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.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Slight Delays on the P508

The p508 was running about 10 minutes late this morning. I received a T Alert while waiting on the platform at the Grafton stop that the train was going to be delayed 15-20 minutes. It arrived in Grafton at 7:15 AM (just 8 minutes off the scheduled time of 7:09 AM). Due to those schedule changes implemented last year (you know, where the MBTA built time into every schedule to deal with their poor performance) we were "only" 8 minutes late upon arrival at South Station, pulling in at 8:32 AM.

I noticed at article in the Metro this morning that touted improved on time performance stats for the commuter rail. I thought this part of the article was quite telling:
The month of March got off to a rocky start for commuter rail travel after yesterday’s storm dropped up to a foot of snow across the region. However, despite the weather hiccup, MBCR officials say on-time service has significantly improved after a dreadful December and January.

Schedule changes on lines north of Boston and the Fairmount line helped boost overall on time service to 87.8 percent in February, compared with 76.5 percent in January, according to the MBCR.

So, on time performance has improved, not really because the trains are on time, but because schedules were extended across most other commuter rail lines (this happened on the Worcester-Framingham line a year ago) instead of addressing the issues at hand like old equipment and signal issues, the MBTA/MBCR. I can't say I'm surprised though.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Snowed In

I'm grateful that my firm allows me to work from home on days like today. I hadn't been plowed out by around 7:00 AM this morning, so getting from my house to the Grafton train station would have been an ordeal.

I checked in with the T this morning and there were delays on the Worcester/Framingham line. I'm sure it's as difficult for the trains to plow through the snow on the tracks as it is for cars to deal with snow.

I hope everyone has safe travels today.