Charlie’s Mailbag – February 13th ( a full mailbag )

Charlie has been a little slow answering the mail the past few days ( foolish thing like work gets in the way) but will try and get caught up here. Chances are if you have a question somebody reading has the answer or can point you in the right direction. The mailbag can be reached at

Two quick notes. Readers have mentioned how much this miss the train announcer at South Station ( AUBBBBBBURNDALE) and truth be known he misses doing it. He is an Amtrak employee and still does the Amtrak announcements. When MBCR took over the Commuter Rail, Amtrak no longer would provide the station announcements for local service. The same thing is true in Manhattan at Penn Station where Amtrak does the announcements for NJ Transit but not for the LIRR.

Also if anyone is interested in contributing to the blog please email me. All you need is a google account (gmail or blogger) and we can go from there. The more eyes out there the better.

Joel gives us a North Station update

Joel from here — A followup on North Station with two

One is, they still haven’t solved the train-information situation. The
giant screen still shows a Garden animation or a Charlie Card ad, but
not the platform and train numbers. And the only TVs that do show them
are outside the new waiting room. This how long after the “grand
opening?” Sheesh.

Secondly, it appears they are building some sort of connection between
the east doors of the North Station lobby and the entrance to the subway
station. A large metal pipe frame has been built that is shaped like
walls and a roof. Looks like it will be finished just in time for spring,

I was over at North Station Monday for the Beanpot and noticed the same thing so I asked about it. The MBCR employee who handles the train announcements and runs the B&W video boards said “Don’t blame us, it is the Bruins problem.” He said the board has never been operational but at least the clock works.

I didn’t notice the new construction between the subway and the train station but this is a good sign. The T couldn’t build a direct connection into the rail station as the Bruins couldn’t make up their mind where it would finally be located. Still everyone will agree that the larger waiting area is a 1000% improvement over the past 12 years.

Andrew is considering getting earplugs

What is it with Green Line drivers using the trains horns on passengers waiting at stops? I realize the need for safety, but isn’t that what the bell’s for? Twice now I’ve been in a crowd of people waiting for B Line service and had the driver make liberal use of the airhorn. Isn’t that supposed to be reserved for telling Massholes to get their cars out of the way of the tracks? Someones gonna go deaf or something – sheesh!
Oh, and the latest instance of this was this morning, when an inbound train simply bypassed a crowd of shivering commuters at Packard’s Corner – only to have the next train not arrive till 7 minutes later. Seven minutes may not seem like a lot, but we’re talking 20º and windy here!

Andrew I couldn’t agree more with you. The past few months there are T operators who just love to blow that horn including one that uses the airhorn coming into Copley. I assume the T has a policy on horn use but I don’t know the particulars.

One thing I have wondered about myself is why the T shuts off the headlights of trains coming into a station. I know trains in New York, Chicago, Montreal and San Francisco keep the headlights on at all time. I would think turning them on and off constantly would cause them to have a shorter life span. I would also thing having the headlights on would improve safety as passengers would be more aware a train is pulling into the station. Anybody have a clue on why the T does this as they seem to be one of the few systems that does this.

Devin is curious about a T “school bus”

Hey Charlie,

This morning around 715 I was waiting for the #93 bus on Bunker Hill Street
in Charlestown. A bus approached our stop, with 9208 Powderhouse something
on the info strip on the front of the bus, and stopped. We went to get on,
but were told it was a school bus.

Do you have any idea what that’s about? I’d love to find out.



The T does contract with some cities and towns for “school buses” and this sounds like one of those cases. There are a number of route numbers that the T maintains that are not public schedules.

Joshua wonders about the faregates at South Station

Love the blog – I am a recently new commuter, since I have recently taken a job in downtown Boston. I take the purple line in every day from Framingham all the way to South Station. When I get to South Station, I transfer to the red line to go to Park Street. I noticed today that at the fare collectors in South Station, they do not say which machines take both the charlie card and the charlie ticket. Since I have a monthly pass for the Commuter rail, I obviously have a ticket. I had to go through 4 machines before I found one that took the card. I remember reading on your site that they were doing this in Porter Square, but I thought up their they were putting up signs.

This is causing unneeded backup. I do not understand why they just would not accept both at all of them. Any thoughts on this matter?

Keep up the good work on the site.

This has been happening at North Station and Porter as well. Honestly I don’t know if this is a case of the fare gates being out of order or if the T is really installing CharlieCard only gates. Certainly a CharlieCard only gate has merit but it shouldn’t be implemented until the Commuter Rail is converted to Charlie ‘sometime’ in 2007. The conductors I have talked to say they have heard nothing as of yet except there are concerns about the battery life of the validators the conductors will use. Please let us know what the situation is out there and I will try and find out what I can.

Lee sent this observation in a week ago and I completely overlooked it

So, I spotted an interesting thing today. After arriving at Reservoir, heading outbound, at about 3:05 this afternoon, I heard a familiar, yet unusual whine coming from the other direction. I paused for a moment, and did a take, then a double take. Lo-and-behold, it was a Breda Type-8 train heading inbound on the D-Branch. Now, the train said either “No Service” or “Test Train,” so it wasn’t in revenue service, but I was very, very surprised to see a Type-8 on the D-Branch. Does anyone know if this was a new delivery perhaps, maybe going to the Reservoir yard? Or was it maybe some sort of test? I know that the heavy rail work this Summer on the D-Branch is partially so that the Breda cars can run on it without (hopefully) derailing.

Anyway, interesting sight I thought I’d pass along.

I suspect they were just testing the car or perhaps moving it from Riverside to another location. My understanding is the Bredas can use the D line tracks but are restricted to 25 MPH which is why they are not used in revenue service on the D until the tracks are fixed. We have readers that monitor train movements closely and perhaps they know more.

G10musica took issue with something I wrote about CSA’s being replaced

where did u get that info from?? HIGHLY UNLIKELY!!!!

What I said was that in a few weeks the CSA’s on the D Line would no longer be there. They were only put in place during the transition phase and many of the workers are retired T workers who were called back. Nobody is losing their jobs.

Kelly has a bad Commuter Rail experience on Monday morning

feel like it’s almost pointless to write this tale, because nothing will change. This morning, the Framingham/Worcester line trains were delayed…first 5 minutes, then 8 minutes, then 30 minutes (according to the board at Ashland.) My 7:37 train was more like 40 minutes late while we were standing outside in the cold morning (albeit, not as cold as it could have been, but still.) We got onto a single-level, small train with no announcement as to what stops it would be making (by this time, 3 loads of people were waiting and we had no idea what train that was supposed to be.) We all crowded in. This train proceeded to make 5 more stops where it was physically impossible for anyone to enter because it was so packed before the (oh-so-informative announcer) made one (one!) very garbled call that this train was “running express to Back Bay.” OK. We finally make it to South Station, more than an hour late, without an apology or explanation. Par for the course, I suppose. I wonder if they will send me my refund in Charlie tickets that I can’t use?

I can’t wait for this evening’s commute!


The Framingham/Worcester line probably has more complaints than any other CR route. The T is really at the mercy of CSX Railroad on that line and if the T misses the slot it is assigned CSX will throw a freight train on it. Amtrak has the same problem with the eastbound Lake Shore Limited that is always 2-4 hours late coming from Chicago. The word is the T is close to buying those tracks and that ‘should’ help but the T has lost many commuters on that line. The Framingham/Worcester line dropped from 9990 inbound passengers a day in 2003 to 8248 a year ago and I suspect the chronic delays are the reason.



Filed under Commuter Rail, Green Line, MBTA, South Station

10 responses to “Charlie’s Mailbag – February 13th ( a full mailbag )

  1. Sometimes in the bus schedule racks you will see one with a name like “SUPPLEMENTAL SERVICE”. This lists special trips that are intended to serve public school pupils. These trips often combine pieces of several different scheduled MBTA bus routes. Technically, they are supposed to be open to everyone.

  2. Anonymous

    When they say “school bus” they mean that the bus is being used to train a new driver, not to pick up children.

  3. in regards to the Type 8 on the highland branch, I remember seeing early last year a Type 8 on the Riverside spur off of the B&A mainline (aka the “Worcester line”). The catenary wires are still up there, so either it was just delivered (via tow) or it was being tested there. This would suggest that new Type 8’s are being delivered by rail?

  4. Anonymous

    I had a similar problem at Park Street on Monday evening. After trying to force my Inner Express Bus ticket into the reader, banging on the machine, then trying again, a CSA agent finally told me “that one doesn’t love you, try this one instead.” When my passes finally went through a Transit Police man was stading in front of the gate giving me a stern look.

  5. jmr76

    As far as I know, the Red Line trains usually turn off their headlights when entering a station so the driver won’t blind the passengers. Unlike Chicago and other cities, the Red Line trains only have high beams. In fact, more often than not, you’ll see Red Line operators just leave the lights off altogether — that way they don’t have to think to turn them off when an oncoming train is approaching.

  6. Charlie,May I suggest an experiment? Why don’t you make a post explicitly asking any T exectives, managers, or workers to let you know (1) if they read your blog, and how often, and (2) what they do with the information they learn from it?I am curious. Aren’t you?

  7. Anonymous

    The rightmost turnstile at the main Harvard entrance has a broken ticket acceptor, and the screen doesn’t say so. I’m thinking of taping a Ticket Acceptor Broken sign over the slot.

  8. Anonymous

    Today that turnstile was coned off, and the screen said something strange like (T) Turnstile, with a part of a Windows error dialog covering the corner. But not to worry — the turnstile next to it took over the role of refusing to accept tickets without saying anything on the screen.

  9. the North Station video board was displaying train times normally when I passed through around 6:15 last night.

  10. Anonymous

    For the last several years, the MBTA Police have been plauqed with poor manaement, not giving the Police officers what they need to keep the system safe and to battle the increasing incidents on the T. We know the T police is understaff, but now a new directive has been sent out to even make the riders feel more safe. This directive came out from deputy chief Martinis, If the roads have slush and ice on them, your are not to use the brand new cruisers (which they need) for your duty. As this point, the T districts are understaff, giving the few officers assigned, more stations to cover and respond too, now they are telling them, who cares of you can’t respond to a T station to assist the riders. I’m not sure, but doesn’t our fares and money from general tax payers pay for those vehicles? So hopefully I won’t need the T Police on a snowy, slush or ice roads, since they are not coming since the cruisers can only be used in goos weather. Good leadership should be rewarded T rider, Blue/Orange lineMichael Garcia

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