Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Are Cancelled Trains a Sign of Winter's Arrival?

Train Rider is away on a business trip today. Perhaps this is a good thing, as it appears that the P508 train was cancelled this morning. Thanks to Anonymous at 7:39 a.m. and Anonymous at 9:37 a.m. for the updates posted to Train Stopping. AJ posted a comment to The Greater Grafton Blog (which has a lovely photo of the platform at the Grafton MBTA station).

With the Thanksgiving holiday and heavy workloads, neither Train Rider nor I have been able to post some updates from readers. We'll start with news from Grafton Train Rider. The week of Thanksgiving was not a good one, commute wise, for Grafton Train Rider.

Grafton Train Rider started with the following message: "As we approach Thanksgiving, it sure has been a back week on the Worcester line. Tuesday night, P529 was delayed departing South Station due to a signal problem so we arrived in Grafton about 10 minutes late. Wednesday morning, P520 was delayed at least 15 minutes (stopped in Framingham and Allston then slow travel in between). The conductor thought that the cause was due to flooding."

On Tuesday, November 24th, both the P502 AND the P504 were cancelled. Grafton Train Rider submitted the following to the MBCR's Commuter Rail Customer Service:

Subject: No updated signage, invalid date.

It's bad enough to cancel the express train but waiting in the cold with a sign that says "All trains operating on or near schedule 11/11/08" is even worse when the date is 11/24/08. I arrived at work 45 minutes late. I submitted for the cancelled P502 and hope my refund is forthcoming. If not, I will write back to complain on that as well.

Here's some feedback Grafton Train Rider received regarding the malfunctioning LED sign:
I appreciate that you brought this information about the LED board to my attention. Unfortunately, our communications department, tries to ensure that all boards are running with the appropriate information, however until someone informs us that it is not running properly, we have no way of knowing there is a problem. I have forwarded this information on to our communications department, asking that they further review this information.Unfortunately, this department does not handle the issue of fare reimbursement. This request is handled through the MBTA's website. If you have any trouble regarding your request, you may contact them by calling 617-222-3200 and asking for the Revenue Department. Thank you for taking the time to bring this concern to my attention, I appreciate it.

Meanwhile, Fitchburg Train Rider expressed some concerns regarding the recent announcement about the removal of seats on some MBTA Red Line trains.
I heard on Channel 7 news this AM, that Red Line is going to RIP OUT ALL SEATS except for a few for handicapped and elderly. They claim to many riders. Now this is MORE THAN OUTRAGEOUS. Instead of
  1. better seats
  2. better customer service
  3. more cars added to the Red Line if more passengers
  4. more scheduled subways to accommodate the increase in ridership,

the MBTA, in all their infinite wisdom, decide to:

  1. rip out seats
  2. make present riders VERY MAD
  3. make the Red Line now very unsafe, and probably unlawful
  4. worsen their already bleak customer service reputation

Upset, Fitchburg Train Rider contacted the MBTA. Here is an excerpt of what the T had to say:

If I could set the record straight, the MBTA is testing two cars aspart of a pilot program where thy have removed the seats and these two cars would be put in the middle of a six car train. Currently the MBTA is operating 28 six car trains and starting on Monday one train will have two cars with the seats removed to address the over crowding the Red Line has experienced. Customers will be given the option to either utilize any of the cars with the seats or opt to board the train with the seats removed. The MBTA has added additional grab handles and straps for customers to hold onto during their commute. The Red Line had already added two additional trains beginning in the Fall to help address the overcrowding and we are responding to the still overcrowding conditions that still exist. Transit Agencies around the Country who have experienced similar problems removed seats as a way to increase ridership during peak periods.

The removal of the seats on the Red Line is a pretty controversial topic in Boston mass transit at the moment. Today's Patriot Ledger published an op-ed on this experiment. This well written editorial calls for the state to create a public transportation plan that will lessen our dependence on individual vehicles. The Ledger's editorial team makes some outstanding points about the logic of the T's experiment with removing Red Line seats. In the editorial staff's opinion, only 27 more riders will be able to get into Boston for about the cost of a gallon of gas. Do people really want to stand for a 1/2 train ride into Boston? Even a Tufts University blog has weighed in on this. We will have to see if this experiment works.

Now for some good news related to a follow-up story. Westborough Train Rider, who received mixed messages about paying daily parking fees with a personal check, sent this update:

They did indeed cash my check, see attached. Good news, they finally came back saying that paying by check is acceptable even though they have posted signs saying that paying by check is not an acceptable form of payment. Tomorrow will be my first test since 11/19. I'm curious to see if after paying by check I get back to the parking lot to find a slip on my vehicle stating I owe $5.

My aim is to let people know they can pay by check. People should know they have that option even though some station parking lots post that is not an acceptable form of payment, especially with it getting colder out there.

Thanks to Grafton Train Rider, Fitchburg Train Rider and Westborough Train Rider for sharing your experiences!

While the subject of parking is still top-of-mind, here are reports from WBZ-TV.com and the Brockton Enterprise about how a zoning conflict may not enable people to park at a private business in Kingston.

A Letter to the Editor in today's The Boston Globe about portable bikes, written by the executive director of MassBike. We actually missed this story - it ran in the November 30th edition of The Sunday Boston Globe. Folding bikes are used by some commuters to augment their transit commutes.

Finally, in case you didn't see or hear this, the Mass Pike reportedly saved $31.6 million thanks to budget cuts since January 2008. This is twice the amount that the Executive Director thought they would save in 2008.


Kidney Stones said...

I really have no words to describe this morning's commute. So, rather than use words which would require me to wash my mouth out with soap, I'll just give the details.

The P508 never came, and was eventually cancelled. Worcester commuters like myself waited from approximately 6:45 AM until roughly 7:43 AM, when the train finally arrived. In addition to being nearly an hour late, the train then turned into a local, as it was really the 7:35 train and not the 6:55.

I would like to personally thank the MBTA for ruining my Christmas. I was supposed to set up and decorate my tree last night, but I got home too late (had to work late because I arrived late). So I was going to do the tree tonight. Clearly, that won't be happening either.

I'd also like to thank the MBTA for increasing my chances of being fired. Being 30 mins late yesterday, and an HOUR late today really bodes well for my end of the year review. Had I not arrived this morning by 10 AM (thankfully arrived at 9:46ish), the company I work for would have lost 1.4 million dollars.

Think I could have sued Danny boy? Oh, that's right. They have no money anyway.

Anonymous said...

You may have observed the broken train at the Grafton station this morning (12/10). If not, P502 limped into the station then broke down. I suspected something was amiss when we didn't depart by 5:57AM. Then, the conductor walked by, and I heard the radio - you know that is not a good sign. The announcement came shortly thereafter about engine problems. All the lights and HVAC systems shut down. About 6:10 AM, we were instructed to exit and cross to the outbound track #1 to pick up the local train. At least the LED sign was updated with instructions unlike Thanksgiving commute. My door-to-door commute Grafton to Tech Square Cambridge was 2 hours and 40 minutes!
Grafton Train Rider