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

The mailbag at charlieonthembta@gmail.com 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.

thanks,
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

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.

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6 Comments

Filed under Bus, Commuter Rail, MBTA, T website

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

  1. Silver Line-Waterfront buses are dual-mode, so I don’t see how this line could be competing with any other route for 60-foot buses.

  2. Charlie:

    The buses are now used on Route 32 between Wolcott Square in Hyde Park and Forest Hills, but only during the mornings and evenings when the traffic is the heaviest. The smaller 2000 series buses were often crowded and people couldn’t get on without being stuffed in like a sardine, so the T put the 60 foot buses on Hyde Park Avenue.

  3. Anonymous

    I board at Watertown Yard everyday so luckily I’m able to grab a seat. The passengers on the 504 and 502 really are packed in like sardines by the time we reach the Pike. If they aren’t going to give us the 60 footers, than they should run extra buses, even though when it comes to the T, that means extra buses that won’t show up.

  4. Ron Newman said…

    Silver Line-Waterfront buses are dual-mode, so I don’t see how this line could be competing with any other route for 60-foot buses.

    I wasn’t suggesting they would move the Silver Line buses, just pointing out what routes have them.

    Only in Boston, Kids. Only in Boston. said…

    Charlie:

    The buses are now used on Route 32 between Wolcott Square in Hyde Park and Forest Hills, but only during the mornings and evenings when the traffic is the heaviest. The smaller 2000 series buses were often crowded and people couldn’t get on without being stuffed in like a sardine, so the T put the 60 foot buses on Hyde Park Avenue.

    This is a problem systemwide. There are many routes that cry out for the 60 footers such as the #1, #66 and #111 ( and many others )

    I know the drivers are not fond of them as I stated earlier they are very hard to back up if the bus gets into a sticky situation and Boston streets are much narrower than you find in other US cities. The buses can navigate tight corners as is evident when they make the turn downtown from Washington onto Temple Place.

    But there are no 60 footers in the order with New Flyer that the T just approved so don’t expect any relief in the foreseeable future.

  5. I wrote in about the 504 bus last week. It really is a debacle. The 504 bus is one of the prime reasons to live in Watertown and Newton Corner, and I’m real bummed that it sucks. Hopefully someone from the T is reading this.

  6. Anonymous

    The original poster complains about overcrowding on the older buses. But the old high-floor RTS buses have more seats *and* far more standing room than the new regular-length low-floor buses.

    On the low-floor buses, there’s no place to stand without blocking the narrow aisle, except by the back door (which you then block, and which hits unsuspecting passengers since it opens inward). The canyon between the front wheelwells is a particularly bad chokepoint.

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