Monthly Archives: January 2007

Charlie’s Mailbag 1/31- smelly stations and Red Line woes

From the mailbag at

Amanda ponders the fumes at Back Bay Station

Hi there,

Was just checking out your blog — lots of great stuff — and was curious if there’s ever been any discussion about the noxious fumes at Back Bay station in the commuter rail passenger waiting area (adjacent to the customer service windows for commuter rail and Amtrak)? When I’ve stood in line to purchase a ticket, I have been stunned by the smell and the level of pollution, presumably coming up from the tracks below. Thankfully the employees don’t have to breath this crap all day. But the passengers do. Has anyone ever tried to do anything about this? Seems like it could be a violation of federal or state indoor air quality or something…I doubt the fumes are harmless…

Amanda from Malden

Hi Amanda and welcome to the blog.

I have to agree it is really getting bad at Back Bay in recent months. They have massive exhaust fans in the tunnel but they have not been doing the job lately. While Amtrak is electrified the T’s commuter rail locomotives are not and their engines generate exhaust emissions and they are enhanced being in a tunnel. Electrifying the Commuter Rail is not a viable option for the T at this time because of the cost but hopefully they will work on the exhaust system.

While on the subject of “smelly stations” there are 2 subway stations downtown that are very funky. Aquarium has smelled like a fish tank for the last 6 months and now the same smell is at the North Station “superstation”. I have no idea what it causing it but it is a very noticeable dank smell. I can’t be the only person who has noticed this.

Paul is new to the Red Line and wonders about poor service

Hi, As a new daily rider on the Red Line from Braintree to Park St, I am blown away by the poor ride quality and service. I know the Red Line “is what it is” and all, but is there any information out there on why the Red Line Trains seem to be brought out of service so often, why they stop, start so often between stations and why the ride is so jarring? Just curious. Are the rails and trains obsolete or something?


Paul believe it or not it is actually better on the Braintree line as some speed restrictions have been lifted. However one major problem still exists and that is the set of switches between JFK and Andrew where the Red Line splits. The T in November set aside $19.2 million to address the issue. The Globe quoted T General Manager Daniel A. Grabauskas on November 21st, 2006

Delays on the subway system, especially on the Red Line and a problematic area of aging switches in South Boston, “are a direct result of the age of the infrastructure,” he said.

“This is almost $20 million to fix this problem.”

So Paul the T is addressing the issue but it is going to take time. Expect to see a lot of bus shuttles on weekends when they start working on the switches.



Filed under Back Bay, Commuter Rail, MBTA, North Station, Red Line

This is how your February pass SHOULD read

If you have already purchased your February pass the card info display at the vending machine SHOULD look like this.
Notice that my pass is showing a start date of January 1 and now expires on February 28th.
Check your card before leaving the FVM and get a receipt.

Leave a comment

Filed under CharlieCard, Fare Vending Machines, MBTA

Green Line to become "Yellow Line" on February 9th

The Green Line will be renamed the Yellow Line on February 9th as part of a one day promotion with Verizon Yellow Pages.

As part of the promotion Jewel will perform first on a trolley and then at a free concert at South Station.

Mac Daniel has all the details on the Starts and Stops blog.


Filed under Green Line, MBTA, South Station

T has found no weapons in random searches

Front page story in the Wednesday Globe which details the results of 2,449 random inspections made between October and December on T property. Mac Daniel reports…

1 Comment

Filed under MBTA, MBTA Police

bloggers on the T January 30th edition

Fact of life people blog about the T

There are some unhappy campers out there. We do try and find positive blog entries about the T but what comes up in the searches is what comes up….a recent sample

Allison e-mailed me about her blog entry

I posted a story about my experience on the MBTA bus with a careless driver that slammed on the brakes (several times) causing people to fall and I’ve got a huge bruise on my leg now because of this:

I just wanted to share.

Landed in Swampscott tells us about morning entertainment only the T can provide

A basket case writes an open letter to T Conductors

The Somerville News blogs about trash at the Davis Square T station

Bad Transit has another problem at the fare vending machines

Jen writes on My Space about Vermin on the MBTA

A brand new blogger has his second entry which is not negative about the T

Drew on Live Journal rants about the T’s new faregates

NEPete at Blue Mass Group laments the failed attempt to restore the E line to Arborway

and finally
a poor college student complains about the fare increase.

Yup Boston bloggers talk about the T. I just linked them for people to sample.


Filed under Uncategorized

Hopefully this is an isolated case

Just got a note from Jim in Cambridge who reports his January LinkPass vanished when he bought his February one.

According to the MBTA (and the Globe on January 28), “T officials are encouraging folks to put their February passes on their CharlieCard now to avoid lines. You can do this for any month, beginning on the 15th of the preceding month. There’s no need to wait until this Wednesday, the 31st.” It’s true that you can add the February pass . . . but what they forgot to mention is that doing so erases the January pass from your CharlieCard. This evening, on my way home from work, I stopped at Park Street to add a February pass to my card (which had a January pass already on it, and which I had been using without problems for the whole month of January). After adding the February pass, I went to enter the gate . . . and got a “Not enough value” message. I tried another gate – same story. I went back to the vending machine, which confirmed I had a pass good through 2/28/2007 . . . but failed to inform me that, evidently, the pass now would not be good until 2/1/2007. As a result, I had “add value” to the pass so I could get home (and for my two trips tomorrow). Steve from Boston (see Globe Starts & Stops dated January 28, 2007) was apparently correct in stating that “it is not possible to have both January and February on the card’s chip at once,” and it is the MBTA and the Globe who are handing out the “Bad Information.”

I will refrain from speculating how much money the T will be making off of this error, or the lines which will be at all the T Fare Vending Machines on the morning of the first of each month once this error becomes more widely known. I would have sent a copy of this e-mail to the MBTA, but I can’t find an appropriate e-mail address on their website.

– Jim in Cambridge

P.S. The funny thing was, up until this point, I was personally quite happy with the CharlieCard system. Well, I guess you live and learn.

This is the first report of this I have heard so I am thinking this is an isolated case. The CharlieCard is designed with three stored value slots, 2 which are used for monthly passes and the third is for any stored value.

The question to throw out there is has anybody else experienced this?

On a related note posted a blog entry from Moxie who had her own horror show on Tuesday when she tried to buy her February pass with her WageWorks card.


Filed under CharlieCard, Fare Vending Machines, MBTA

Charlie’s Mailbag: Jan 30th – bus #504, the trip planner and North Station

The mailbag at has 3 items today

Greg from Watertown is unhappy with the 504 express bus

almost directly coinciding with the fare increase, the recent service on the 504 has been terrible.

first, the wait between buses at around 7:30-8am (on a weekday) is around 15 minutes. they advertise the buses run every 10 minutes or less during that time frame, which is just laughable. (it’s also frustrating when you’re standing in the cold and two 502’s and three 57’s pass you during your wait.)

second, for some reason, they’re no longer using the “new” buses, including those fancy “double” buses. no, we’re stuck in an old, trash-strewn bus that is filled to capacity before reaching newton corner. and even worse, the back doors don’t fully close, so when we’re zipping down the pike, the temperature on the bus feels like that of a meat locker.

real frustrating, especially in light of the fare increase.

greg, Watertown ma

Greg the bad news is the 60 foot buses have been reassigned to Jamaica Plain (the #32 route). The T only has a limited number of the 60 footers and they are found mostly on the Silver Line-Washington, Silver Line-Waterfront and the #39 Back Bay-Forest Hills route that replaced the Arborway trolleys some 20 years ago. The T currently has no plans to order any more of the 60 foot buses that are so popular in Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle and other cities. I know that drivers are not fond of them because they are extremely difficult to back up. So it appears that on your route you have smaller buses and less of them running. Maybe somebody out there can offer more info.

David was using the T’s trip planner and is puzzled

On the whole, the new trip planner is good, but as the Orange Line problem showed, there are some issues. I have another one:

Currently, if you travel on the Worcester line from Newtonville to Yawkey or South Station it shows the fare as $2.25. If you travel to Back Bay it says the fare is $2.75 (?!). The actual fare is $4.25. I wrote to the T, but (naturally) received no response. Actually, according to the rules on the T web site it’s not clear if the fare to Yawkey should be $2.25 or $4.50. No help from the T on figuring this out.


David, I than ran it to South Station and it quoted a fare of $ 2.25 as well.

Now Newtonville is considered Zone 1 ( West Newton and Auburndale are Zone 2 ) and it is supposed to be $ 4.25 one way. So it looks like another bug to squash in the trip planner. Another website note, The T should really include the zone number on each individual station page to make it easier for a rider to figure out the fare. Notice on the Newtonville page there is no mention that it is in Zone 1, you have to look elsewhere for the info.

finally we have Peg who would like to see something basic installed at North Station. Or simply turned on.

I, too am impressed with the progress at North Station, but I’m not about to toss any bouquets to the T or DNC, who were the ones who forced us into that ridiculously small waiting area in the first place. My real pet peeve, however is in the Green/Orange ‘super station”. On the main level where the tunnel across to N.Station is, hangs 2 commuter rail track monitors, exactly the same as the ones in North Station. They’ve been there, not turned on, since the super station opened. Last year, I inquired at the “Information” booth when they might be activated. The T employee told me it was a question for Commuter Rail, so I asked there. You can guess the rest – MBCR referred me back to the T, the Orange Line personnel said it was a Green Line issue and vice versa, and then ‘Customer Service” at MBCR actually told me that they are NOT monitors but security cameras! They’re stainless steel hooded TV’s!!

It seems to me that this is a simple matter of flipping a switch and could make a difference in my daily commute home; often times, running from the Orange line, it’s good to know if the train I’m rushing for is actually still in the station, also which end of North Station I should be running for!

Thanks for providing a place to vent!!

Thanks for sharing Peg.

I know the monitors that you speak of and it is obvious what they were intended for which makes all the sense in the world. But this is a classic case of the byzantine world that lives between the T’s seperate divisions. The commuter rail to the rapid transit people simply don’t exist. This probably goes back decades when they were run by separate companies but there seems to be little or no cooperation between the T divisions. Take a look at the #94 bus route that servers Medord and Somerville. It describes what areas it serves and also promises connections to the Red Line. But nowhere on that schedule does it mention that it connects with the Commuter Rail at West Medford. It becomes obvious that it does when you look at the map but the T ignores that. How hard could it be to tweak the 94 schedule so a passenger could get a decent transfer between the 2 lines? IF there was a reliable connection a passenger coming inbound from Lowell heading for Somerville or Cambridge could simply get off at West Medford and ride the bus to Davis and connect with the Red Line. Instead because the connection is not reliable that passenger has to travel all the way into North Station and then navigate back to the Red Line. This happens elsewhere in the system.

Nobody is asking for perfection from the T, but a little common sense could make every rider a little happier every day.


Filed under Bus, Commuter Rail, MBTA, T website