Category Archives: MBTA

WOOHOO – NEXTBUS has added new routes

GREAT NEWS – The T has added more routes to the Next Bus system. Routes now available are #1,#4,#15,#22,#23,#28,#32,#39,#57,#66,#71,#73,#77,#111,#114,#116 and #117 I tested it on the #66 and it is working perfectly on my cellphone.

LINK TO WEBSITE

CELLPHONE INFO

Hopefully we will soon see this in the subway on the signs at each station.

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Filed under MBTA, Next Bus

saying goodbye to the Boeing Green Line cars

(Globe Photo / Jodi Hilton)

Now, after years of being cannibalized for spare parts, the Boeings — which first hit the rails on Dec. 29, 1976 — are making just one trip a day on the D branch of the Green Line. Only two are used on any given day.

“If we get one good trip out of it, we feel good,” said Peter Messina, chief inspector at Riverside. “It’s like having an old person around, you know? They can only walk so much. They can only go so far. I came on the job before they were here, and they’re going to retire before me.”

The last trips were scheduled for today, but snow could cancel them.

Most of the remaining trolleys will be disassembled by backhoe for scrap metal. One car may go to a trolley museum in Maine, and about six could find new life scraping slush off overhead trolley lines.

originally written in January

There are only a few left in service and as Breda finally delivers the last cars in an order than has been a saga in itself for over 9 years, the infamous Boeing cars will soon be retired. The Green Line cars numbered in the 34-3500’s were supposed to be the future when they were introduced in late 1976. They were the first new streetcars bought by the T since 1951 and they were a disaster. But in this case the T wasn’t at fault.

The Urban Mass Transportation Administration (UMTA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Transportation decided that the MBTA and the San Francisco Municipal Railway (MUNI) should work together in producing a new generation of streetcar. What wound up happening was that both the T and MUNI were forced to accept things they didn’t want in the new cars so it would be able to run on both systems. The contract was put out to bid and was awarded to a helicopter manufacturer Boeing-Vertol and the order would be for 250 cars (150 for Boston). The one major difference in the order was that Boston would have air conditioning something not needed in San Francisco.

In Boston there were problems with derailments, power failures and doors (which had over 1300 parts) closing unexpectedly on passengers. In San Francisco they found that only 2 of the 3 doors could function in the Market Street Subway. The T sued Boeing-Vertol for the repairs and won $34 million dollars in damages.and Boeing in turn was able to convince San Francisco to buy 40 of the cars that the T no longer wanted. The T tested a Canadian made LRV for 3 months in 1980 but in the end decided to build their next cars from scratch. Eventually the new design would become the
Type 7 cars manufactured by Kinki-Sharyo of Japan (numbered in the 36-3700’s) starting in 1986 and for the most part the T only ran the remaining Boeing cars during rush hour. The Kinki cars proved to be very reliable and the T bought 20 more 10 years later. San Francisco decided to replace their Boeings with cars manufactured by an Italian company named Breda. Boston then decided that instead of ordering the new Type 8 cars 10 years ago from Kinki-Sharyo that they as well would use Breda which has proven to be a disaster equal to the Boeings. The Breda cars were supposed to be fully delivered in 1998 but the T will take final delivery sometime in 2007 on the remaining cars.

Still there is a certain nostalgia concerning the Boeing cars though they will never be as beloved as the old PCC cars they replaced. They were a part of Boston for 30 years but it is time to say goodbye to them. Those interested can read more on the MBTA’s problems with streetcars in an article written some 9 years ago by Scott Moore. The last words in the article proved to be incorrect and we the riders continue to suffer.

The new cars are expected to arrive sometime in 1997 or 1998. With the MBTA planning on keeping the LRVs until 1999, it is possible that the system has learned from the mistakes of the past, and will be much more careful when purchasing rail-cars in the future.

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Filed under Green Line, MBTA, T history, transit other cities

Charlie’s Mailbag – March 15th

trying to catch up on the mail at charlieonthembta@gmail.com

Stephanie writes about Charlie refunds

In November, I bought a Charlie Ticket for use on the Green line so I would not have to use tokens. Unfortunately, no one had told me that tickets were not accepted on the green line. By advise of a T agent, I sent a charlie ticket in for a refund in November so that I could buy tokens. After numerous calls (and rude responses including “too bad, people who sent their tickets in June are still waiting for refunds”), I reached the “proper” person. Someone named Barbara? She said that tickets were non-refundable and that T agents were making things up by telling people that they could get refunds. After that, it was announced that Charlie Cards were soon to be released. I found out that Charlie tickets could be changed into Charlie cards. After numerous tries, I reached her again and requested by Charlie Ticket back so I could turn it into a Charlie Card. She told me to call her back on January 31 if I still had not received my charlie ticket. I also tried the MBTA “write to the top”. After an apology letter for not returning my email for several months, I get a response saying that my email has been forwarded. Since then, I have not heard anything from the “write to the top” and I have not been able to reach Barbara. She never returns phone calls and she never picks up. Sometimes her answering machine is completely full. It is now March 14 and still nothing. I was wondering if anyone might be able to give me the contact information of someone who might be able to help me get my refund or my charlie ticket back. It seems that other people on the website are more successful than I am at getting refunds. I am owed $16.25.

Since this fiasco started the T has opened a new Customer Service Department so you might want to contact them and see if they can figure out what is going on. I know the T watches the blog so maybe that will help as well. Let us know what happens

Paul writes

tried to search for these answers on your site, as an FYI.

I was wondering if anyone has posted in regards to the new CHARLIE gates not opening very well or quickly when people come up to them.

and…

has anyone ever commented on the escalator etiquette (stand on the right, unless you are passing) and how the MBTA subways cars could actually fit more people on them, if passengers removed their bags and backpacks from their backs/shoulders?

cheers

The slow faregates have been mentioned several times. There doesn’t seem to be a uniform standard on how they open.

Your other points are common sense which sadly is lost on many riders.

Mike wants to pass on a link

Saw your recent posts about SF, Chicago, and Boston… and thought I would send this link along.

http://www.publicroutes.com

Think of it as mapquest for public transit.

Thanks Mike. I am sure many will find it useful.

and David has some concerns about the blog

Charlie,

I like your Charlie on the MBTA blog, but lately the entire tone has just become nothing but complaints. When I first started reading it I was compelled by the fact that it wasn’t just the classic Boston/MBTA blog where people write in and relentlessly complain about their commutes, etc. If people are so fired up about issues that they think should be fixed on the T they should write the T and if that doesn’t work, their elected representatives, the governor, etc. Get results oriented, or quit complaining.

I liked your piece on the trolley cars you saw in San Fran, and some of the other pieces you have done on the history of the T, how the T runs, etc. Those tend to get responses from people who want to discuss transit, rather than just complain. I know a blog is just somewhere people can post their opinions, but maybe there is something that can be done to set the tone. Alternatively, if the blog is designed to solicit opinions for public action, perhaps you could incorporate an element to actually facilitate that happening, such as on-line petitions, that could actually be conveyed to a public official. Again, I like your blog and appreciate the hard work you put into it. I just hope it does not deteriorate into a message board of complaints that no one follows up on.

Thanks David for the note.

Obviously people tend to write more when something goes wrong but we have encouraged people to tell GOOD T stories as well.

I hope as we evolve that some of your ideas will start to happen. One reason I have been reporting on other cities is to show the MBTA is not alone with problems but perhaps they can learn from how other cities cope with moving people around.

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Filed under CharlieCard, CharlieTicket, MBTA

Last Boeing LRV run will be on Friday March 16th

Charlie is back in Boston exhausted after almost 4 days on Amtrak (more on that later)….. and can report that Iowa is boring

2 months ago we wrote about the end coming for the Boeing LRV’s on the Green Line and that day has arrived.

WEATHER PERMITTING the final Boeing revenue run will leave Riverside at 11 AM on Friday with the return trip scheduled to leave Government Center at 11:40 AM.

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Filed under Green Line, MBTA, T history

Charlie’s Mailbag – March 9th

checking the mailbag at charlieonthembta@gmail.com

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!
-Amy

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 MBTA.com 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 (http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2007/03/music-movies-mayhem-and-metro.html) 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 (http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2005/12/public-transit-via-google.html).

Currently it only contains information for transit agencies in 10 cities, but if you read the FAQ (http://www.google.com/help/faq_transit.html) 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 labs-transit_content@google.com.

The Google Transit Feed Specification http://code.google.com/transit/spec/transit_feed_specification.htm 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.

Harumph

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

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

TransitWorks needs E Line riders to help

from Mac Daniels blog at Boston.com

http://www.boston.com/news/local/startsandstops/blog/2007/03/e_branch_travel.html

E branch Travel Diaries
TransitWorks is recruiting volunteers who ride the Green Line’s E branch and take notes. Volunteers will record the quality of trips on the E branch during the week of April 1 to 7.

Kate Lowe at TransitWorks wrote that participants may even be able to win a real, live Breda car (smiley face thing inserted here). To participate, you must sign-up for a brief training session on Tuesday, March 27th at 3:30 OR 5:30 p.m. in the Longwood Medical Area.

For more information or to sign-up, contact TransitWorks at 617-557-7349 or klowe@transitworks.org.

You can also visit their website at
http://www.transitworks.org/

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Filed under Green Line, MBTA

Charlie’s Mailbag – March 8th

A warm welcome to CTA Tattler readers who might be visiting after reading about us there. Our post on Chicago can be found here Charlie on the CTA

Checking the mailbag at charlieonthembta@gmail.com

Molly writes about the Orange Line

My name is Molly, and this is a copy of the e-mail I just sent “to the
top” of the Orange Line, as the customer comment page will not submit
(which may have more to do with this computer than the T).

Good morning,

The customer comment submission page is either not working or my
browser will not support the submission, so I am writing to you.

This morning, my partner and I were at the Roxbury Crossing T stop to
head to work. The elevator was apparently having some work done, but
there was neither a sign on the elevator nor an update on the
accessibility hotline.

My partner currently has a broken foot, and even without that, she has
mobility issues; she can walk, but stairs are difficult and dangerous
for her. When we asked the T employee on duty, we were told the
elevator wouldn’t be working for an hour and were asked if we actually
needed it, which I believe is not something that is supposed to be
asked.

Fortunately, the man who was working on the elevator got it to work
for us, but we missed two trains while we were waiting and we were
both late to work because of this. I would request that employees be
reminded that just because people are not in wheelchairs does not mean
that they can take stairs and that if an elevator or escalator is out
of service, for any reason, that it be clearly marked and that the
hotline be kept current.

Thank you.

It does seem that with the frigid weather both escalators and elevators are breaking down at an alarming rate. I still can’t believe the T gave the new contract to repair them to the same Finnish company that failed to provide good service in the past.

You might try contacting KONE direct at their US HQs in Illinois

Kelly grumbles about the Framingham-Worcester line…..AGAIN!!!!

I guess I shouldn’t even bothering writing in about the 707am inbound Worcester train this morning that was 15 minutes late and had no heat and no lights? The conductor actually made an announcement as we proceeded into the tunnel at Back Bay to “grab your stuff now, because it’s about to be really dark in here!” Um, shouldn’t all train at least have emergency track lighting? And, did I mention it was 13 degrees out this morning?

Thank you for letting me vent. I have also sent this in to the MBTA, but I don’t expect much. At least you are listening.

Kelly hopefully somebody at the T is reading this.

MBCR and the T can blame CSX for the delays on the line but MBCR is responsible for the heat and lights. The service was never this bad when Amtrak ran the Commuter Rail but they no longer wanted to do business with the T.

Susan froze waiting for an E train last night

Some trains on the E line were running “express” last night around 9pm,
driving past all the above ground stops near Longwood and the MFA. It
was in the single digits with below zero windchills, while people
waited for over 15, 20 minutes for a train….. The best part was
seeing the train skip my stop, leaving people out in the cold, and then
STOP AT THE NEXT STOPLIGHT LESS THAN 30 FEET AWAY.

If the purpose of these express trains is to make up time when they are
running late, I fail to see how doing this on above ground stops helps.
There are still stop lights every block. If you’re going to stop at
those, you might as well pick up some frostbitten passengers while
you’re at it. Seeing an EMPTY train go by without stopping when you are
freezing to death outside should qualify as reckless endangerment on
the T’s part. Of course the response is always “there’s another train
right behind us”, but “right behind us” means another 5 minutes in the
cold tacked onto the 15 you’ve already waited. This is more than just
an inconvenience when you are waiting outside. It is dangerous. In this
kind of frigid weather you can easily get frostbite in less than 30
minutes.

Thanks for posting these stories on your blog. We can only hope that
the T reads them and actually cares.

Yes Susan, we can only hope…..

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Filed under Commuter Rail, Green Line, MBTA, Orange Line, transit other cities