Charlie’s Mailbag – March 9th

checking the mailbag at

I have been having some problems with my wireless card in California so that is the reason the blog has been updating later in the day back East as I have been forced to use the San Francisco Public Library ( which is quite nice and modern )

Andy thinks the “new” North Station could be better

I know this is ungrateful, especially after the T worked so hard to improve the plight of space-constrained North Station commuters…but I have a question/complaint about the cosmetics of the new and improved station.

What’s with the black and tan ceiling and walls? The gray columns? Why the stygian darkness? Perhaps it complements the outer decor of the platforms and provides an optical transition as one hustles to or from the brightly lit inner hallway. It will hide the dirt. Maybe the T doesn’t want people hanging around, clogging up the waiting area. I doubt there’s much potential for that. But I don’t think it would have hurt to use brighter hues, even a little white to turn a gloomy space into a less gloomy space.

The North Station do-over had a lot of potential for dulling my South Station envy, but so far I’m not sure we made much progress here.

I’d be happy to volunteer on the paint detail if the T should change its mind. I also know a real ‘fab’ interior decorator who can work miracles. One is needed here.

Andy from Ipswich

The T is not responsible for North Station. The new improvements were done by the Delaware North Company of Buffalo who owns the Garden. Hopefully it will be a bit brighter when the new retail shops that are promised open.

Amy wonders what is causing slowdowns on the Orange Line

Hi Charlie,
I’ve been riding the orange line ever since I can remember, and
recently I’ve noticed that, going inbound and outbound between
Sullivan Square and Community College, the train slows down
considerably. At this part in the track, the train is on a bridge and
its leaning quite a bit to one side. It’s always leaned like that but
never gone so slow over that one part as it has in the past few
months. Any reason for this?
Love your blog!

I don’t have the answer but I am pretty certain somebody will let us know in short order.

Ian writes in about the T’s trip planner

I’m a huge fan of your blog, and especially of the Boston Transit Camp idea, which I think would be a lot of fun. I wanted to write you with a quick comment about the T’s new web site.

It’s obvious that the T (or TransitWorks; whoever is in charge of the site) wanted to give the new that “Web 2.0” look and feel, so they went ahead and built a new trip planner that uses Google Maps to show routes and station/stop locations. It’s a great idea, and I’m sure it looked great on paper, but as we all know their implementation leaves much to be desired.

Earlier today I was reading the official Google Blog and I almost jumped out of my seat. There was a post about the South by Southwest (SXSW) Conference and Festival ( wherein the author mentioned that they’ve added Austin, TX to the Google Transit Trip Planner. (!?!?!)

Yes, that’s right, Google built their own Public Transit trip planner. It’s been around for a while, too — here’s the official launch announcement from December 2005 (

Currently it only contains information for transit agencies in 10 cities, but if you read the FAQ ( they very clearly outline the process by which agencies can make their own data available to Google:
“4. My agency has public transportation data for my city; how can I get it included in the Google Transit Trip Planner?”If you’re at a public agency that oversees public transportation for your city and would like your data to be included, please contact us at

The Google Transit Feed Specification describes how to provide transit data in a format that Google Transit Trip Planner can use.”So while they were busy attempting to reinvent the wheel, the T could easily have just handed their data over to Google and let the search company do all the work for them. I’m willing to bet this wouldn’t have cost them a penny, and when all was said and done they would’ve had a system that, in addition to properly calculating routes, would even compare the cost of the trip with the approximate cost of making the same trip in a car. Instead we have a poorly-coded, poorly-tested clunk-factory that hates Fridays and wants to route every Red Line rider through JFK.


I have no doubt that the smart people in Mountain View, CA could have devised a first class trip planner.



Filed under MBTA, North Station, Orange Line, T website

4 responses to “Charlie’s Mailbag – March 9th

  1. Anne-Marie

    This was in Thursday’s GlobeReader hungry for more at North StationBy Tom Long | March 8, 2007The newly renovated North Station is “all dressed up with no place to go,” according to Doug of Peabody, who expected shops and restaurants in the commuter rail station.The rehabbed station was unveiled in February. Tables, chairs, and benches were added during the $5 million overhaul. The restrooms were upgraded, and 20,000 square feet of space was added to the concourse.But still no shops and restaurants.“Any info on when it might be completed?” asked Doug.MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo reports that the T is awaiting the final plans for the layout of vendor locations from Delaware North, the owner of TD Banknorth Garden and a partner in the renovation. During the next six months food court- style vendors are due to be added.

  2. John Mc

    Now that the staging is down, we can now see that the platforms will not be connected outside the doors (like south station is). This turns into a bit of a pain, as everyone pours through the East entrance, and then has to navigate the waiting room in order to make their track – rather than being able to go out Track 1 door and then make their way over to the proper track for their train.sigh

  3. I’ve noticed the same thing on the Orange Line. Its more than a little disconcerting to slow down so much while you’re tilting over on the elevated rails there. I have to assume its a safety thing given the location on the only stretch of elevated rail on the Orange Line (right?), but that really just raises other questions about the condition of the trains and the tracks that might have caused such an adjustment.

  4. Anonymous

    When the T finds problems with the tracks, they impose temporary slow orders until they get fixed. If a segment of Orange Line track is much slower than it used to be, that’s probably what happened.

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