Friday, January 30, 2009
Thursday, January 29, 2009
Since we're on the driving topic, for now, I wanted to pass along some information a friend of mine shared with me. This is about some additional changes to the Fast Lane transponder program:
As of January, you will no longer receive a Fast Lane paper statement. (For those of us trying to be greener, this is a good thing).I've read some articles about how the Mass Pike is going to charge a monthly fee for Fast Lane users (I believe $.50 per month per transponder), but I haven't heard the news my friend shared with me. The $.50 per month per transponder fee is a bit irking for those of us who have already paid a transponder fee. I get the fact that the state is in a financial crisis, heck it seems like the whole world is right now. But I don't understand why they can't grandfather those of us who have paid a fee for our transponder and start charging us when our transponder fee doesn't cover the the monthly fee anymore. Then again, I do "get" why they won't do this - most Fast Lane users have already paid the monthly fee, so there wouldn't be any revenue to collect.
If you want to continue to receive one, it will be $2/mo for residential and $5/mo for commercial. You must log on the Fast Lane website to request this option.
And, they are no longer offering the "post paid" option. Anyone who had it is grandfathered in, but if you have any issues with your payment method and they can't collect, you'll lose it and get pushed to pre-paid.
This happened to me and now they're threatening to charge $50 if I use my Fast Lane tag before they process my "pre-paid" paperwork (won't let me do it online.)
You can log/set up an account at www.mtafastlane.com
In today's Boston Globe there is an article about the federal economic stimulus plan. Only 5% of the $819 billion plan is earmarked for infrastructure things such as rapid transit and roads: $12 billion for rapid transit/trains and $30 billion for roads. This means that funding for MBTA-related projects and road improvements could be difficult to obtain.
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
I have to say, one of my biggest pet peeves at the Grafton parking lot is the people who park in the first row, but have to back into the spot, thus causing all cars trying to enter the parking lot (because it's a one way entrance) to back up to Route 30. These are probably the same people who run to their cars at night so they can be first out of the lot. Please folks, have some common courtesy. Do you really need to perfectly align your car in the spot by pulling forward and back multiple times? Just pull in and go so the rest of us can park. Please.
In MBTA news, not everyone in New Hampshire is on board with funding a commuter rail service from Lowell to Manchester. Rep. Peter Leishman opines on that topic here.
Monday, January 26, 2009
It seems there were other issues across the tracks today. I know that the p502 was cancelled as well and colleagues who take different train lines also experienced delays.
In MBTA train news, looks like Wi-Fi installation across all trains/lines is ongoing and expected to be completed by spring. At least two coaches on every train will now be Wi-Fi enabled. While the MBTA touts the Framingham/Worcester pilot as "successful," I know from experience that it was sporadic at best. But, here's hoping they've ironed out all of the kinks and that the program benefits commuters. You can read more about it here.
Saturday, January 24, 2009
Friday, January 23, 2009
In other news, looks like commuter rail lots (not owned/operated by the T) in Fitchburg and Leominister will be subjected to a parking lot rate increase from $2 to $3 effective March 1. You can read additional details about it here.
No football this weekend ... whatever will I do?
Thursday, January 22, 2009
Commuted into Boston on the p508 this morning. We were about 12 minutes behind schedule, finally arriving at South Station around 8:35 AM this morning. So, of the three days I've commuted in this week in the morning, we've been late two days (late by being more than 5 minutes from the scheduled arrival time). Hope this isn't the sign of things to come.
I heard through the grapevine that the commute on the 6:15 last night wasn't great either. The train was late and when it did finally arrive at South Station, it was six single decker cars, so every available space was packed and tickets weren't collected. Luckily, I avoided that train last night.
Not too much going on news wise on the MBTA front, aside from the opening of a new MBTA station: Science Park/West End. You can read about it here.
Finally tracked down the November, December and 2008 Performance statistics for the Worcester/Framingham line. The poster used to be displayed right in the middle of the station, but now it's back by the ticket office, so you really have to search for it.
2008 YTD: 87.15%
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
On a bright note (from the reimbursement perspective only), I received 6 reimbursements from the MBTA last night for late/cancelled trains in December … to the tune of almost $100. I think I'll go on a shopping spree tonight.
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
The Northborough Democratic Town Committee is hosting a forum on Transportation in Central Massachusetts on February 4, 2009 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. The forum will be held at Romaine's Wood Bar and Grill, located at 299 West Main Street in Northborough. Lt. Governor Tim Murray will be in attendance, speaking about the state of the commuter rail line. Visit the Southborough Democratic Town Committee site for more information.
Susan - thanks for the note on this event!
To many people, today feels very celebratory. Grafton Station commuters were greeted with free hot chocolate handed out by Sir Loin's Catering. Thanks Jeff for this wonderful morning treat.
Even better - the P508 was on time today. We were at South Station around 8:20 am.
I heard a lot of grumbling on the train this morning about the commute yesterday morning. At least for the Worcester-Framingham line, it sounds like switching / maintenance problems caused a lot of the morning trains to be late. This article from today's Boston Globe noted that yesterday all the commuter rail lines, except for the Greenbush and the Middleborough-Lakeville lines, experienced delays ranging from 10 minutes to 40 minutes. The delays were "weather related."
Today's Patriot Ledger ran an article about how AIM Parking Management has filed a lawsuit against the MBTA's parking lot increase. So why would a parking management company care if the T raised the parking rates? Because they have more work to do, but aren't being compensated for it. How can their be more work? Because commuters are paying the increased rate either with more dollar bills or more coins AIM contends that they need more employees to process the parking fees. Also, the MBTA didn't notify AIM that the parking increase was going to go into effect until October 16th. On October 29th,
Good planning, huh?
Finally, today's Hartford Courant contained an interview with the state of Connecticut's DOT Commissioner Joseph Marie. Originally from Boston, Marie is a proponent of commuter rail systems.
Monday, January 19, 2009
An article in today's Telegram & Gazette focuses on how commuter rail ridership grew in 2008. A total of 153,000 riders across all the commuter rail lines rode the rails during November 2008, a 5% increase over November 2007. Across the MBTA, November 2008 was the highest ridership month in 44 years. The T&G even worked in a local angle specific to the Worcester line:
Ridership on the Worcester line followed the upward trend, despite long and frequent delays in recent months that have commuters grumbling. On-time performance for trains on the line was around 90 percent at times last year, but fell to less than 80 percent in December — meaning one-fifth of all trains were late.The article noted that the state is blaming CSX for the delays on the Worcester line. Of the "five additional" trains added to the Worcester-Framingham line last year, the most popular "new" train is the P504. This train departs Worcester at 6:05 a.m.
In the first two weeks of this year, 85.7 percent of trains on the Worcester line have been on time. Officials cite winter weather and various mechanical problems as the cause of delays.
The Worcester line's trains average about 18,110 riders per day.
As this blog has said, the train delays are not a laughing matter. The article closed with some first-hand passenger accounts:
People are taking the trains, but they’re not always happy about it. Some split their weeks, driving a couple of days a week, chancing it with the trains the other days.
Pamela J. Garron, who lives in Uxbridge and commutes from Franklin, says her employer started docking time from her workday when she arrived late because of train delays. The wife and mother of four was recently laid off and believes her frequent late arrivals are one reason why.It is unfortunate that express trains commencing in Worcester get turned into local trains when things aren't running on time.
A Worcester commuter, Thomas J. Corrigan, said the new 4:45 a.m. train to Boston has many delays and sometimes doesn’t arrive, so the 5:40 a.m. train, which is supposed to be an express, is changed to a local train, which stops at every station, delaying passengers who weren’t planning for the extra 20 or so minutes on their commute.
Friday, January 16, 2009
The P508 was late on its arrival to South Station today. We sat outside at Back Bay for what felt like eons and ending up arriving about 20 minutes after the schedule time. I guess it could be worse - it seems like other Worcester line trains haven't been running as well this week.
Spurn on by the new MBCR newsletter, Commute-a-holic sent the MBCR a suggestion. How about printing the on-time performance rates in the MBCR mouthpiece, um newsletter?
This is what the MBCR had to say about Commute's suggestion:
I have just read your email regarding your concern about the commuter rail's on-time performance.South Station commuters - I don't know about you, but I really don't think the on-time performance posters are located in a "prominent" spot. They're buried in the back of the station.
I appreciate that you sent me this concern and your suggestions for the newsletter. We post the on-time performance for each line at the appropriate main stations. The posters are put up at North, South and Back Bay station each month and they display the on-time performance for each line.
Thank you for writing to me with your concern, I hope this information was helpful.
Thursday, January 15, 2009
I was tied up yesterday. Commute-a-holic is still caught up in a bunch of projects at work. Yesterday's commute was fine.
Boy is it frigid outside. To think - by tomorrow we'll think today's temperatures are warm. It looks like all the warm weather is caught in a January heatwave out west. Even Northern California is seeing some pretty nice temperatures.
The P508 was about 5 minutes late pulling into Grafton this morning, but we arrived at South Station for 8:24 a.m., so we weren't too late. The train was right on time yesterday morning, which was so nice because we didn't have to stand around on the cold concrete platform. Anyho, we made up time during this morning's trip. Luckily it was quite warm on the train as well.
Unfortunately, not all this morning's commutes were as smooth as the P508. One of my coworkers, who takes the Providence line into Boston, wasn't so lucky. He tried taking the #800, which departs Providence at 5:07 a.m., but waited on the platform for 45 minutes and ended up getting on the #802 instead. Once the train reached the Route 128 Station, all the lights and heat shut off and they rode the rest of the way into Boston in the dark and cold.
The big news this morning, well it was announced yesterday, is Mass Trans. Massachusetts State Senators want to make sure we first focus on some of the structural/system issues plaguing transportation in Massachusetts before determining revenue adjustments (i.e., toll increases). The Senate proposes creating a new entity called MassTrans (Massachusetts Surface Transportation Authority). This bipartisan Senate proposal, which basically emanated from other ideas floated over the last few years, would eliminate the MBTA and the Mass Pike. So, along with the functions and services of the MBTA and the Mass Pike, MassTrans would also absorb all state roads and bridges, meaning Massport would relinquish control of the Tobin Bridge. I heard on WBZ-Radio last night that MassTrans could save the state $6 billion or so over a twenty year period. You can read all about it here:
Bostonist. AJ and Framingham Rider both made really great comments about manners on Tuesday. I couldn't agree more. Simple acts of consideration can go a long way towards making everyone's easier, smoother and faster.
Stay warm Boston!!
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
My apologies for being offline for a few days. I had to drive to work on Friday, which proved to be fortuitous as I ended up going home early because I was sick. You will never believe this - I got sick from the E. coli bacteria in my town's water. It sure wasn't a fun way to spend the weekend.
Due to some post-work commitments, I also drove in this morning. Just think - supposedly by Friday we'll think that today's balmy temps are like a heat wave.
I did take the P508 to work yesterday. The train was on time - we arrived at South Station around 8:21 a.m. I noticed last night that the old train signs in South Station are gone. I wonder if anyone ever bought them on eBay? The new board with departure times is in its place. I'll miss the sound of the time changing - there is something very nostalgic about the clicking noise.
Commute-a-holic has been tied up with projects at work and thus unable to post articles. Here are some of the transportation related things in the news:
Before I get into the news round-up, can I just say that I'm thrilled that Jim Rice has been elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Woo-hoo!!
Two articles in today's Boston Metro: one about the continued increase in T ridership and the other about how parking revenue is up, even though the number of cars parked is down. AJ's comment about parking from last Friday was very observant. Here's a snippet of it:
Speaking only for the Grafton lot, the parking fare increase has definitely effected the amount of people who park their cars in the lot. Not necessarily ridership, but people who use the lot.AJ also explained why he is now not parking at the Grafton lot.
Almost three years ago, I regularly parked in the 2nd isle for the P508 train. As winter takes away a good number of spots, I move back to the 4th isle. This past spring, as gas prices rose, my regular spot stayed in the 4th isle. The summer saw a move back to the 6th. This was unprecedented! The week that parking fares rose, I was back to the 2nd isle. After that, I could actually find spots in the 1st isle as well.
Progressive Railroading also reported on the T's increase in riders.
Today's Boston Herald reported that the Governor is serious about gas hikes as an alternative to Mass Pike toll hikes. Stop the Pike Hike is still actively campaigning and protesting toll hikes.
A press release posted on Saturday to TradingMarkets.com focuses on tonight's meeting to discuss environmental issues related to a project on the Fitchburg commuter rail line.
According to Sunday's Boston Globe, the Worcester line is not the only commuter rail line that has massive delays. The Fairmont line is also plagued by issues. Sunday's "Starts and Stops" column also reported on the Green Line extension, how much revenue the T is losing because the Pats didn't make it to post-season play, and that the Pike is now going to keep the West Newton entrance open (instead of closing it to test the traffic flow). Finally, there was an article about how the Pike may need to repay UBS $400 million due to a risky investment that went south.
Friday afternoon's Worcester line commuter rail delays were due, unfortunately, to a death on the tracks.
Thursday, January 8, 2009
I took P529 home last night (January 7th) - arrived on-time per schedule. While clearing slush off of my windshield, I noticed a cell phone near my car's tire. Fortunately, the owner had a contact number "Home" so the phone was returned promptly in Grafton Center.Nice job Grafton Train Rider!
In other news, the MBCR now has a newsletter, called Commuter Express. Looks like they'll be publishing this twice a year (wow!!). Here's the announcement:
We are pleased to announce the reintroduction of MBCR’s customer newsletter, the “Commuter Express”. We hope to be able to provide these informational pamphlets at least twice annually. If there is anything special that you would like to see addressed in future newsletters, please feel free to send your comments/suggestions to us at: http://www.mbcr.net/You can subscribe to this at the MBCR's website.
Due to the slow driving, I had to spring from the parking lot to the platform, which was a feat in and of itself. Try sprinting when the lots are icy. I'm sure I looked like a nut.
I suppose I could always write a rant about the parking lot and how my parking dollars just aren't used to maintain the lots, but why wreck a good day?
The Boston Herald wrote about how East Boston, South Boston and North End residents are upset that they didn't renew their Mass Pike discount memberships. Many are claiming they never received a notification.
Yesterday's Bostonist wrote about how some people just don't move their bags on the trains. This is something that Anonymous at 7:38 AM alluded to.
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
From today's The Boston Globe, an article about the state's transportation situation. There is a real possibility that Mass Pike tolls, T fares and gas taxes will increase in 2009. It might be one increase, say just a gas tax increase, or increases across the board. Our transportation system is broken.
Also in today's Globe, an article about how the T is still showing a strong increase in the number of riders. The article mention that more riders are evident on the MBTA's/MBCR's commuter rail lines. Across the country, transit systems have noticed an increase in riders. Transit experts say it is too soon to say if Americans have undergone a paradigm shift and are moving towards mass transit.
With all the information about the increase in ridership, it would be nice if the MBTA/MBCR could publish their on-time performance stats for the commuter rail lines. I would love to see information about the commuter rail performance for 2008 and also a monthly breakout.
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
Today's Boston Metro ran an interview with MASSPIRG regarding Massachusetts' transportation infrastructure. MASSPIRG, which published a study about the Bay State's transportation infrastructure back in the fall, released a press release yesterday praising Governor Deval Patrick's administration for wanting to use $233 million of a requested $783 million recovery package to repair and rehabilitate existing roads. Here's a snippet from the press release:
But Massachusetts looks the best compared to other state requests. According to the MASSPIRG report, the Executive Office of Transportation has presented a good balance of public transportation improvements, bike and pedestrian projects, money for ports and aviation, and road and highway maintenance.
“Governor Patrick and his state agencies have put forward the most comprehensive request, with more than half of the proposal dedicated to modes of transportation that encourage people to get out of their cars,” said Bourassa.
Massachusetts is also the only state requesting its entire road and highway funds for repair and maintenance, with no new roadways funded under the plan
Our roads desperately need some repairs. Commute-a-holic relayed a story yesterday about travels on the Pike between Worcester and Springfield this past Sunday. Commute has never seen potholes on the Pike as large as the ones encountered during Sunday's drive. Some of the potholes could literally swallow a car.
Yesterday's Boston.com The Green Blog ran two different yet interesting posts. One was about why there are so many announcements on MBTA trains. This was a pick-up of the Boston Metro's weekly Q&A with our favorite GM, Dan Grabauskas.
Also posted yesterday to The Green Blog, information about a new $20 per month reimbursement available to bicyclists who commute. This new program launched January 1st and it is available to bicyclists either as a cash reimbursement or a pre-tax deduction if their employer participates.
Monday, January 5, 2009
So what was the first Monday commute of 2009 like? For a lot of folks, it wasn't that great. On the Worcester line the P502, P504 and P506 were all running at least 15 to 30 minutes late, according to T Alerts and news reports. The P508 arrived on time to Grafton, but it was slow going most of the way into Boston. We got to South Station at 8:48 a.m., about 25 minutes late.
I've also heard that the outbound trains on the Worcester line were also delayed.
Another thing made this morning's commute not so great. The parking lots were super icy. I saw a handful of people slip and fall in the Grafton lot today. Not good, not good at all.
I'm sort of dreading Wednesday morning. Supposedly we're going to have a snow/ice storm. This should make the commute extra fun.
The MBTA/MBCR wasn't really in the news the last few days of 2008/first few days of 2009.
The Blue Mass Group blog published an interview with Governor Deval Patrick on his selection of James Aloisi as the state's Secretary of Transportation.
Bostonist ran a cute column on being nice while riding on the MBTA. Anything "manners" related always reminds me of Muni Manners.
Yesterday's Boston Sunday Globe "Starts & Stops" column focused on where MBTA buses drop off passengers. The column also noted that the new Secretary of Transportation, James Aloisi, is a few weeks away from officially starting his new role. The Mass Pike is going to run an experiment from January 12th through January 23rd. During this time, eastbound passengers will not be able to use Exit 16 in West Newton to get onto the Pike. Pike engineers believe that people using this exit are causing traffic backups. Exit 16 is one of the free access points onto the Pike.
According to the Globe, street entertainers are having a tougher time earning a living. Many of these entertainers are posted throughout the MBTA's subway system.
Yesterday's Globe also ran an article about Massport. Mass Pike critics are not thrilled with the prospect of Massport taking over the Pike in downtown Boston.
On the Pike front, the Stop the Pike Hike group currently has more than 8,300 members. They are about 1,700 members away from their goal of signing up 10,000 concerned commuters. The final public hearing about the Pike's toll hike is this Wednesday, January 7th in Worcester. If you're interested in attending, the meeting is at 6:30 p.m. at Worcester City Hall, which is located at 455 Main Street in downtown Worcester. The Stop the Pike Hike group believes that the final toll vote will take place on either January 15th or January 22nd.
Finally, I have heard that state employees who had a state vehicle that they could take home needed to turn in this vehicle on January 1, 2009. I believe the only exceptions to the rule are those in law enforcement. I would love to know if the 60-odd MBTA employees who have MBTA vehicles were included in this rule. Again, there is no reason why Dan Grabauskas and senior managers of the MBTA need to have a MBTA car 24/7. Does anyone know if this rule is being applied to the MBTA?