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:

They will also be available on the MBTA website at the following link: 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, 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 ."

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