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.