Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Cell Phones for Soliders and Other News

Hello Train Stopping readers! I know I haven't posted anything over the past few days. Unfortunately, my uncle passed away so I've been honoring his life.

Since my uncle was a veteran, he would be 100% behind the Cell Phones for Soldiers program. The MBCR and the Boston Fire Department will be collecting cell phones in South Station today and tomorrow in honor of Veteran's Day.

Cell phones will be collected today (November 12th) and tomorrow (November 13th) from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. on the Commuter Rail Platform at South Station. The founders of this program, teenagers Brittany and Robbie Bergquist, will be at South station today from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m.

This is a great, nonprofit founded by the siblings from Norwell. The collected cell phones are recycled and the reimbursed funds are used to purchase calling cards for Massachusetts soldiers overseas. Each phone provides about an hour of talk time, totaling 700+ hours. This 501(c)3 nonprofit has raised over $1 million in donations and distributed more than 400,000 prepaid calling to American soldiers serving overseas.

If you have an old cell phone lying around at home or in your office, consider dropping it off at the drive in South Station.

There is so much news, where to begin, where to begin? I'll start with the train news first and then segue into the Mass Pike.

WBZ-TV Channel 4 ran a follow-up to their I-Team investigation about elaborate catered lunches at MBTA board meetings (which aired on November 10th). The T spends a small amount of money on its lunches, but in the scheme of budget issues, every penny counts. Lawmakers would like to see the T cut out the free lunches, as the lunches do represent those things that make people cringe the most when it comes to government. This also makes lawmakers call for more oversight of the T. As David Tuereck of the Beacon Hill Institute said:
"The fact that they hang onto these perks, even when they are suffering huge embarrassments about financial losses such as the T is experiencing, is an indication of how far a road we need to travel in order to start cutting costs in this state."
The "Starts & Stops" column in this past Sunday Boston Globe focused on different tactics commuters are taking in regards to this coming Saturday's parking rate increase. Michael Quinn is one rider activist who is trying to take some action. He asks that interested commuters contact him at derail.quinn AT

Parking wasn't the only topic discussed in "Starts & Stops." Some insight into the T's board and last week's fatality in Salem was also provided. I'm sure the T read this column and thought "ouch, ouch and ouch."

A touching article about commuters who ride the Downeaster from Maine to Boston ran in Saturday's Boston Globe. Operated by Amtrak, ridership on this train increased 36.7% in the operational year that ended on September 30, 2008. A one-way trip from Portland to Boston takes 2 1/2 hours and costs $24. However, discounts are available for advanced purchases and monthly pass holders. Earlier this month, The Boston Herald reported that fares on this train will be increasing.

Without a doubt, the biggest transportation story this week in Massachusetts is the Governor's request to dismantle the Mass Pike. Tolls would remain at the New York border in Stockbridge, at the I-84 exit in Sturbridge, and the Weston tolls. The Route 16 tollboth would be restored and tolls would be increased. I'm not clear if tolls would be increased just at Weston or at the Weston-128 exit. I wonder if this means if James Taylor would have to rewrite "Sweet Baby James"?
Now the first of december was covered with snow
And so was the turnpike from stockbridge to boston
Lord, the berkshires seemed dream-like on account of that frosting
With ten miles behind me and ten thousand more to go
The Mass Highway Department would become responsible for the Pike from 128 West, with everything from East of 128 operated by Massport. An article from today's Boston Globe focuses on some of the issues that Massport faces.

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