Wednesday, December 10, 2008


AJ has succinctly articulated all of the frustration that we commuters feel:

"It really chaps my ass when people like Anonymous (12/10 at 626) chime in on something they either know nothing about, or are pointed in the complete wrong direction. People are finding alternate ways in, and discussing it. The grip is that we pay (good money at that) for a service which is not provided, and there's no accountability.

The response is always the same, and the indifference is always there. The fact is, some people have to take the Commuter Rail. They don't have options. And even if they did, they pay for something which is withheld with no sort of recourse. That's the problem. Terrible service that continues to get worse. A lack of communication that the GM refuses to acknowledge exists. Old trains that continually break down while we wait 2 more years for cars that we need today.

It's not on us to take responsibility for our commute. It's on the T to take responsibility for their deplorable service."


Kidney Stones said...

That's it--I'm making a bumper sticker:

"AJ for MBTA GM"

I love that 3 out of the 4 words are initials!

Anonymous said...

Received the following from email on 12/10 at 3:34. Unsigned and somewhat snotty , I think.
You decide how helpful it is.

To Our Worcester Line Customers;

We have received many emails regarding the service experienced by our Worcester passengers this week, and understand that many of you have been affected on each train that you commute on. We want you to know that we are in agreement with the many letters and phone calls that we have received expressing your dissatisfaction with the current level of service; we concur, it is completely unacceptable.

We could provide you with chapter and verse on the reasons for each delay but we are certain that at this point it would be nothing more than an empty gesture when there is no way to justify being delayed daily. The problems are the result of a myriad of mechanical breakdowns. These issues have been raised to the highest level of management including, the General Managers from both MBCR and the MBTA. We have been assured that there will be a mechanical department management and technical presence at the Worcester facility both tomorrow and Friday to ensure that all locomotives are serviceable and ready to depart for their scheduled trips.

We are aware also that many of our customers have stated that the LED monitors at the various stations along this line were not displaying any indication of delays but rather that service was on or near schedule, which was clearly not the case. The communication logs have been thoroughly reviewed by our Chief Dispatcher which shows the times and updates for all train delays were indeed transmitted. That said we have a crew out in the field to determine why this information is not being displayed on the station monitors; this system is unquestionably outdated and in need of replacement. The MBTA is in the process of procuring a new GPS messaging system which will greatly enhance our ability to provide this information in real-time, without the glitches that has resulted in the current lack of information reaching its intended destination.

In closing, we want to assure you that MBCR will do everything in our power to restore the service on this line to a level that you can rely on.

Thank you for the opportunity to provide you with this explanation and apology and thank you for riding the commuter rail.

Thanks from Worcester Rider

Richard said...

That remark by anonymous about commuter rail riders needing to take responsibility and find other means to get to work was the most insensitive remark I've read on this post. It should not be our responsibility to find other means to get to work. The MBTA should be providing better service. It is in everyone's best interest to have a good running train line. It will only help to improve our economy. The MBTA commuter line to Worcester is broken and clearly needs fixing. To just suggest that we seek other modes of tranport is such defeatist talk and as I said before downright insensitive.

Anonymous said...

Another option for commuters is to take an earlier train. The MBTA is beyond repair--I have commuted to Boston for 15 years and of course rode the MBTA and WRTA as a student before that.

Anonymous said...

Awww.... did someone hurt your feelings? How dare someone suggest that you should take responsibility for yourself.

Tired of Being Blamed said...

To the snarky back to back Anonymous responses from 4:20 AM and 8:55 AM -

Many of us take personal responsibility to be at the train by a specific time. Due to family commitments and life in general, some of us cannot the 4:45 a.m. or 5:40 a.m. Worcester train. PLUS - how do you respond when you do arrive to ride an early train, only to see that train out of operation?

It is sick that we have had such a breakdown in our society that we cannot even read about this issue in the Worcester Telegram & Gazette or the MetroWest Daily News. Why do the reporters eat up what is fed to them by politicians?

Gosh, to think, Lt. Governor Murray claims to actually care about the Worcester region. If this is care, I sure wish he would ignore us. The trains were not perfect, but they were better before the "new" schedule went into place. The government and the T just shuffled around times, but service has declined.

And why isn't there any accountability? Why don't the MBTA/MBCR or whoever it is that is friggin' running the trains publish on time results?

I'm sorry that I have to wake up, as it is, early in the morning to feed my children, get them ready for school and then get myself to the station to ride a train that gets me into work before work starts. Oh yeah - the latter thing - doesn't always happen.

We need to work together on this. Perhaps it is time to take a page out of the Mass Pike protesters and stage a boycott of the commuter rail. We can show how much traffic will be on the roads and we can help continue to drive down the MBTA's revenue.

This past week has been ridiculous. People should be fired - I know I would be if running the T was my job. This is absolutely unacceptable.

Richard said...

My feelings are not hurt. I know that I am a responsible person who pays for his ticket and just wants things a little better for everyone.

Anonymous said...

So I guess all you people complaining about the T are in favor of higher fares or higher taxes to help alleviate the problem, right?

Commute-a-holic said...

Anonymous at 1:10 PM -

Every time a public entity fails, someone always makes the argument that "higher taxes" or "higher fees" are what is needed to solve the problem.

Guess what - you can trim a lot of fat and make a lot of efficiencies before increases taxes or increasing fares.

It is sad to think that fares most likely will be increased in 2009. However, if fares go up, it is hoped that the T is really investigated. There are some decisions that are made - spending my tax money and my fares - that do not improve service or the experience.

Honestly, if I were the Governor, I would really take a close, hard look at the managers who are running this agency. What do they do? Where are they spending the money? Why is service decreasing not increasing?

They know our trains are old. Where is the planning to purchase more trains? Why does everything that seems to happen be in REACTION to something, not strategically planned.

There are a lot of really exceptional people who are jobless right now. I bet that you could find some really great efficiency experts who could cut through the BS and make a difference. Find some professionals who aren't in the job because it is some cushy position, they're in it to do the job.

That's just my opinion. I'm glad you shared yours and I do hope the MBTA commuting experience improves in 2009.

Anonymous said...

"Guess what - you can trim a lot of fat and make a lot of efficiencies before increases taxes or increasing fares."

Ok.... where? Salaries? Jobs? Service cuts? Maintenance? Safety?

"Why is service decreasing not increasing?"
Where is this decreased service? All I've heard of is a few bus routes. While, I have heard about increased service on the Worcester Line. More cars on the subway during rush hour and a brand new commuter rail line.

"Where is the planning to purchase more trains?"

They're on order (once the govt decides who they should buy from). You can't just pick up a train at Wal-Mart on the weekend.

Commute-a-holic said...

Anonymous now at 3:12 PM -

You must work for the T? Are you Dan G? Does it hurt when the truth of your dismal performance is told?

Every day, companies are laying off workers. These may be essential workers. It seems to be as though the T has an extensive number of managers and executive administrators. Since the agency is bankrupt and since performance levels are not where they should be, if I were in charge of things, I would start by looking at the manager/executive level. I would lose my job at my company if I exceeded my department's budget, didn't have the foresight to plan to purchase new equipment, had "extras" (such as vehicles - yes, 60-odd T workers get to drive to work) that may not be needed, etc. etc. So, the reality is, the T shouldn't necessarily be spared from the economic anguish that is spreading across this country. If there are processes that are not working or employees not doing their job, then the T needs to address that (not just keep people on the payroll or follow outdated systems "just because").

Yes - more FIVE more trains were added to the Worcester line. But speak to the people that use this line - essentially the five trains were really just a time shift. Ever sense the trains were added, there have been numerous delays or cancellations. Is it so wrong to want to see the Worcester line operate at an optimal capacity? Why is that wrong? We are residents of Massachusetts - we pay our taxes, our towns pay taxes, we're paying a lot of money for the privilege of riding the trains. Why are we the ones always yelled at to "suck it up" or "what do you expect - a limo service." No - we're sick of sucking it up and we're sick of being put down. We know this is mass transit, not individualized limo service. Why is it so wrong to want to see the trains on our line operate on a consistent, timely basis with time options that better fit schedules (instead of time options that turn a day into a 12-hour work day). Many, many people who use the Worcester line are based at Boston businesses due to office relocations, not personal choice. These individuals are trying to make the best out of the situation and they're trying to keep their personal cars off the road to reduce traffic and to help the environment.

Really, no Sh*t Sherlock, we know you can't just pull into WalMart to buy trains. The commuter rail cars are old - I would guess the Worcester line cars are about 30 years old. So you just decide in 2008 that you need to order new cars? See my first response - let's talk about strategic planning. Oh that's right - about the only strategic planning the T has executed semi-well in this decade is the Greenbush Line. Greenbush gets new train cars, Greenbush trains seem to run on time. The rest of the lines - well, we're pretty screwed.

Sorry if we're angry. Perhaps if the T performed, we would give you a better rating. Maybe be happy that you're not a public, for-profit company. You would be bankrupt by now.

Anonymous said...

I don't work for the T, nor do I have any friends or family that do. I do have some critical thinking skills that you seem to lack. I also ride the commuter rail and subway system 5 days a week.

You want to fire people from the T? Is that your great idea on how to save the T? You obviously haven't worked with unions before. Try and fire some people at the T... They'll be right back on the job in weeks, plus you'll have to pay their back pay. Great plan. Any more bright ideas?

If you think for one second that you can solve the T's problems without fixing the funding problem or that funding problem can be solved by reducing "inefficiencies" then you're pretty naive.

Do you know how long they've been planning on buying commuter rail cars? I don't. But I know from purchasing large pieces of equipment through my job that's it's not something you just wake up in the morning and think about buying. I'd guess that they've been planning it for several years, but if you have information to the contrary you should post it rather than making wild assumptions. Secondly, you bitch and moaned about wanting more trains to Worcester and they listened and gave it to you. Now you blame that increased service for all your transit woes. Do you now want them to take that service away?

You want the T to perform better..? Great. So do I. I'm just not that naive to think that it's just to happen without some sort of systematic change or real sacrifices on the part of taxpayers or T riders or both.

Fitchburg Train Rider said...


I, too, was so mad this am that after sending in my SECOND application for a refund, because the trains were canceled and late, 2 days out of 3 -- I also sent a complaint that the Marquee did not say the train would be late until the train was ALREADY 20 MINUTES LATE -- then it said 10 to 15 minutes late...

And it is not even officially winter yet!

Anonymous said...

Hey ranting anonymous:
If you think for one second that you can solve the T's problems without fixing the funding problem or that funding problem can be solved by reducing "inefficiencies" then you're pretty naive.

Hell yes there are more efficient ways to do things, especially in the real of technology & communication. Off the top of my head:
- There is no reason not to be using transponder-based parking fee collection. Wins: customer convenience, easier to make granular fee changes, quicker to collect.
- use this more-accurate data to publish how full the lots are (percentage at least).
- Transparency regarding delays & actual timings. Of course things get delayed, but people just want to know. The marquee signs are few and far between, and usually inacurate. More direct data from the existing infrastructure used to keep the control room folks informed would be a win. tracks don't move, so the cost of making a display board with more accurate data would be a longer-term investment. display the actual measured times, and hell the lot fullness as well.
- boost volume on the rail intercoms. if the heating or AC is on, the staff is wasting their breath as you simply cannot hear what's said.

...there's a lot of easy things to do the job smarter and better.

Bill said...

I totally agree with the Anon posting at 5:11. If we really want to improve service we have to change things up and cutting minor things is tantamount to putting a band-aid on a gunshot wound.

The MBTA is broken. It's not going to get better without several changes and one of the most important things is funding and lack thereof at the MBTA. If you don't advocate for these sort of things then you're part of the problem as well.

Fix Things said...

Anon at 5:11 and Bill both have a point and so do Commute-a-holic and Anon at 9:15.

More funding is needed. But better leadership is also needed.

The T cannot continue to be the patronage heaven it is. It needs to come into the 21st century. Systems need to be automated. Processes need to be developed and followed. The T needs to be accountable to the state, to the riders and to the taxpayers.

Just throwing money at the T so they can fix the issues will not solve anything. It will just see our money go down the drain.

Unions also need to step into the 21st century. I think a lot of us (call us white collar workers if you need to) are sick of the demands. Yet again, thanks to unions (UAW), the auto bailout was thrown out. I don't think it was wrong to say to the auto manufacturers that the UAW needs to set salaries in line with foreign auto workers. Let's be frank - at least the Japanese car makers know how to make cars. If GM or Chyrsler created cars like Accords, Camrys or Nissans, guess what, I would buy one.

Everything is a mess. We're all yelling at each other b/c we're tired.

More budget is needed, but more accountability is needed too. Make the T accountable. Make them get rid of their fluff and make them humble. Really, at the end of the day, maybe I wouldn't b*tch so much when I'm late b/c of the trains if the T would just be transparent and tell the truth instead of trying to pull the wool over our eyes. We're not that stupid and we're not buying what you're selling.

AJ said...

Alas Kidney Stones, I cannot accept you nomination. I know I wouldn't be a good MBTA GM because while I know the Commuter Rail fairly well, I know very little of the other subway and bus lines in the city.

I would accept a nod for MBCR GM though…