Thursday, November 13, 2008

The P508 Was Late Again Today

What an exciting morning. I was thrilled to be quoted in the "Grumbles greet hike in T lot fee" article from today's Boston Globe. But my favorite quote in the article was one from the lips of MBTA spokesperson Joe Pesaturo:
He added that the state's recent move to acquire the CSX Corp.'s train tracks between Worcester and Framingham, among other sections of the state, will lead to improved track and signal maintenance and better on-time performance for commuter-rail service.
Um, Joe, guess what? Since the "new" Worcester-Framingham schedule was put into place a few weeks ago, the trains haven't been running on time. I know this is where the MBTA gets to blame either the MBCR or CSX for the service delays, but riders are tired of the delays. We've received a lot of comments over the past few weeks regarding delays. Some commuters feel that the on-time performance of the Worcester line is now a non-issue, as the schedule has been "increased" and the negotiations with CSX are almost completed. Guess what - we depend on the train and this isn't a non-issue for us. So many commuters work at companies that either have had layoffs or are planning layoffs. Job performance - including showing up to work on time - is a huge issue.

My commute on the P508 was OK this morning. We arrived to South Station at 8:28 a.m., 5 minutes after the scheduled arrival time of 8:23 a.m. I can't recall when we've been on time in the last few weeks.

I hope something can be done about the T. We need reliability above all else. I think that's why people are so up at arms. Just run on time for heck's sake.

The Universal Hub post from Tuesday about why Channel 4 made a big to-do about the catered lunches at MBTA Board meetings had a lot of "so what?" comments. One comment by WBZ reporter David Wade really hit home with me:
I certainly understand that this free lunch can be viewed as small potatoes. (Pun anyone?) But here's my take. Thanks.
He wrote a longer post on the WBZ blog Conversation Nation.

Frankly, I'm happy that WBZ's I-Team took the time to investigate this issue. I'm sick and tired of hearing "the T wants to be treated like a private business." Guess what - they don't act like a private business and they're not funded like a private business.

First - private businesses (at least the good, successful ones) actually care about their customers. I went to college in Western New York. There is a wonderful supermarket chain based in Rochester that is renowned in upstate New York called Wegman's. Wegman's provides great customer service and their customers are passionate about shopping there. In fact, Wegman's is lowering their prices due to the current financial climate. They see how their customers are impacted, they are listening to their customers and they make some changes.

Second, when private business don't have money, they cut their fringe benefits. I have a lot of friends who used to be able to get a free lunch at work or a free cup of coffee. When the revenue dried up, so did these perks. Such is life.

Third, the only thing the T seems to do is provide excuses. "We don't have enough money." "We have an old system." "We have to deal with unions." Excuses, excuses, excuses. But there are no solutions.

"We have no money," yet we have 60-odd employees who commute to work using a T-owned vehicle. They're deemed "essential." You know - a doctor is essential. A police officer or a firefighter is essential. I doubt that a PR flack or an attorney or an accountant or any other of the 60-odd employees driving to and from work using a T car (with T gas) is essential.

"We have no money" yet we're catering our board members lunches. Guess what - the T isn't the only state entity managed by a board of directors. Lots of state divisions have operating boards. Board members serve without pay or benefits and they don't get a free lunch. I don't negate the efficiencies of working lunches, but why should my tax dollars and commuting fees be used to pay for these lunches? What about having a lunch and paying out of pocket for it? That way - you're not putting the caterers out of business and you're effectively managing your budget.

I can't stand the fact that Dan Grabauskas was quoted on air as saying "we never thought to eliminate this lunch." Are you kidding me? Do you even try to see what you can cut out of your budget or is this all a joke? Are you just taking the enormous salary you are paid and running with it to the bank, smirking at how dumb commuters and citizens of the Commonwealth are?

Look at how irate Americans got when they learned that AIG kept their sales meeting at that California spa after our tax dollars bailed them out.

Maybe if the T ditched the cars they would have a little bit more money to maintain their equipment.

I understand that running a transit system is complex and it can be expensive. But I get so frustrated when I visit other cities and I see that their transit systems are bigger and more efficient. Maybe it is because they actually collect their fares (i.e., you can't ride for free on a NYC subway). I love Boston. I think this is a great city. We deserve the best run transit system in the nation. This is the home to the first subway system in America.

Unfortunately frustrated riders do not just take the commuter rail. They take the entire system. Check out Beth Adelson's comments on her "Shooting (Myself) blog."


Anonymous said...

Huh, which cities are you talking about that have much better transit systems? In the last year, I have been in Washington, Atlanta, and Chicago...and in all 3cases, I had unpleasant experiences on their trasnit systems.

Richard said...

I took the 6:55am train from Worcester yesterday and it stopped for a long time at Back Bay with no message. I finally got off the train and took the orange line to work when I saw firemen there. I don't know what happened, but I wish the MBTA would let us know if the train is going to be stuck at Back Bay for a while. That way, those of us who usually don't take the orange line can get off at Back Bay.

Anonymous said...

Hey Anon at 12:37 p.m. -

Washington, DC's Metro outperforms (and outclasses) the MBTA any day of the week. Oh, how I love the Metro. The trains are clean (you can't chow down a meal), you know when the train is actually going to arrive (versus waiting & waiting for a T to come), extensive system, and easy to pay for.

My experiences with the Chicago Transit System have also been extremely pleasant.

NYC's system is fantastic too. I love how they actually check to see if you have paid for a pass! What a freakin' concept. And the subway cars are no longer a graffiti artist's canvas - the cars are clean, the service is orderly.

The New Haven (or North or whatever it is called) commuter rail service from Grand Central to NYC suburbs north of NYC and to CT absolutely rocks. It is incredibly efficient, easy to park at and, again, they actually make sure that I've paid.

The London Metro is world renowned too.

There are a lot of really well-run transit systems. You must be a T employee or fan if you think that the T is the only good system in the US.

Anonymous said...

I don't know if Richard was on the same train I was, but I was on the one that expresses from West Natick. There was an announcement that there was a medical emergency at back bay. I was considering getting off, and many did, but I feared I would just be later if the train took right off and I had to jump from the orange line to red and then silver.

I guess everyone didn't get / hear the message because I was surprised not to see it covered here. I have begun to use this blog as my "affidavit" if you will concerning the late trains.

As it was, I arrived to work at 9:05 AM (silver line backed up too) and my boss had sent me an e-mail at 8:30 asking for his schedule for the day. A family member was in the hospital so he needed to plan. When I had not answered by 9:00 he was understandably poed.

Of course I explained and I think he believed me... but I am sure someplace in the back of his mind, he can't *imagine* that the train is as bad as it would appear from my lateness.

Now, I was concerned about the passenger and I understand that this kind of thing is going to happen but if the train wasn't late every other day... it wouldn't be such a big deal.

I also searched in vain for a report of what happened, BPD website, Boston et al, found nothing. And I did not get anything for MBCR. If anyone knows... please post. And I do hope the passenger was ok.

AJ said...

You know, I was watching Fox News this morning, and I just had to post. I couldn't even wait and do my usual routine, commute, read about the mornings commute and comment. This was just too good to wait!

I for one, want to step forward and just say I'm honored to be one of the fine residents of the state who have been entrusted with helping to rescue the MBTA and the Pike! I don't think people have been reading this whole scenario properly. These officials have been put in place to run these agencies. Their sole jobs are to make sure the MBTA and Mass Turnpike pay for themselves, and possibly even run in the black. Yes, they're debts are in the billions. Yes, they can seem to cut internal "fat". Yes, they continue to threaten to cut lower level jobs, instead of the upper levels who make more, and are responsible for the important decisions who put us in this situation. Yes, they're still taking catered lunches. Yes, they drive agency funded vehicles in case of commuting emergencies. Yes, they've make shady-at-best investments that should find them behind bars let alone behind their cushy, seemingly untouchable desk.

But you know what? They've proven they can't do it on their own, and they've turned to us. It gives me such pride to know that my new $4 parking fee will personally help repay 8.some-odd million annually in debt. That my new $2.25 Alston-Brighton toll will help recoup something like 125 million annually, nevermind the $100 toll (approximately) I'll spend each time I use the Ted Williams Tunnel. I only wish there was more I could do to help. I'm thinking of helping collecting fares on trains that seem understaffed, like the 413 train to Worcester yesterday. The fact is, these government agencies have reached out to say, "Hey Commonwealth! We need your help! We just can't seem to figure this out, and you guys are always here to accept something you have no choice in or control over." and we should embrace that!

Picking up on my sarcasm?