo. The Train arrived at 7:07 a.m. in Grafton and then at 7:22 a.m. at South Station.

In other good commuter rail news, the Metrolink accident would probably not occur on the MBTA/MBCR commuter rail line. WHYN reported that if Metrolink had the same safety features that are on our own commuter rail system, Friday's accident might have been prevented. Unfortunately, the safety sensors on the MBTA/MBCR commuter rail line are only on 2,600 miles out of 140,000 miles of track nationwide.

Gloucester Daily News published an article today about the Rockport MBTA Station.

Monday, September 15, 2008

It is a Good Day for Blue Line Riders

Train Rider had to drive to work today, so we do not have any updates about this morning's commute on the Worcester-Framingham line.

Today was a great morning for riders of the MBTA's Blue Line subway line. The T replaced the Blue Line's 4-car trains with 6-car trains. Read all about it in this article from today's The Boston Herald. Over the next few months, all the Blue Line's trains will be running with 6-cars with 84 cars operating during rush hour by early 2008.

In other news, The Boston Globe reported that Governor Deval Patrick and his administration will unveil a bailout plan for the Mass Pike and MBTA. Eight cost-saving measures are outlined in the proposal, which requires outside approval. The $13 million cost-sharing program includes changing who actually inspects the bridges and who pays to maintain roads and T stations.
The biggest proposal would shift responsibility to inspect almost all the state's bridges to MassHighway, saving the MBTA $3.5 million in its annual budget and the Turnpike Authority $2.5 million. MassHighway would also cover about $1.2 million in costs for hiring flaggers at bridge construction projects over MBTA tracks.

The plan also calls on Massport to cover the $3.7 million in annual maintenance for the tunnel that connects Interstate 93 and the Tobin Bridge in Charlestown. Massport would also pick up more costs for portions of the Silver Line and Blue Line that bring travelers to Logan, relieving the MBTA of about $1.6 million in expenses.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Going Carless and the Governor Blames MBTA for Budget Issues

Good morning.

First, we would like to extend our sympathies to the families and friends of the people killed in Friday's Metrolink commuter rail accident in Los Angeles.

For the past two days, The Boston Globe has written two different articles about Boston-area residents who have relinquished their cars and are now getting around either by bike, foot or public transportation.

Today's Starts & Stops column published results from a new survey which said that Boston is the most cost-effective place to live in the US without a car. This survey was compiled by the American Public Transportation Association based on the cost of monthly transit passes, parking rates, and a driving formula developed by AAA. Noah Bierman explains some of the different factors that went into this analysis and his subsequent article in today's Starts & Stops is about some of the difficulties Boston-area residents face when going car-free. There was also an article about the planned cuts to some MBTA bus routes.

Yesterday The Globe profiled some local area families who are living without a car.

On Friday, WBZ-TV Channel 4 aired a report in which Governor Deval Patrick blames MBTA GM Daniel Grabauskas for the T's financial woes. Governor Patrick's new appointee to the MBTA Board, Janice Loux, put some pressure on Grabauskas at the T's monthly meeting. The Governor has acknowledged that a long-term solution to the T's financial situation needs to be developed.

Open Media Boston published an editorial on Friday stating that the MBTA needs debt relief. Also on Friday, the Taunton Daily Gazette wrote about the ongoing plans for the southeastern Massachusetts commuter rail extension.

Finally, DM News (a publication for marketers) published an article on Friday about the MBTA's direct mail campaign to promote the corporate pass program. They hired an advertising agency based in Ohio to launch the campaign. Gosh, I thought there were a lot of really competent agencies here in Massachusetts that could have created this marketing effort?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Graubauskas Reveals Raises Granted Since 2005

Today is the 7th anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy. Our thoughts are with our nation today.

From today's The Boston Globe . . . MBTA GM Dan Graubauskas said he has granted 33 raises to employees since July 1, 2005. The raises, which averaged about $5,000, were either a merit raise or to bring an employee's salary in line with their peers. The vast majority of the 273 non-union employees did not receive raises or cost-of-living increases. The raises ranged from 3% to 19% of an employee's salary.

This is a relatively benign situation, especially since the raises go back three years to '05. And I'm sure most people in their own careers would like to avoid something to this effect:
At the same time, rescinding the cost-of-living adjustment raises at the T has caused some morale problems. There are now 46 managers who make less than their subordinates, according to MBTA records. The 153 subordinates who earn more than their bosses have higher salaries because they are part of a union and received the 9 percent pay raise as part of the recent arbitration.
Huh. Maybe you wouldn't want to be a manager at the T? The article noted that it is sometimes difficult to persuade T employees to accept promotions.

The Boston Herald also wrote about the raises. However, their article was much more pointed and it left out some information included in The Globe's article.

WickedLocal Hingham
reported yesterday that there may be cuts to the MBTA commuter boat service.
The MBTA’s “Preliminary 2008 Service Plan” was released recently for public comment. It includes proposals to eliminate the last round trip and reduce or eliminate service on certain holidays on the Hingham/Boston commuter boat.

For Hingham this would mean eliminating the 7:40 p.m. trip from Hingham Shipyard and the 8:30 p.m. trip from Rowe’s Wharf. It is also proposed there be no service on Martin Luther King Day and Presidents Day. A reduced holiday schedule is proposed for Patriot’s Day, Columbus Day, Veterans Day and the day after Thanksgiving.

Several schedule changes are also proposed for the Quincy/Hull/Boston/Logan Airport commuter boat, including reducing the number of trips operating during off-peak periods on weekdays and weekends and to eliminate the second stop at Logan Airport on weekends.
The Greenbush commuter rail extension combined with the MBTA's debt are the factors leading to the commuter boat service reduction. Sen. Robert Hedlund, R-Weymouth was quoted with the following comments:
Hedlund finds the situation ironic. “The T is paying off a huge debt service on Greenbush and looking at making service cuts elsewhere,” he said. “And it’s not just the boats. There’s also a strain on bus and train service.”

The MBTA had “the most aggressive capital expansion program of any transit agency in the country during past decades,” Hedlund said. “They are now $8 billion in debt, $3 million of which is debt service alone. The T also has huge personnel costs — health insurance and retirement benefits.”
The article also said that the T had "assured commuter boat advocates that the Greenbush restoration would not impact boat service." That's a good one, huh?

Drivers in the MetroWest towns of Ashland and Sherborn take note. A bridge connecting Ashland to Sherborn at Eliot Street to Whitney Streete is being shut down for repairs. Read all about it in this article from The MetroWest Daily News. The bridge is closed indefinitely.

I sure hope it gets fixed faster than some bridges in The Blackstone Valley. There is a bridge in Grafton on Pleasant Street that has been closed for years - for so long I can't remember the last time it was open. I want to say it has been closed for at least 3 to 4 years. And this bridge closed while a second bridge on Depot Street in South Grafton was closed. If you have to drive through Grafton, the closed Pleasant Street bridge becomes a giant PIA.

Finally, as a graduate of Providence College, I had to share this WickedLocal Roxbury endorsement of State Rep Mike Rush's re-election campaign. While I do not live in the communities Mike represents, I do know he's a great Rep and he's a big advocate for Needham commuter rail users. Good luck Mike in your run-off against your Democratic Party challenger. Go Friars!!!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Crazy Talk

I have a post-work event this evening, so I needed to drive into work this morning. Whoever said the traffic is light on the Mass Pike recently is crazy. I left my house at 7:12 a.m. and didn't arrive into the office until 9:03 a.m. Nearly a 2 hour commute! Blech!

Sure, maybe there are fewer recreational drivers, but the daily commute on the Commonwealth's only toll road is still heavy. Insane.

I feel for those who have to use the Pike every day to get to work. What a lousy, lousy commute.

For all you MBTA bus riders with mobile phones, there is a new app you might be interested in. Yesterday The BusRyda Crew sent me an email about the boston.busyrda.com mobile application. Here is the description they sent along:
BusRyda.com is a free service currently serving Boston-area MBTA bus riders who love using their mobile devices for as much as possible. BusRyda was recently updated with a significant new feature: Boston BusRydas can now get a short list of the next few upcoming buses from the exact minute they’ve made a search, right on their mobile phone.

Say it’s 8:30 AM, and you’re up for some reason and want to go to Davis Square from Sullivan Square. Point your phone’s browser to boston.busryda.com — the secret shortcut for Bostonians — and plug in the bus you’ll likely take, so the 89 or the 90, Outbound, on a Weekday. Click ‘Display Route.’

Sha-BAM! The next few buses — about 1 hour’s worth — at your fingertips. No shuffling through paper schedules or scrolling to the right spot on the MBTA’s good-but-not-awesome mobile bus schedule offering.

If you need a schedule for later in the day, simply click on ‘Or see the full schedule’ at the bottom of the page.

BusRyda works on any mobile device such as Sidekicks or Blackberries, but is especially attractive on the iPhone.

BusRyda is not affiliated with the MBTA.
Below are screenshots of what the BusRyda updates look like. If you have questions about the BusRyda application, feel free to contact Eric of The BusRyda Crew at info AT busryda.com.

Higher Gas Prices, Fewer Pike Drivers

Yesterday afternoon Boston.com posted a short story about a decline in the number of drivers using the Mass Pike. A more in-depth article about this topic appeared in this morning's The Boston Globe.

There were 6.75 percent fewer toll transactions in August 2008 compared to August 2007, representing the second largest year-to-year drop since June. The Pike noted that the drop in toll transactions pertained to cash-paying customers, who tend to be occasional users or vacationers. Fast Lane drivers are still using the Pike, most likely because they are commuters.

During this same period, MBTA ridership increased 6.9 percent. Obviously, more people are using mass transit than their own personal vehicles.

Thanks to the January 2008 toll increase, the Pike still collected more revenue this August compared to last year.

In other news, the Brockton Enterprise ran an article about the proposed rail station at the Raynham-Taunton Greyhound park.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Hopedale Commuter Rail

Boy, you can tell that we've passed by the Labor Day hump, huh? Train Rider and I have both been neglecting the blog a bit, missing news updates about rail and transportation issues.

The following article, sent to us by Ralph today, is a follow-up written by The MetroWest Daily News about Hopedale's Draper complex and the desire to extend the commuter rail line to this facility.

Recognizing that this extension could be years away, I do feel that this could be a worthy addition to the commuter rail line. The Hopedale station could ultimately serve two different audiences - Blackstone Valley residents who live on the far side of Grafton & Westborough and Milford, Hopedale and Mendon residents who essentially only have the Franklin line as an option. This may seem like small geographic pocket, but the past few years have seen a population explosion as more people move further away from metro-Boston either because of housing costs, jobs or the desire to live in a rural/suburban environment.

The MetroWest article noted:
The idea has some attractive features already working for it, said Jon Delli Priscoli, Grafton & Upton Railroad Co. owner, whose line would be used for the project. The rail line already exists and is a relatively short distance from the nearest station, Forge Park in Franklin, he said.

Their discussion focused on fundamental questions: Is there enough space at the Draper complex to house a station and parking? From where will the riders come? Would the station alleviate overcrowded ones in Grafton, on a separate line, and in Franklin? And will surrounding towns have the same amount of interest as some Hopedale officials do?

"Is commuter rail an end in itself or part of a greater development?" asked state Rep. John Fernandes, D-Milford. "Because if it's part of a greater development, you have to integrate it into the site."

Too bad the state doesn't have the funding. This could be a real welcome addition for residents.

You Move Massachusetts Workshops

Thanks go out to Keith for sharing this article from yesterday's MetroWest Daily News with me. I totally missed it!

The Executive Office of Transportation has scheduled a series of public workshops called "You Move Massachusetts" to obtain opinions' from Mass residents about transportation issues within the Bay State. The workshops have been scheduled across the state starting on September 17th through October 20th. Here is the Workshop Schedule:

The MetroWest article said that State Senator Karen Spilka (D-Ashland) is hoping that citizens concerned about the proposed Mass Pike Toll hikes attend one of these public forums.

More information is available at the You Move Massachusetts website or by contacting Kate Fichter at katherine.fichter AT eot.state.ma.us (the AT should be replaced with the @ symbol; we use AT so Kate doesn't get spammed by the spammers).

My P508 Train Was Not Late

Even though Commute-a-holic said that WCVB announced the Worcester-Framingham line trains were running late this morning, my commute was right on time. The P508 arrived into South Station at 8:21 a.m. Yesterday's commute was also on time. I got caught up in a bunch of ad hoc work meetings and other projects, so I never found the time to post.

The Overhead Wire wrote a great post yesterday about people who oppose mass transit. It is an interesting analysis along with links to some newsworthy articles.

Good Morning America fans take note. According to the Worcester Business Journal's Inside WBJ blog, GMA will be in Worcester on Sunday, September 14th at Union Station between 9:00 a.m. through 10:30 a.m. Downtown Worcester aims to be busy this Sunday. The Worcester-centric GMA footage is scheduled to appear on air on Monday sometime between 7:30 a.m. through 9:00 a.m.

Along with the GMA shoot, the Canal Diggers 5K & 1 Mile Fitness Walk is being held. I believe Commute-a-holic will be participating in the 1 Mile Fitness walk.

The Worcester Line is Running Late

According to the SmarTraveler report on WCVB-TV this morning, the Worcester-Framingham line is running 15 to 20 minutes behind schedule "due to police action."

WBUR is airing a report this morning about transportation options beyond public transportation. The report focuses on the Route 128 Corridor, which apparently has the largest vehicle usage in the state. Every day, 250,000 vehicles use 128.

According to a piece that ran yesterday on Itemlive.com, the MBTA has scheduled a public meeting for September 22 in Lynn to discuss possible changes to the service schedule.

Yesterday The Boston Herald wrote an article about potential changes to the MBTA bus routes. The MBTA Service Plan details the bus routes that could be eliminated due to ridership.
calls for eliminating four bus routes - the 6, 48, 500 and Silver Line 3 - due to low ridership. Route 48, for example, recently had only 85 boardings during the course of 25 weekday, one-way trips.

The plan also entails scaling back on more than a dozen other bus and ferry routes in order to increase service where it’s needed most without raising fares, T officials said.

“We want to put the service where people want to travel,” T General Manager Daniel A. Grabauskas said. “But this is a draft plan, and if we’re missing something about a special need, we would want to take that into account.”

State Representative Alice Hanlon Peisch is running for re-election against Dr. Larry Kaplan for the 14th Norfolk District seat in the House. The Boston Sunday Globe published an article this past Sunday about both Rep. Hanlon Peisch and Dr. Kaplan. Rep. Hanlon Peisch has been mentioned on Train Stopping in the past, due to her ongoing support of commuter rail and mass transit issues.
In the transportation arena, Peisch said she would like to see the state dedicate more funds to improving bridges, roads, and public transit.

"We have not invested in it over the past 15 years to the extent that we should have," she said. "It's become painfully obvious over the last few years."

Peisch also supports the state taking responsibility for some or all of the MBTA's debt, allowing more of its revenue from ridership fees and a state sales tax subsidy to go toward its operations. If reelected, Peisch said, she hopes to work with the MBTA to decrease delays on the local commuter-rail line, which runs through Wellesley and Natick.

"If you can't be assured the 8:15 train will show up at 8:15, then you're going to stop taking it," Peisch said. "The quality of the experience could be improved, but I think the first thing you do is improve the reliability."

She supports raising the state gasoline tax to help fund transportation projects, Peisch said, and also believes the state should consider raising additional revenue through creative ways of collecting tolls on highways that would not require building toll booths but could use roadway sensors.

"If we're going to do tolls they should be distributed equitably and not just where we happen to have tolls at the moment," she said.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Federal Highway Fund

Train Rider was off today.

It is nice to have a holiday, but short weeks tend to be brutally long for me. They go by in a flash, but I seem to have so much work to do - five days moved into four. I love that the days go by fast, but wow!!

The New York Times reported today that the Federal High Fund is about to run out of money. This could cause road and bridge construction projects around the country to be halted. More of the same. No money causes alarms at the state level.

Progressive Railroading reported that the MBTA was not alone in the increase in the number of monthly passengers. The Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority carried more than 14 million passengers on its rail, bus and paratransit services, while the Chicago Transit Authority saw a 9.5% year-over-year gain in August 2008.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Good Commutes

Hello! It has been a while - well two days. What is with short weeks? They definitely have a way of beating you up. Between actual work and all the drama going on with the 2008 Presidential Race, I have neglected my Train Stopping blog.

Massachusetts is officially back-to-school. While some school systems started back before Labor Day, Boston students went back to school today. So far, so good commute wise.

This morning's commute on the P508 was fine. We were on-time in our arrival into South Station, pulling in around 8:20 a.m.

Yesteday's P508 commute was OK. We sat again outside of South Station for 10 minutes. I checked my watch when the train finally pulled it and it was 8:30 a.m. Yesterday I was hoping that the "sit and weight" wasn't a sign of things to come. At least today we pulled right in.

Both The Boston Globe and The Boston Herald reported today about increases to the MBTA's services. Essentially, July was another record-breaking month for public transportation usage. The T is adding rush-hour trains and buses to help move commuters. The Globe noted
The changes - some previously planned, others new - are limited in scale and Grabauskas concedes they will not completely solve the T's crowding problems. But the agency does not have a lot of money to work with. The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority is operating out of its reserve accounts to keep its budget balanced and could implement a potentially substantial fare increase in 2010 to combat its multibillion-dollar debt.

In July, 34.7 million trips were taken, marking the seventh month in a row to record an increase in passengers over the previous month on all services except for the commuter boat. Trains are packed and parking lots are full.

The T is also studying different ways to increase capacity - perhaps by removing seats on subway cars and adding straps for riders to hold onto. Of course, reconfiguring a T car comes with a price. It would cost between $40,000 to 60,000 to retrofit a Red Line car. Yikes!!!

Meanwhile, the Greater Attleboro Taunton Regional Transit Authority (GATRA) has announced a new service next Monday, September 8th. Gazette.SouthCoastToday.com reports that the Wareham Lakeville Train Connector will bring commuters from Wareham and Middleborough to the Lakeville Commuter Rail Station Monday through Friday starting at 5:50 a.m. The bus service will run along Route 28. The fare is $2 for adults and $1 for seniors; a monthly pass is available. This service is being launched to get more cars off the road. What a great idea!

In other news, Fitchburg Train Rider share the following in an email to me yesterday:
On the Fitchburg line commute. Last Thursday the Red Line stopped and waited at every stop from South Station to Porter Square. So I was 5 minutes late for my Fitchburg commuter rail train and had to wait a half hour...Then Tuesday, the train pulled up to the Longfellow Bridge, stopped for 5 minutes, backed up halfway to Belmont, and waited for another track. Tuesday, the train was late, and it sat in Porter Square for 10 minutes. Seeing RED this morning -- weather is perfect, but these trains can't seem to be on schedule.
Finally, ComputerWorld published an interview yesterday with one of the MIT hackers. It is a Q&A with Zack Anderson and its interesting.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Back to the Swing of Things

Welcome to September. The summer seemed to zip by and now we're into Labor Day. At least there weren't too many steamy days riding the rails this summer. Remember how hot and sticky it was a few summers back, well at least hot and sticky on the Worcester line?

The weather the last few weeks has been gorgeous. Absolutely gorgeous. Although, I guess we'll get more humidity if the hurricanes/tropical depressions out there come up the coast.

Take a super fast Friday evening commute home add in the beautiful weather combined with a holiday plus the hoopla over McCain's VP selection (I'm scratching my head over that one) and you have one super fast holiday weekend. Well, this morning brought me back to riding the rails.

My commute on the P508 was fine. We seemed ahead of schedule at the stops and waited a minute or two to depart (once the passengers had loaded). We were at Back Bay at around 8:16 a.m., but waited outside of South Station for about 10 minutes for a track to open. From my window, it looked like other trains were in the same boat, so I'm putting the arrival to South Station at 8:28 a.m.

While the commuter rail was fine, the Silver Line was a cluster this morning. The platform was already packed when I got there and the buses were bunched up on the other side. I didn't get on a bus until about 8:42 a.m. Eeecks! Not a great way to start a Tuesday morning.

Today's Boston Metro reported that the T will be holding public meetings beginning next week for proposed bus route changes. This is part of the MBTA's 2008 Service Plan. Every two years the T evaluates the bus routes and makes changes based on rider demand and comments. I went to the T's website but didn't see anything about this program.

Also from today, The Eagle-Tribune wrote about repairs that will be made to a bridge that runs over the Merrimack River. This will benefit the Haverhill commuter rail line.

In other news, Boston.com ran a story the other day about poor air quality at the Back Bay T station. Yuck! This is a known problem - the T doesn't have the money to fix it.

Yesterday's Daily News Tribune published an editorial on merging the MBTA Transit Police with the State Police.