Tuesday, December 15, 2009

"Safety" First ... Just Wait Until I Finish Watching This Movie

I've been traveling for work a fair bit over the last month or so and thus have not been taking the train regularly. I do have some MBCR updates to post, but first, I wanted to comment on an article in the Globe today about a secret hideaway for MBCR employees who work in Somerville.

It seems that working is not really their main focus, instead, the employees (responsible for maintaining the safety of the trains) would disappear to watch movies, play video games, surf the web and look at porn. Amazing that they could get away with it for so long ... and really, how focused could they be on train maintenance if they were otherwise occupied? Unbelievable that this is what we pay for.

Here is the article:

An investigation led to a strange discovery hidden in a storage room: a makeshift entertainment center, including three televisions, two DVD players, one VHS player, surround-sound speakers, a video game system, and DVDs, some of them pornographic, a transportation official said yesterday.

The equipment, slyly camouflaged within the commuter rail’s massive Somerville maintenance facility, even had an illegal cable television connection that came through a 1,000-foot cable, said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the investigation is not yet concluded.

“This was very much concealed among maintenance parts and equipment,’’ said the official. “Nobody was watching at the time [it was found], but all that property was confiscated.’’
No employees have come forward to claim the property since it was found Dec. 8. But six who were absent during a roll call on the evening it was discovered have been suspended as part of the investigation, including one employee who is accused of spending long breaks on the night shift at a bar he is believed to own on the North Shore. It is not clear whether the employee was drinking at the bar while on duty.

“Clearly, being off property and at a bar for several hours, regardless of what you’re doing, is inappropriate’’ while on duty, the transportation official said.
Attempts to reach union officials representing the suspended workers were unsuccessful yesterday.

The employees do not work for the MBTA. They work for a private consortium, the Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad, which runs the T’s commuter rail service under a contract with the public agency. The employees work as mechanics at the Boston Engine Terminal, a 375,000-square-foot facility in Somerville used for locomotive and coach maintenance.

“As the result of an ongoing investigation, Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad has suspended six employees, indefinitely, for apparent violations of workplace rules and regulations,’’ the company said in a statement. “Pending final outcome of the investigation, these employees will face full disciplinary action, including termination. MBCR maintains a zero tolerance policy toward any inappropriate behavior in the workplace.’’

The investigation began after the new manager took over the facility about six weeks ago and noticed that employees on the 4 p.m. to midnight shift were taking breaks of 1 1/2 to 2 hours at a time, instead of the customary 30 to 45 minutes, according to the official.

While searching for missing employees last week, managers severed two padlocks on the electrical cabinet to find the entertainment center. Two of 14 DVDs hidden in the cabinet were pornographic, the official said. The others were mainstream movies, including “Rambo.’’ Pornography is prohibited under the company’s harassment and discrimination policies, the official said.

The company also prohibits employees from bringing in equipment likely to distract them from their jobs. The facility has a break room, but the entertainment center was located far away from it, the official said.

The suspended employees, who have not been named, are on unpaid leave, but will be paid retroactively for lost time if cleared. They have not been accused of using the entertainment center. Five have been accused of taking long breaks; the sixth was accused specifically of spending time at the bar, the official said.

The company plans to donate the equipment and destroy the videos, the official said.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Parking Tickets

This is strange ... last night when I got to the Grafton parking lot, I had a MBTA transit police ticket on my car. I know for a fact I paid my $4 parking fee last night, but my ticket was for $15 for "non-payment of parking fee." I'm not even sure how to contest it. Did anyone else have a ticket as well?

The P508 was slightly off schedule this morning, arriving at South Station at 8:26 AM, about three minutes behind schedule. Last night on the P 529 (the 6;15 PM departure from South Station), we had to wait about 15 minutes for "paperwork" until we could depart. We ended up getting to Grafton about 20 minutes late. So, sadly, not enough for reimbursement.

Interesting note about reimbursements, I'm still waiting for three of them from late trains back in September.

In other train news:

According to the Boston Globe, a commuter train at North Station hit a truck parked near the tracks this morning, but no one was injured, authorities said. The inbound train was arriving from Beverly and was making its final stop when it clipped the truck just before 9 a.m., said Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority spokesman Joe Pesaturo. Service was not delayed and passengers departed safely at North Station. The truck was parked to service a portable toilet nearby for rail employees. The driver was connecting a hose from the truck to the toilet as the accident occurred, Pesaturo said. “It’s been there in the past, but this time the driver parked too close to the tracks,” he said.

Last weekend, a Green Line train made a sudden stop, injuring some passengers. The incident happened Saturday night on the Green Line as the trolley departed North Station, heading toward Government Center. Officials tell the Boston Herald that a brake malfunctioned. WBZ-TV reported that least 10 people were hurt and four passengers were taken to area hospitals. Transit police Sgt. Bill Fredette tells the Herald that none of the injuries appeared to be serious.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Mea Culpa, Mea Culpa

A few days of bad commutes means the arrival of MBCR Rail Mail with their apologies


To All of Our Worcester Line Customers

Please accept our sincere apologies for the delays you have experienced this week on the commuter rail system.

We are aware that the reasons for these delays to your commute are of little importance when you simply want to reach your destination on time. We fully understand that what you are looking for is the restoration of reliable, on-time service.

Our plan to make this happen will include providing additional resources at Worcester to monitor and assist with mechanical reliability, and increasing management focus on each cause of delay for the foreseeable future. As always, we have reviewed each delay incident with our operating staff to identify ways we can reduce passenger impact for similar incidents in the future.

Please be assured that we will continue to work to restore the service to a level of reliability that meets your expectations. Thank you for the opportunity to provide you with this explanation and apology. As always, thank you for riding the commuter rail.


You know, I mentioned this last year around this time ... that there should be some staff either on site or on call in the Worcester area so when mechanical issues occur, we don't need to wait and wait until help arrives in order to even start working on the situation.

MBTA Riders At Risk

According to a report released by the governor's office, a decade of neglect and mounting financial problems has left the MBTA with public safety issues that are far more serious than previously revealed and swiftly growing worse. This report was obtained by the Globe yesterday. Among the most alarming items in the report is the fact that the MBTA has left more than 50 critically important safety projects unfunded because of a “mountain of red ink.’’

One delayed project highlighted in the report, which has been deemed critical to public safety, involves repair of a water leak on the Red Line between Alewife and Harvard stations. The $80 million project would replace a system of slabs and disks, designed to absorb train vibrations, that has been damaged by water leaks. In some areas, fasteners are corroding and the tracks are moving out of alignment, the report states, presenting “the possibility of train derailment.’’The system’s age and the lack of consistent repairs has also had a direct impact on service, according to the report.

A recent fire triggered by an old cable buried under muck on the Red Line shut down rush-hour service. It also forced some bus drivers to ferry those Red Line passengers, leaving parts of their regular routes uncovered and causing inconvenience across the system. The publicity forced the MBTA to agree to replace the cable, a $140 million project, “money that will be diverted from other projects such as overhauling vehicles,’’ the report states.

The 51 deferred projects deemed critically important carry a price tag of $543 million. But the T has a total of more than $3 billion in unfunded maintenance projects it considers necessary to keep the system operating smoothly, a list that is growing as trains and buses stay in service beyond their projected life and without crucial overhauls, according to the report.The agency spends $470 million a year on maintenance, but would need an additional $224 million to keep its backlog from growing, the report said.

“It’s fair to say that they are not keeping up with the safety standards that they themselves subscribe to,’’ said David F. D’Alessandro, the former John Hancock chairman who led the review. Governor Patrick and D'Alessandro will officially release the report today.

And although Dan Grabauskas was ousted this past summer, the report itself is not critical of MBTA management. Instead, it places most of the blame on a change in the way the MBTA was funded, a change approved by the Legislature in 2000. The idea at the time was to give the T a fixed annual subsidy, abandoning the unwieldy practice of using state money to pay off MBTA expenses at the end of each year. But the state underestimated the agency’s expenses by $558 million between 2000 and 2008, because of unrealistic projections for operating costs that were outside the T’s control.

For example, the original plan left no money for workers’ health care cost increases, even though they grew by 73 percent in the first eight years. The T, the state’s largest electricity customer, saw fuel and utility costs more than double over the same period. To balance the books, managers deferred debt payments, masking the size of the T’s problems. By 2013, the agency’s annual debt payment will reach $525 million.

Despite the agency’s financial woes, D’Alessandro recommends against raising fares after three increases in the past decade. Before adding still further to the burden on passengers, he wrote, “the riding public deserves to have tangible evidence that the MBTA is improving safety and service, not deteriorating further.’’

D’Alessandro, a bluntly spoken former corporate executive, also recommends against further expansion until the T can get its safety and maintenance problems under control. Simply controlling costs, he said, is no solution, given the magnitude of the agency’s problems and the need to employ large numbers of people to run the system.

In general, D’Alessandro recommends more transparency and more direct oversight of the MBTA by the new state transportation board, including a requirement that the T seek approval before it borrows any more money.

The strongest recommendation concerns safety. D’Alessandro implores the T’s new oversight board to conduct a high-level examination of what needs fixing. “With 51 projects classified as ‘a danger to life or limb of passengers and/or employees,’ prioritizing these projects against public safety needs is imperative,’’ he wrote.

*** Update 1:15 PM 11/04/09 ***

Governor Patrick announced during a press conference today that there will be no fare increases on the MBTA for the foreseeable future until these issues are hammered out. Thankfully, someone finally gets it. Riders have been lamenting this for years ... that the experience that we have almost daily on the T does not warrant additional fees to us until the agency gets its crap together.

This report didn't really offer anything new for those of us who take the T or commuter rail ... but hopefully it will get the ball rolling on solutions.

Switch Problems Wreak Havoc on the Worcester/Framingham Trains

Another morning, another 45+ minute delay on the Worcester line this morning. I got to the Grafton station at 7:03 and saw groups of fellow riders milling around by the pay boxes. They were all discussing the delays, it seems the p504 (departs Worcester at 6:05) was delayed over an hour and the p506 (departs Worcester at 6:30) was delayed over 45 minutes.

I looked on the MBTA website from my blackberry and it looked like the p502 had been cancelled and suggested that passengers seek alternate arrangements for transportation. The service alert attributed the delays to switch problems in Worcester.

At around 7:20 a train rolled into Grafton. As I went to get on the train, I asked the conductor if it was the p504 and he barked back at me "It's a LOCAL!" Um, thanks for the great customer service!

After Framingham, one of the conductors announced that our train was actually the p506, which is supposed to get to Boston at 8:11 AM. It was a local, making every stop all the way into the city, and we finally arrived at South Station at about 8:55.

One of my co-workers asked me if i thought the new MDOT agency taking over has anything to do with these delays. I can't imagine why that would be the case, but really, out of 5 commutes this week, 3 of them have been delayed by more than 1/2 hour. It's not even winter yet! I shudder to think what will happen if this is just the beginning.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Another Crappy Commute

Tonight's ride home on the p529 was delayed for upwards of 1/2 hour as we sat outside of Yawkey station due to a "police action" somewhere along the tracks. Both inbound and outbound trains were affected by the delay. So, out of four commutes this month so far, two of them have resulted in delays of 1/2 hour or more and thus, reimbursement requests.

Hope this isn't a sign of things to come!

Delays on the P508 and the PTIS

Not sure if the leaves are still wreaking havoc on the tracks or what, but we were about 10 minutes behind schedule this morning, arriving to South Station at 8:33 AM. At least this was somewhat "normal," as opposed to yesterday's awful commute.

I received some Rail Mail over the weekend touting the new Passenger Train Information System (PTIS). Funny, when I first read it, I thought it was called PITS. Here is the crux of the email:

The MBTA is pleased to announce that testing is in the final stages for the new PTIS (Passenger Train Information System). This upgrade will enable us to provide our passengers with real-time information generated directly from the train. Passengers will soon see train arrival information on electronic station signs ("Next train arriving in 10 minutes"). The system will also offer automated "next station stop" announcements on board the trains. Some of you may have experienced the new system during this testing phase and we ask for your patience while this necessary part of the process takes place. During this time there may be occasions when the electronic station signs could appear to be out of service. You might also experience testing of the on board announcement system, which could be misleading (naming stations that are not on that route). Please ask your conductor if an announcement is confusing. The PTIS technology will be introduced in phases beginning with the Greenbush and Old Colony lines. We anticipate that the system will be implemented on these lines by year’s end with a system wide roll out to follow. We thank you in advance for your patience while we make these enhancements. Thank you for riding the commuter rail.

My favorite thing about the email was "please ask your conductor if an announcement is confusing ..." yeah, because they're always so forthcoming with information! Regardless, it's sure to be an interesting roll out.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Not A Great Way to Start the Month ...

This morning's commute had to be in the top 10 worst of all time. I knew we were in trouble when I got to the Grafton train station and after paying my parking fee, noticed there weren't a lot of people on the platform. I took that as a sign of ominous things to come ... and I was right, because then the automated sign said that the p504 had been cancelled and all other trains were operating about 10-15 minutes behind schedule. The interesting thing, Commuter Alerts on the MBTA website said something completely different, that the delays were upwards of 30 minutes.

When the p508 finally arrived at about 7:30, it was pushing another train ahead of it. We traveled quite slowly through Westborough and Southborough, then spent about 20 minutes at the Southborough stop due to mechanical issues. We crawled along to Boston ... luckily, we were still an express, although for some reason the train stopped at Yawkey. We finally arrived at 9:45 this morning ... about 1 1/2 hours later than usual. Finally got to work around 10:00. Thank goodness my manager understands about the delays!

I talked to colleagues at work and they had similar issues on the Fitchburg line as well ... apparently the tracks were icy this morning and the trains had problems braking. Not a banner day on the rails.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Rainy Day Commute

The P508 was on time this morning, arriving at South Station at about 8:23 AM.

It seems to me that the train has been less crowded as of late ... I wonder if more people are driving due to fears of swine flu? I will say that when I had to drive in yesterday, traffic was terrible and it took me almost 2 hours to get to Boston from Worcester.

November 1 will mark the inception of the new state transportation agency that combines the MBTA and Mass Pike, among other agencies. A commission has also been assigned to provide a comprehensive overview of each agency, so we can look forward to a report about the MBTA finances and management structure. I'll keep an eye out and post it here ... I'm not sure there will be anything surprising in the report ... it should paint a picture of high maintenance costs and high labor/pension costs that cannot be handled without a fare increase since the sales tax increase definitely didn't help abate the issues.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Columbus Day Commute

Although we were running on a normal (i.e. non-holiday) schedule, the P508 was about five minutes behind schedule this morning, arriving at South Station at 8:28 AM. After picking up passengers in Natick, we had to back up to get a "running start" to make it past the leaves on the tracks. Now ... call me crazy ... but the tracks were not wet, so the leaves should have been dry, yes? The train cannot go over dry leaves?

In addition to the leaves, the train was also on the opposite track this morning at the Grafton stop. You know, some notice would be nice, like an announcement on the message boards. But, that would require foresight. My favorite thing that happened this morning was when someone asked the conductor why we were on the opposite track and he growled back "I DON'T KNOW!"
Awesome customer service!!

Was anyone on the 6:15 PM train out of South Station on Friday night? We sat at South Station for about 20 minutes waiting for "paperwork" before we could leave ... I think we were 1/2 hour late getting to Grafton that night.

Last week, I was in a taxi back to my office and had a great discussion with the driver about the state of public transportation in Boston. One of our topics of discussion was the Silver Line and how basically there are two separate bus routes that don't with one another. Whose bright idea was that?!? Some good news on that front though, on Tuesday, the T will extend the Washington Street Silver Line to South Station. Previously, passengers in the South End who used the Silver Line could not get to South Station without taking some other route, like getting on the Red Line from Downtown Crossing. If you want to go to the airport, you will have to switch buses at South Station, but at least it's better than before.

Who is running the T these days? There has been a mass exodus over the last few weeks, as November 1st approaches. This is the date when the newly formed state transportation agency will take effect. Last week, the MBTA's chief of operations - the guy who keeps the trains and buses running - submitted his retirement papers. According to the Globe, Richard J. Leary made his retirement effective Nov. 1, but it does not appear he holds much continuing interest in the job. He was a no-show at a board of directors meeting last week, even though he had been ordered by the board to deliver a crucial safety report.

The day Leary turned in his retirement papers, his hand-picked deputy, Kevin McGuire, submitted his retirement papers as well. As we know, back in August, the general manager, Daniel A. Grabauskas, was forced out with a $327,000 buyout. And following the last meeting of the MBTA Advisory board last week, the board of directors also dissolved.

So, who is running the MBTA? For now, it’s William A. Mitchell Jr., the acting general manager who had been the agency’s general counsel for the past 14 years. Mitchell does not know much about trains and buses. But the T still has individual managers in charge of subway, commuter rail, and bus operations. One of Leary’s deputies also remains on staff. Nothing against Mr. Mitchell, but I'm not sure I want someone with no experience in trains or buses running the agency, even on an interim basis.

The next transportation secretary, Jeffrey Mullan, plans to pick two top leaders for the T over the next month or so - one to run day-to-day operations and a second person to oversee policy for all public transit. The policy person will also oversee regional bus systems and deal with freight rail coming in and out of the state.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

That's What Trash Cans Are For ...

If you recall, last Wednesday evening stations along the Red Line and Orange Line were shut down during rush hour because of two separate fires, which were attributed to trash on the tracks.

Today, Boston Fire Commissioner Roderick Fraser and the MBTA have begun urging riders to prevent fires in subway tunnels by dumping their trash in garbage cans -- not on the tracks. Hmmm, doesn't this sound like common sense? How lazy must you be to think the train tracks are your own personal dumping ground?

According to the Globe, the MBTA said Fraser's public service announcement is one part of a three-part response to the fires that infuriated thousands of home-bound commuters.

The second part is a reminder to T employees they should pick up trash or alert dispatchers when garbage is spotted in a tunnel so a crew can safely be sent in to clean up the mess.

Finally, the T's power department, which oversees the electrical wiring throughout the system, is to map out a plan to replace the most derelict electrical systems with materials that generate far less smoke should future incidents occur.

In other news, the P508 was right on time this morning, arriving at South Station at 8:23 AM.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Tuesday Commute

Took the p508 this morning, we were about 5 minutes off schedule, arriving at South Station at around 8:28 AM.

I took yesterday off from work (as I had to recover from a great U2 show the night before!), but I heard that there was a huge issue on the P523 train which departs South Station at 5:00 last night? Anyone care to comment?

Read an article in the Globe this morning that the MBTA has recently updated their transit maps, since some were quite outdated. The project will last about 2 years and cost upwards of $500,000 to replace maps in all stations and will, for the first time, include information about the fifteen busiest bus lines.

Don't know how I missed this one, but the MBTA unions have filed a lawsuit against the state to block them from cutting worker benefits. According to an article in the Globe, the reduction in MBTA benefits is a cornerstone in a sweeping transportation law passed this year that was a top priority for Governor Deval Patrick. No other single change is expected to bring as much savings to the state. The major changes in benefits would require MBTA employees to join the state health care plan, as well as eliminating retirement provision that allows an MBTA worker to retire after 23 years of service and collect a generous pension. Looks like this will be a fight for a long time to come between the unions and the state.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

MBCR Speaks Out Regarding Worcester Line Mishaps

Received some Rail Mail from MBCR yesterday about the two mishaps earlier in the week that impacted Worcester trains.

You know, I'm thinking that the near miss on Monday was a lot more serious than they're letting on. Two trains headed toward one another on the same track at normal speeds? Thank god our engineer put the emergency brake on ... that would have been 100 times worse than the accident on Tuesday morning. I'm hoping that the dispatcher who allowed that to happen is no longer dispatching trains.

Here's the Rail Mail letter:

Dear Worcester Line Customers,

I wanted to take a moment to address two recent, but entirely separate, operating incidents that have received much attention.

On Monday, September 14th at about 6pm, CSX dispatchers routed an inbound and an outbound train onto the same track between Back Bay and Yawkey Stations. Thanks to the alert actions of our on-board and operations staff, the trains stopped without incident and there were no injuries.

On Tuesday, September 15th, just after 9am, an inbound train struck a bumper post at South Station while traveling at low speed. At present, 18 passengers and one crew member are being treated for injuries. None of the injuries are known to be serious.

On behalf of MBCR and the MBTA, I apologize to each of you who may have experienced a delay due to these incidents and thank you for your patience. If you require further assistance, please contact us at customerservice@mbcr.net.

Passenger safety is of paramount concern for MBCR and the MBTA and we have initiated a full investigation of both incidents. We will fully-examine all possible factors leading into each event and take any necessary action to ensure the safety of our passengers, the public and our employees.

While the investigations are ongoing, you may be assured that all of our staff will continue to work safely. You can have full confidence in the safety of our service and that the experience, training and dedication of our employees will provide you with a safe commute. I have full confidence in their professionalism.

Thank you for riding the commuter rail system.

Richard A. Davey
General Manager
Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad (MBCR)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Worcester Train Hits Bumper at South Station

The inbound P512 Worcester commuter train hit the bumper at the end of the track this morning at South Station, injuring 18 passengers. This is the train that usually arrives at South Station at around 9:05 AM ... and the train I've been taking lately, except for the past two days.

MBTA officials told the Herald that 18 people have been reported injured - including some passengers taken out of the station on backboards. The engineer and a conductor have been placed on paid leave while transit officials investigate the 9:08 a.m. accident. The engineer will undergo drug and alcohol testing.

But, T officials said today’s crash on the Worcester/Framingham line is due to operator error. The engineer said he “misjudged” the distance between the end of the line and a concrete bumper, MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo said. Pesaturo added there is no reports the engineer was on a cell phone “or any other electronic device.” He said the engineer has already submitted a letter to his boss stating it was operator error.

Commuters aboard train 512 had already stood up from their seats to exit the six-car train when it made contact with the bumping post, causing some people to fall down, said Pesaturo. “The train hit quickly and people bounced,” said Boston Fire Department spokesman Steve MacDonald.

Passengers tell the Herald they were brought to their knees by the sudden collision. Officials said 100 people were on the train at the time of the crash. “We were slowing down to a normal stop then BANG! A hard stop,” said Shaw Lively, 56, who said he jumped on the train in Ashland for the first time in five years. “I went flying through the air,” he added, saying he hurt his knee.

Police said radio transmissions will be studied today and an expert will look at the brakes. The MBTA said that the train was moving at a low rate of speed when the accident occurred.
Emergency responders told the Herald 18 people were being treated for what first appeared to be minor back and neck injuries, with 13 of the injured transported to the hospital. Many victims had to be strapped into backboards to be taken away. Other passengers who had left the scene reportedly returned to tell emergency officials of neck or head pain. Another five who were injured did not need hospitalization.

P508 On Time

The p508 was on time to South Station this morning, arriving at 8:24Am. Seems we've been a car short for a few days now though, which has been causing crowding on the train.

In other news, apparently a train arriving at South Station has rammed a barrier, causing injuries to passengers. No additional news available at this time.

I think last night's incident on the p529 warrants a mention again. According to news sources, the potential incident is more serious than we passengers were lead to believe. CSX is referring to it as a near collision.

I'm sure the conductors didn't want to incite any panic on the train, but that's just crazy. How can the switch operators not know what tracks have trains on them?

Monday, September 14, 2009

Excitement on the P529

There was some excitement on the p529 this evening ... right outside of Yawkey we came to a sudden stop ... the type where the emergency brake is deployed and you hang on for dear life. Come to find out, we were sent out on the wrong switch and thus the wrong track and the engineer saw another train on our same track ... heading in our direction! We sat there for about 15 minutes, then we backed up all the way to South Station, switch tracks and headed back out.

Morning commutes have been status quo of late ... nothing like running like clockwork!

In other transportation news:
  • Secretary of Transportation James Aliosi has resigned and will not head up the newly revamped Department of Transportation come November
  • The MBTA is shutting down the Old Colony Line from Middleboro to Bridgewater to replace old rail ties starting this Wednesday after rush hour, passengers will be bused between the stations from 8:30 to 4:30
  • New iPhone apps to help you get where you're going on the T include: MassTransit, the NextTrainMBTA, iTransitBuddy - MBTA and to a T
  • The MBTA recently extended the hours when junior high and high school students can use their discount MBTA passes ...times were extended to 11:00 PM

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

First Commute of the New Month

Wow, when did it get to be fall already? A new season was definitely in the air this morning while waiting for the P508. This morning's commute was right on time, we arrived at South Station at 8:23 AM.

I saw this interesting article in the Herald about how the MBTA is cracking down on fake commuter rail passes. According to the article, the MBTA instituted random ticket checks using technology that allows examiners to immediately identify counterfeit tickets and passes. Ultimately, the goal is to ensure full collection of fares from every rider and hold those who try to counterfeit rail passes accountable. Interesting, I haven't seen anything on my train ... riders, do you have any observations to share?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

MBTA Public Hearings Suspended

Governor Patrick has suspended the remaining public hearings on proposed MBTA fare increases, pending the top to bottom review that Transportation Secretary James Aloisi promised a few days ago.

According to the Globe, the first hearing was held at the State House on Monday and more than 150 riders and lawmakers showed up to debate the possible 20 percent fare hike, Interestingly enough, only one of the eight members of the MBTA's board of directors attended the meeting.
Mr. Aloisi did not attend. When the meetings resume (if they do), the MBTA board needs to be held accountable and show up to hear the input of the riders.

There seems to be a lot of in fighting between the MBTA board, the Governor and former GM Dan Grabauskas. I know that MBTA riders aren't interested in politics, we just want reliable service, a good experience when we ride and we don't want to pay through the nose for it.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

A Better MBTA?

That's what Transportation Secretary James Aliosi is promising, after the ousting of General Manager Dan Grabauskas. Mr. Aliosi promises a thorough review of the MBTA, as the merger of the state's transportation agencies is due to take effect in November. Among other things that the review will accomplish is determining whether or not the fare increases proposed by Dan Grabausaks will be implemented and whether there needs to be a MBTA General Manager position in the new agency.

The agency itself needs to be overhauled, perhaps Dan Grabauskas leaving is the first sign of many changes to come. I hate to sound jaded, but I hope removing Mr. Grabauskas, performing a comprehensive review of the agency and merging the transportation agencies accomplishes what we riders have been clamoring for ... consistent train/bus service and good customer service at a fair price.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Dan Grabauskas Leaving MBTA

I'm currently traveling for work, but I wanted to post regarding the news that Dan Grabauskas is leaving the MBTA. This after weeks of no-confidence votes from the MBTA board, but no outright vote to oust him. I can't say I'm surprised that this has finally happened.

Frankly, I think the General Manager job is a thankless task. Over the last few years, I'm struggling to come up with improvements to my commuting experience that can be directly attributed to the work of the GM. This is not to say that there haven't been improvements in other areas of the MBTA ... such as the introduction of new equipment and an automated fare card system. I don't doubt that one person can do the job alone, but an agency such as the MBTA needs a leader and I'm just not sure that Dan Grabauskas was that type of leader.

I think back to an interview that he did with WBUR about a year and a half ago. I don't think I ever heard such a disinterested person answering questions from riders. He kept reminding people of the fiscal state of the MBTA instead of concentrating on their issues. We as riders get it, the T is in financial crisis. But, we need an advocate, someone who will listen to input and take action to make the experience better. The General Manager needs to be able to balance the business of running the T with the business of customer service.

Luckily for Dan, he gets to walk away with over $320 K in his pocket as a reminder for all the "good" work that has occurred under his expert management. What a crock!! In any other company, if you failed to deliver, you'd be out on your butt with no cushy golden parachute.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Back on the Train Gang

I'm back! Due to a combination of late nights, work travel and vacation, I haven't ridden the commuter rail in nearly a month. But, I'm back on the train now .... and just in time for the fare increase!

News of the impending MBTA fare hike is all over the media, with a proposed 19.5% overall fare increase. Riders who have a Charlie ticket can expect a 50-cent increase, riders who have a Charlie card can expect their fares to increase by 30 cents. Here are the proposed fare increases by zone for the commuter rail: zone 1-3 will increase by 75 cents per trip and zones 4-8 will increase by $1.00 per trip.

Awesome, my zone 8 monthly pass is going to go from $250 to $280. This is in addition to the fact that I now pay $4 a day to park. It's so frustrating. Even though the sales tax is increasing in order to give the MBTA about $160 million, they're still going to raise fares and reduce service.

Here's what we can expect on the Worcester-Framingham line for service cuts: eliminate weekday service after 7:00 PM, eliminate all weekend trains. Unbelievable. There is no way I can take the train, I do not usually leave work now until 7:30, so I will definitely have to drive. I love how the MBTA wants to eliminate some redundant stations, but have no plans to close any of the Wellesley stops. Really, why does Wellesley need three stops? Isn't even one of those stops redundant?

Needless to say, I might consider van pooling or car pooling now, this totally stinks. Oh, we do have the ability to attend some public hearings to voice our concerns: Monday, August 10 at the State House from 4:00 - 7:00, Tuesday, August 18 in Framingham at the Town Hall from 6:00 - 8:00 PM and Wednesday, August 19 in Worcester at Union Station from 6:00 - 8:00 PM. (There are other times/dates as well).

A PDF "highlighting" all of these changes can be found here.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Breaking News ... Fare Increases of 15-20%

Again, I apologize for my lack of updates. I've been driving 2-3 days a week now because of my crazy schedule. I did take the p508 this morning, we were right on time to South Station at 8:23 AM.

Just saw this on Boston.com ... not happy about it ... maybe driving will become permanent?

The state's transportation secretary announced today that fare increases of 15 percent to 20 percent would be necessary on the MBTA this fall, even if the Legislature comes through with an expected $160 million -- likely from a sales tax increase -- to help plug the current deficit.

James Aloisi announced the fare increase at today's meeting of the MBTA board and said the public process would begin soon. It will include a menu of additional options, he said, including a variety of service cuts.

"We need to have a multi-year solution," Aloisi said. He's hoping this fare increase will prevent another one from being necessary for at least two to three years.

The Legislature has been contemplating a variety of solutions to help the MBTA and the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, both of which are struggling financially. Officials had hope to avoid either a toll or fare increase by identifying another source of revenue.

Governor Deval Patrick has proposed a 19 cent increase in the gas tax, while the Legislature has proposed an increase in the state sales tax from 5 percent to 6.25 percent.

Friday, May 29, 2009


I don't know about you, but sometimes the short work weeks seem longer than the regular work weeks! And speaking of work, my schedule has been so wacky lately it's impacting my ability to consistently update Train Stopping ... that and I have been driving in a fair bit because there's nothing worse than working a 12 hour day, waiting for the 8:20 PM or 10:20 PM train and not getting home until midnight ... then getting up at 5:45 AM to do it all again.

This morning's commute on the P508 was right on time, we arrived to South Station at 8:22 AM.

According to an article in yesterday's Globe, plans for toll increases on the Pike and fare hikes and service reductions on the MBTA are on target to be implemented, if the sales tax increase is not implemented. Last week, the House and Senate passed budgets that would increase the state sales tax from 5 percent to 6.25 percent and devote about $275 million to transportation. The noteworthy thing about these budgets is that they are veto-proof.

Lawmakers appear committed to preventing the hefty toll increases that are otherwise set to take effect July 1. Lawmakers have made less of a public commitment to rescuing the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority from its $160 million deficit. The MBTA passed a budget earlier this year that presumes there will be a legislative bailout. But an advisory panel, which has the final word on the authority's budget, is expected to reject that plan at a meeting today. Instead, the MBTA Advisory Board will consider a budget that lays off about 1,200 MBTA employees - putting further pressure on the T to begin publicly planning service cuts and fare hikes.

In practice, the T would still have several months of public hearings to decide what combination of layoffs, service cuts or fare hikes it would impose to plug its budget gap. General manager Daniel A. Grabauskas said in an e-mail yesterday that he is "very much encouraged by the support in the House and Senate for transportation reform and new funding that is currently pending."

Assuming the Legislature keeps its transportation commitment at $275 million, there would be enough to avoid fee hikes on both the turnpike and the T for another year. But, that totally leaves out residents in Western Mass. who do not use public transportation, but should benefit from the money as well in order to repair roads or bridges.

Basically, this is a step in the right direction, but I doubt the MBTA will get all of the money it needs and we'll see a fare increase as a result. Blah.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Summer in the City

Hope everyone has a chance to get outside today ... it is gorgeous out. I work in the Seaport area and it's especially nice down here with the breeze coming off of the water.

Today's commute on the P508 was right on time again ... we arrived at 8:21 AM.

Not sure if you have heard about the massive power outage that impacted subway riders today. A system-wide power outage stopped MTBA service for upwards of 40 minutes, trapping riders in subway cars. The outage affected all four subway lines and caused delays across the system.

Apparently communication was poor regarding the cause of the outage and people were quite frustrated. I think that's the crux of the problem, we understand that there are delays, the problem is when you have no idea as to what is going on ... you're just left in the dark. All riders want is an update about the situation. If power was out and thus radios were not working, post handwritten signs or have T employees talk to passengers about the issue. It's just common sense.

For those of you taking off early for the holiday weekend ... enjoy!!!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

On Time Today

The p508 rolled into South Station on time today, arriving at 8:21 AM. Then I hightailed it over to the ticket window to turn in reimbursements from late trains from the last few months. Always love that extra cash flow ... although not the reason behind it.

Over the weekend, I saw an article about the MBTA unions agreeing to a wage freeze. The unions are voluntarily agreeing to curtail a 4% wage increase. The unions represent about 500 administrative employees, electrical workers, engineers, and welders. Their one-year wage freeze will save the cash-strapped MBTA about $1.66 million - or 1 percent of the deficit. This is a good start, but other unions need to jump on board. Even with this wage freeze, MBTA officials acknowledged that commuters should still expect to see significant changes in service and possibly fare increases.

In the same article, I found it astounding that the MBTA has to negotiate with 24 separate unions. That is just insane. (And no wonder why there's so much bureaucracy in that agency). The article alluded also to the fact that the driver's union is protesting the new policy about no cellphones/pagers on buses/trains/subway cars. Passenger safety should be their utmost concern ... multi-tasking just doesn't work. You cannot text or talk and operate a multi-ton machine at the same time without consequences.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Delays on a Monday

More RailMail from the MBCR today ... but this wasn't good news, just an explanation for the lengthy delays this morning.

To Our Worcester Line Customers;

We would like to begin by apologizing for the very lengthy delays experienced by our Worcester line customers this morning.

Train P502 experienced a mechanical failure when departing the Worcester station this morning. In the interim, it was determined that train P504’s equipment would be brought into the station, tie on to train P502 making a double draft and proceed into Boston making all stops. However, when this attempt was made it became clear that that there was a CSX switching problem that prevented any trains from leaving the facility. We then had to wait for CSX maintainers to come to Worcester to restore the signal. The MBCR mechanical staff had by this time made the necessary repairs to the disabled first train (P502) and it was sent on its way making all stops. Quite naturally, this cascaded into multiple delays throughout the morning commute.

We realize that this made many passengers late for the start of their work day and wanted to take this opportunity to both apologize and provide you with an explanation for this morning’s events.

We thank you for your patience and thank you for riding the commuter rail.

Customer Service Massachusetts Bay Commuter Rail

My question is ... why is there not a mechanical crew out near Worcester? From the email, seems like they had to travel to get there?

Monday, May 11, 2009

Commuter Rail Schedule Update

Received some RailMail recently, advising of upcoming schedule changes.

On Monday May 18th, 2009, new schedules will go into effect on the Franklin, Middleborough/Lakeville, Framingham/Worcester, Needham and Providence Lines.

Changes to the Worcester Line will affect one inbound and one outbound weekend train ONLY.

Weekend – INBOUND

Train P552: the 09:35am departure from Worcester will leave 10 minutes earlier at 09:25am arriving in Boston 10 minutes earlier. This adjustment was made due to a schedule conflict with other trains along the line.

Weekend – OUTBOUND

Train P553: the 07:50am will leave Boston 10 minutes earlier at 07:40am arriving in Worcester 10 minutes earlier.

Additional schedule information and printable PDF copies of all schedules are available at the following link on our website: http://www.mbcr.net/schedules/Worcester_web.pdf

They will also be available on the MBTA website at the following link: www.mbta.com as of Monday, May 18th.

In our efforts to “Go-Green” we will be printing a limited number of pocket schedules and ask that you to print copies from one of the above links.

Commuter rail service information, including updated commuter rail advisories/alerts is available on the MBTA website at www.mbta.com, or by calling the MBTA’s Customer Support Services Center at 617-222-3200.

Thank you for riding commuter rail.
Customer ServiceMassachusetts Bay Commuter Rail
Operating the Commuter Rail on behalf of the MBTA

Monday, Monday

What is it about Mondays? I just can't seem to motivate myself in the mornings. That being said, I took the p512 this morning, and we were on time to South Station, arriving at 9:08 AM.

This past Saturday was the second annual National Train Day, which was started to commemorate the nation's first transcontinental railroad, which went into service on May 10, 1869. Amtrak sponsors this event which highlights the benefits of train travel, in addition to remembering how trains impacted the growth of our country.

In response to the Green Line accident/derailment on Friday, the MBTA has banned the possession of cellphones, pagers, etc. by all MBTA operators (prior to the latest incident, the MBTA banned usage, but operators were still allowed to have phones on them on the train). That accident caused upwards of $9.6 million in damages to the train cars involved. A representative from the National Transportation Safety Board commented "You should not be talking on your cellphone, texting, or operating a wireless device while you are operating a vehicle."

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Slow Going

Thanks to some sort of issues on the train ahead of us, the p508 was over 1/2 hour late pulling into South Station this morning. I was quite irritated that after leaving Back Bay, we sat outside of South Station for 10-15 minutes waiting for a track to open. We finally arrived at around 8:55.

Needless to say, I've already submitted my reimbursement.

Saw an interesting article in the Metro, about how MBTA riders save the most money by commuting into Boston rather than driving and parking downtown as compared to riders in other cities with high transit use. A survey by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) found that Boston commuters save $1,053 a month, and $12,632 annually, by taking public transportation instead of driving. (The other cities that rounded out the top five in commuter savings include New York, San Francisco, Chicago and Philadelphia. Bostonians’ savings narrowly edged that of New Yorkers by $4 a month). The APTA calculated the figures using parking costs and the May 5 price of gas ($2.079 a gallon).

Let's just hope we can continue to reap the benefits of a functioning transportation system!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

A Minute Late, a Car Short and Riding for Free

Apparently I missed some "excitement" on the p508 yesterday morning. I had driven to work because I had an appointment afterwards, so I missed out on the delays due to mechanical issues. According to riders, the train never arrived to South Station until almost 9:30. Ugh! I am quite glad to have missed that commute.

This morning's commute on the p508 was back on track ... although we were a car short, so it was more crowded than usual. We arrived to South Station at 8:24, just a minute off of the scheduled arrival time.

I received an email about the annual program "Meet the MBCR Managers," whereby commuters are invited to meet with representatives from the commuter rail management team. I really wish Dan G. would be there so I could tell him what I think about his "give me revenue or you get nothing" threats. Frankly, I'm going to skip this meeting this year ... I went last year and spent over an hour talking to different managers and all of my comments about windows on the train (still a problem on the Worcester/Framingham line), lack of express service, parking rates, hardships with inserting dollar bills into the tiny slots, etc. Nothing really came of it as far as I can see.

But, if any of you are interested, or have suggestions or ideas you would like to share, the managers will be South Station on May 12th, North Station on May 14th and Back Bay on May 20th between 4:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m.

WHDH (Channel 7) had an eye-opening report last night about free rides on the commuter rail, which has long been a bone of contention for me (as I get my monthly pass through my company). Their undercover reporters rode 23 times on a 12 ride ticket. I know that people play the system, banking on not getting their ticket checked, but really, for a cash strapped agency, you would think they would check every single person, all of the time. But, for those of us who ride the rails every day, this really isn't new information.

MBCR issued the following statement regarding Channel 7's story:

"Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad is committed to collecting every fare. While we were disappointed to learn of Channel 7's experience and plan to investigate this story, we believe it is not an objective portrait of the fare collection program. MBCR data shows that fare collection has improved. In 2008, commuter rail ridership was up 2% and on-board fare collection was up 5.5% over 2007. Complaints regarding fare collection have declined from 29 complaints in October of 2008 to just four complaints in March 2009. MBCR has employed a number of proactive steps to ensure every fare is collected.

Last summer, we implemented a "Buy Before You Board" campaign and have dispatched mystery shoppers on trains to evaluate our staff's efforts to collect fares. In January, MBCR launched a two-day customer service training program for all conductors that emphasizes keys to customer satisfaction, including fare collection. We continue to work hard to overcome the challenge of collecting every fare on a system without gates or turn-styles and look forward to working with the MBTA to implement the Charlie Card collection system on commuter rail . We encourage all of our customers to report uncollected fares to our customer service department at www.mbcr.net ."

Whether or not the "Buy Before You Board" program helped decrease the amount of fares not collected, I will say that the Worcester/Framingham conductors are quite diligent and consistent with fare collection.

There was a great article in the Globe yesterday about how all of the transit problems cause problems for businesses. I mean, that's a no-brainer, right? A workable, functioning transportation system is vital for Boston. Businesses and industries that want to expand in Massachusetts, such as life sciences and healthcare, will have trouble doing so if they can't transport products and employees quickly and efficiently.

A new study published by A Better City, a Boston-based business organization, found that congestion on Massachusetts roads cost businesses $1.8 billion a year in lost productivity and increased shipping costs, a nearly fourfold increase since 1990. And as we know, both the highway and transit services/agencies are under great financial strain. The study identified a number of revenue measures, such as higher gas taxes, tolls on the turnpike, and bus, subway and commuter fares, and concluded the gas tax is the most efficient. But it stopped short of advocating a large increase. But, as we've been advocating ... something has to be done and soon ...

Friday, May 1, 2009


I think I need an intern! Work has just been flat out crazy, leaving me hardly any time to post commuting updates to TrainStopping. Luckily, the commutes have been pretty smooth this week, with the p508 arriving on time or within 1-2 mintues of the scheduled arrival time to South Station. This morning's train pulled into South Station at 8:20 AM.

Given all the media hype about the Swine Flu and Vice President Biden's somewhat suspect comments about not taking public transportation (which really isn't an option for the majority of us), the MBTA is ramping up their cleaning efforts of buses, trains and stations. According to an email from T General Manager Daniel Grabauskas, “The MBTA has directed its cleaning crews to give special attention to places such as seats, hand rails on escalators and grab bars on subway cars and buses."

Yesterday at Union Station in Worcester, a transportation forum was sponsored by The Research Bureau and attended by Dan Grabauskas, James Aloisi and Lt. Governor Tim Murray, among others. Topics of interest at the forum included:

  • Expanding rail service via a commuter rail route that would take passengers from Worcester to Boston through Clinton and Ayer
  • CSX moving its Allston rail yard to a location in Central Massachusetts
  • A pending agreement with the T’s union employees, reducing the agency’s generous benefits system and saving millions of dollars

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Happy Earth Day

It's true every day of the year, but especially on Earth Day ... if you want to help reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, one of the best things you can do is get out of your car and onto public transportation. This is one of the main reasons why I take the commuter rail.

In 2008, Americans took 10.7 billion trips on public transportation, the highest level of ridership in over 50 years, according to the American Public Transportation Association (APTA). This represents a 4.0 percent increase over the number of trips taken in 2007 on public transportation, while at the same time, vehicle miles traveled on our nation’s roads declined by 3.6 percent in 2008, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

“Even as gas prices fell for the second half of the year and hundreds of thousands of people lost jobs, more and more people chose to ride public transportation throughout the country,” said APTA president William W. Millar. “Given our current economic condition, people are looking for ways to save money and taking public transportation offers a substantial savings of more than $8,000 a year. That’s quite a savings.”

It is cheaper to ride the rails and when the commutes are on time, it's quite the relaxing ride. The Worcester/Framingham commutes (generally the p508 or p512 in the morning and either the p527 or p 529) have been pretty consistent as of late. Today's commute on the p508 was ahead of schedule, we arrived at South Station at 8:21 AM.

In other news, the MBTA plans to cut expenses by laying off non-union workers and transit police and freezing wages. The moves will save $4.5 million to $6 million per year, but will probably not be enough to prevent the agency's budget deficit for the coming year from going even higher than the previous projection of $160 million, MBTA General Manager Dan Grabauskas said.

It's a start, but the T needs to do more.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Like Clockwork

This morning's commute on the p508 was right on time, we arrived to South Station at 8:23 AM.

I saw a lot of runners in BAA jackets on the Silver Line platform this morning waiting for a bus to Logan ... congratulations to all of them, it was a great Marathon Monday yesterday.

A few months ago, the MBTA touted new customer service posters on MBTA buses, subway cars and commuter trains. One of those PSA posters titled "Rub Against Me and I'll Expose You" aimed at encouraging riders to report inappropriate behavior. Since the introduction of those posters, reported incidents have increased almost 74% since last year. I think it's a good thing where people feel comfortable making the report and action is taken by the MBTA police to apprehend the people responsible. It makes for a safe transportation system for us all.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Planning for Patriots Day

Thought I'd pass along the following regarding transportation options for Marathon Monday, a.k.a. Patriots Day

Please note the following MBTA Information for Patriot.s Day on Monday, April 20, 2009:

  • Commuter Rail trains will operate on their regular weekday schedule.
  • Blue, Orange, Green and Red Line trains, and Green Line streetcars, will operate on a weekday schedule with extra service before and after the Boston Marathon.
  • Silver Line Waterfront service will operate on a weekday schedule.
  • All Local Buses and Trackless Trolleys will operate on a Saturday schedule.
  • Express Buses will operate differently depending on the route, many will operate on a Saturday schedule; riders should review their specific route's schedule at www.mbta.com.
  • Inner Harbor Ferry service from Charlestown and Long Wharf will operate on its regular weekday schedule.
  • Commuter Boat service from Hingham, Quincy and Hull will operate on its regular weekday schedule.
  • THE RIDE will operate on a modified weekday schedule.

Additional MBTA Transportation Information

  • Copley Station will be closed all day. Riders should use Arlington Station and the Hynes Station.
  • Many buses that service Back Bay and Copley Square will be rerouted at certain times due to the Boston Marathon.
  • Route 55 Bus - No service at all until after the completion of the marathon.

On Time Thursday

This morning's commute on the p508 was right on time, we arrived 2 minutes ahead of schedule, arriving to South Station at 8:21 AM.

In other commuting news, MBTA buses have now been equipped with GPS equipment, which will allow dispatchers to track buses along routes to ensure schedules are being maintained or to assist in the case of an emergency. This will also help riders who have a phone or Blackberry with internet access, as they will be able to access real-time information about when the next bus will arrive.

This is supposed to be a complement program to the "Next Train" alert system at commuter rail stations, but honestly, I can't say if that even works at the Grafton station. The two LED signs are at the complete opposite end of the platform from where I stand as I board at the front of the train, the LED signs are at the end of the train ... so not entirely helpful.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Wednesday Delays

There were delays across the Framingham/Worcester line this morning due to police action at the Framingham station. This ended up delaying all of the morning trains. The P508 arrived in Grafton on time at 7:09, but we didn't pull into South Station until around 8:55, about 30 minutes behind schedule.

All is quiet on the news front ... for now.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

See Something, Say Something

Today's commute on the P508 was a few minutes behind schedule ... we arrived at South Station at 8:25 AM, two minutes off the scheduled mark.

There's a lot going on on the MBTA front:

  • The MBTA has postponed their annual vote to determine funding for replacing old machinery (train cars, buses and tracks). Usually, the MBTA borrows the money necessary for maintenance, but given their current fiscal situation, further leveraging themselves is not in their best interest.

  • Transportation Secretary James Aliosi is downplaying the article in the Globe (and reported on TrainStopping) regarding service cuts across the subway, bus and commuter lines. He insists that noting has been decided and that any recommendations will go through a "robust, public vetting."

  • Governor Patrick is unhappy with the transportation plan offered by the state legislature, saying that it's not good enough. The main bone of contention seems to be the gas tax hike, with the governor's recommendation being 19 cents per gallon, but the Legislature only agreeing to 10 cents or under per gallon.

It will be an interesting few months to say the least.

This morning at South Station, member of the MBTA Transit Police were touting the "See something, Say something" program in order to encourage riders to take an interest in their own safety and others while riding on the subway, bus or commuter rail. The pamphlet encourages you to speak up if you see unattended bags, passengers behaving strangely, groups operating in a "rehearsed or orchestrated manner," or anything suspicious. A few months ago, I was waiting for a red line train at South Station and I saw someone walking on the tracks into the tunnel. I did report it to an MBTA official who promptly took action.

Monday, April 13, 2009

A Pleasant Commute on the P512

It was a nice, on time commute this morning on the p512, arriving to South Station around 9:05 AM.

Given the news about the proposed cuts, I wonder how much longer the nice commutes will last.
I find it perplexing how the T continues to roll out services such as Wi-Fi across all commuter lines, the new signage at commuter rail lots and Green Line expansion plans to Somerville/Medford when they're facing a $160 million budget deficit.

Something has to give: either the gas tax increase or fare increases and service cuts. Either way, it's not going to be pretty.

Finally, I want to give a shout out to my alma mater and congratulate the NCAA National Hockey Champion BU Terriers. Woohoo!!!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Proposed Cuts in Service

Today is a holiday at my firm, so no commute for me. But, I had to create a post based on the article that I saw in the Globe this morning which discusses the upcoming cuts in MBTA service across the subway, bus and commuter rail lines ...
  • Eliminate Green Line stops at Boston University, St. Paul Street, and everything on the E line beyond Brigham Circle.
  • Cut the private carrier bus program used by more than 600,000 annual riders in Hull, Canton, Medford, and Winthrop.
  • End weekday commuter rail service after 7 p.m.

These are the proposed cuts for the commuter rail:

  • Eliminate weekday commuter rail service after 7 p.m.
  • Eliminate all Saturday and Sunday commuter rail service
  • Eliminate 16 commuter rail stations due to low usage or network redundancy

I often work late and take either the 7:15 or 8:20 trains from South Station to Grafton ... so, now I won't have those options at all, which means I will likely have to drive.

Eliminating a stop at BU? What about all of the students? Is the T trying to drive themselves further into the ground? Do they think that riders are going to stand for this or continue to take service that has been slashed?

I'm just at a loss.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Opening Day, Take Two

Let's hope the rain holds off and the Red Sox are able to play some baseball today ... GO SOX!!!

Today's commute on the p508 was right on time, we arrived to South Station exactly at the scheduled time of 8:23 AM.

I read a very interesting article in the Globe Starts & Stops column over the weekend regarding on-time performance for commuter rail trains. The article states that the performance statistics published by the MBTA for rush-hour trains are actually late about 6 percentage points more often than indicated in the official statistics.

I've often contended on this blog that the on-time performance statistics are inaccurate, because it includes times for all trains across the schedule, when really, we care mostly about the morning/evening rush hour trains (i.e. peak service). The MBTA/MBCR doesn't make the distinction between peak vs. non-peak service in their statistics, but considering that over 69% of riders take rush hour trains, don't these trains become more important from an on-time service perspective?

The article further states that on-time performance stats may be posted online in the "future." I've been requesting this on a regular basis from both the MBTA and MBCR to no avail. I'll bet something like this (people questioning the validity of the stats) is something they want to avoid, but since they are a public agency funded by taxpayer dollars, I think they should be mandated to display this information ... and not just on a poster near the ticket window in South Station.

Friday, April 3, 2009

On Time on the P512

I ended up taking the p512 this morning ... arriving at South Station at 9:08 AM (right on time), then zipping on the Silver Line to my office.

I wish I could take the p512 every day ... I could get up later in the morning and not have to rush from the house to make the p508. Alas, officially, my work start time is 8:30, so the p512 is a once in awhile luxury.

The MetroWest Daily News posted an article that succinctly describes what will likely happen to us Worcester/Framingham riders if the transportation crisis isn't resolved. Some "highlights" (this term is used loosely) from the article:
  • MetroWest rail stops in Natick, Framingham, Ashland and Southborough could see varied fare increases anywhere from $40 to $75 for a monthly pass, which currently ranges in the three zones from $186 to $223.
  • The inevitable longer wait and overcrowding if service is reduced would be more than an annoyance for commuters, said Eric Bourassa of MassPIRG. "People won't be able to come in early, or leave late from work," he said. "If they want to do anything, they'll have to switch to driving."
  • Bourassa said a fare increase in 2007 saw MBTA ridership decrease by 37 million trips, or 9.5 percent, but rebounded after the price of gas rose the following year.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

On The Move

Members of the On The Move coalition were passing out fliers like this one at at South Station this morning. The flier outlines the likely upcoming fare increases and service reductions if the gas tax increase is not passed. I, for one, shudder to think of what my evening commutes will be like if this comes to pass and I've already written to my state representatives in order to convince them to pass the tax.
In other commuting news, this morning's p508 was a few minutes off of the mark. We pulled into South Station at around 8:27AM. We sat outside of the station for a few minutes waiting for an open track, which no doubt contributed to the slight delay.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A Different Train for a Change

I was running late this morning, so missed the p508. I got on the p512 which departs Grafton at 7:49 ... we arrived to South Station around 9:06, so a few minutes before the scheduled time of 9:08. All in all, a pleasant trip!

I saw a report on Channel 5 the other night regarding the cost of health care at the MBTA and how it has contributed to the T's debt load. The report was based on a study completed by the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation who found that currently, 85 percent of every worker’s policy is paid by the MBTA, regardless of which health plan they choose or how expensive the plan is; in addition, workers under 65 who retire are also exempt from making payments. Wow, that is a very generous policy in this day and age. It seems that this area could be a good one to focus on for cost reduction.

Monday, March 30, 2009

A Rainy Monday Delay on the p508

The p508 arrived at South Station at around 8:45 this morning, about 20 minutes after the scheduled arrival time. We were held up for awhile outside of Wellesley due to a medical emergency on the train ahead of us. At one point, I started dozing, but I could have sworn that the conductor announced we were making a stop at Yawkey (which I don't get as the p508 is supposed to be an express train). I didn't hear any other announcements that we were a local train.

As a member of Facebook (the social networking site), I've noticed a number of different groups associated with the MBTA. One that recently caught my eye, and which was also profiled in this Globe article, is the Put the MBTA on Google Maps group. By putting the MBTA routes on Google, riders would have the ability to determine their own best transportation route either from their cell phone or blackberry (without having to resort to using the MTBA website).
According to MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo, Boston's public transportation network should be on Google Maps by late spring.

One of the most telling comments from that Globe article though was also from Joe Pesaturo in relation to another Facebook group that calls for additional late night service. He stated, "The T barely has the resources to operate existing services, never mind adding additional services."
At least someone gets it!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Slight Delays

After a week of on time commutes, both the commuter rail and the Silver Line were slightly delayed this morning ... the p508 arrived to South Station at around 8:30 (7 minutes off of the scheduled arrival time) and the Silver Line was backed up as well,

I think the Silver Line delays were due to the fact that people would not move out of the way for a handicapped person to get on the bus. That's really unacceptable, have some common courtesy. I didn't try to jam myself on that bus, I waited for the next one to come.

I've noticed that the MBTA has increased the number of Silver Line buses during peak times in the morning and evening. Kudos for recognizing that it was needed. I'm not sure how it will be impacted though if the service cuts come into effect.

As the fiscal crisis looms around both the MBTA and the Mass Pike, the state Senate passed a bill yesterday aimed at changing the overall transportation landscape in Massachusetts. The bill calls for the elimination of both the MBTA and the Mass Pike Authority, but doesn't really describe how any of the services will be paid for (in lieu of toll hikes, fare hikes or gas tax hikes). Full details can be found here.

Monday, March 23, 2009

And So It Begins ...

I came across this article in the Boston Globe today regarding anticipated fare increases and service cuts. Looks like us commuter rail riders are going to get screwed ... read on for the news:

The MBTA's budget problems are so severe General Manager Daniel Grabauskas says commuter rail may have to be dramatically reduced at night and eliminated altogether on the weekends.

Grabauskas said so Monday as he revealed he had filed the paperwork necessary to consider a fare increase for the T's subways, buses and trains. The agency faces a $160 million deficit next year and has over $8 billion in longterm debt.

Grabauskas says 50 percent of rail commuters travel during weekday rush hours.
Subway, bus and rail service is already scaled back in off-peak times. Grabauskas says the T would have to sharply cut trains on evenings and eliminate them on weekends to see any big savings. The Legislature is considering bills to help the T with its financial problems.

Friday, March 20, 2009


I'm glad today is Friday ... I need the R&R over the weekend.

Today's p508 was on time to South Station, arriving at 8:20 AM. Knock on wood, the morning commutes have been pretty decent as of late. Also, we had an actual working door on the first car this morning ... and windows you could see out of! Will wonders never cease?

As I've previously mentioned, last week the MBTA presented a proposed $1.6 billion fiscal-year 2010 budget to its board. The budget includes a $160 million deficit which is the highest in MBTA's history due to declining revenues (from the sales tax) and increased operating expenses. I was able to find more details on the MBTA budget, follow this link.

It's a sobering look at the state of the system. I do find it quite interesting that revenues are still decreasing across the MBTA considering they touted their huge ridership levels last year.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Back on the Train Gang

Hi Train Stoppers!

Work has been quite hectic the last week or so. I've been doing a lot of travelling and have not been riding the rails ... until this morning. The p508 was on time, arriving to South Station at around 8:22 AM.

I saw this story in the Globe a couple of days ago regarding the T's current budget and Governor. Patrick's solution. As we know, Governor Patrick has proposed a 19-cent gas tax increase with 6 cents dedicated to the T, but this has not gained traction or much support in the state legislature.

The thing about Patrick's plan, it would stave off any fare hikes for at least two to three years. Recall from a previous post that the estimated fare hikes are in the 25-30% range with a reduction in service. And these service reductions would start as soon as July. Something needs to give ... and soon!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

On Time Commute

Another day, another on time commute. The p508 rolled into South Station at around 8:22 AM this morning.

I saw an interesting article in the Metro this morning regarding a new tracking and reporting system for commuter rail trains. According to the article, commuter rail riders will know how far away the next train is from their station via the LED signs at commuter rail stations. The system will track trains using GPS and send that information to the signs at all commuter rail stations. Riders will hear automated announcements detailing when their trains are approaching and arriving. The announced times will also be updated if trains are experiencing delays. Tests are currently being run on several lines — including the Haverhill line — and the system will be completely rolled out by the summer.

I look forward to seeing how this will operate once it's rolled out to the Worcester-Framingham line. But, it begs the question, where did the $5.2 million dollar budget come from to install this system? The MBTA is talking about fare hikes and service reductions, but then they continue to roll out WiFi and programs like this? I don't get it.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Fare Hikes on the Horizon

Well, the news is not good out of the MBTA. Based on feedback I've been hearing/reading about, it looks like fare hikes will be in the 25-30% range. This is coupled with a decrease in service of up to 50% for weekend and non-peak evening hours.

So, not only can we expect to pay even more (again) for crappy service, but now that crappy service is going to get cut basically in half? It's bad enough that if I miss the 6:15 PM train, everything else is a local and it takes me almost two hours to get home in the evening. Imagine now cutting one or two trips from the evening schedules? So, it's either take the 6:15 PM train or ... wait until 10:05? That is just absurd on so many levels.

Let's look at the numbers, shall we? Currently, a zone 8 one way trip is $7.75. If fares increase by 30%, that trip will now cost $10.08. My monthly pass will go from $250 to $325. This is in addition to the $80 a month I now need to pay to park at an MBTA lot.

These proposed fare hikes come after a year of record ridership levels for the MBTA. So, although more people are riding the train, the MBTA says the price hikes are needed in order to prevent cuts in service, layoffs or other painful alternatives. And we have the $5.2 billion in debt and the T's annual deficit of around $170 million/year to thank for the T's fiscal crisis. And this debt load can be attributed to the costs to the Greenbush line expansion, annual maintenance and pension/retirement programs for the T's union employees.

Transportation is a mess across the Commonwealth. Frankly, we taxpayers are going to bear the brunt of fixing and cleaning up the mess ... and it sucks.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Sleety, Snowy Commute

Ah, New England. Where else is it sunny, 60 and springlike one day and then 30, sleeting, cold and winter the next day?

This morning's p508 commute was on time, arriving at South Station at around 8:24AM. The morning commutes have been pretty decent as of late (knock on wood).

Tomorrow, the MBTA will be holding a hearing to discuss possible fare hikes if the gas tax hike isn't passed. As I've previously mentioned, we're going to have to foot the bill for the MBTA debt load one way or another - it will either come at the pump or on a Charlie ticket. I'll keep an eye out for any updates from this meeting.

Safe travels today everyone!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Cheaper Gas, Fewer Riders

Hello! Train Rider attended an off-site meeting today and did not ride the rails. I'm back from an unexpected hiatus. I fell outside of my office building last week and broke my wrist. So typing has been a bit of a challenge. According to my ortho, this winter has caused an unprecedented number of wrist injures. I guess I should be happy I didn't fall in an unplowed, icy MBTA lot! That would have only made me bitter.

Much as Train Rider has speculated, overall ridership is down due to the decrease in gas prices. After 11 consecutive months of rider growth, the T noted declines in December 2008 and January 2009 according to this article from today's Boston Globe. The T also said that the decreases can be attributed to the fact that so many Boston-area residents have been impacted by layoffs and other reductions in workforce.

You Move Massachusetts now has a blog. It looks like the blog went live on 2/27/2009. We're now linking to it in the Train blog roll. Learn about some regional transportation initiatives here.

In other news, yesterday's Boston Herald reported that the T is trying to generate some much needed revenue through billboards placed on T-owned properties along I-93.