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
  • 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.