Sunday, February 25, 2007

The Grease Hits the Catenary

The state auditor released a report today blasting the T for its ineptitude surrounding the purchase of the Breda-manufactured "Type 8" streetcars. (See Boston Globe article)

"Ill-advised decisions by the MBTA directly contributed to the faulty acceptance design of these vehicles and their propensity to derail," noted the report, which slaps an "accurate and conservative" figure of $101 million that will be spent in the next 20 years by the MBTA to keep the trolleys on the tracks.

The MBTA argues that the forecast cost is more like $54 million if you subtract routine maintenance costs.

Regardless of the anticipated cost, this is a major blow to the MBTA.

What is most important about this entire debacle, which has dragged on for a decade now, is that the MBTA learn from their obvious mistakes, whatever they may have been, and that such a disaster never happen again.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Fire at Park Street Over

News this morning of another Green Line fire, this time at Park Street.

The Boston Fire Department ordered all electricity shut off, but the fire was apparently out quickly and service has been restored. Sounds to me like an electrical fire, not unlike others that have occurred here and other underground stops on the trolley line.

WBZ has reported that the station was evacuated around 11:15 this morning, but less than an hour later service is back to normal.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Orange Line Stabbing – Unfortunately, No Surprises Here

There was a stabbing at Back Bay station on the Orange Line tonight,
as noted by the all-too-familiar headline on WBZ, "Teen Critical
After Orange Line Stabbing." An 18-year-old was reportedly attacked
and stabbed by a group of men on the platform.

The continued violence on MBTA property is a real concern for
everyone who rides the system, especially in the hardest-hit stations
and areas. It's time the city, the state and the MBTA got their act
together and seriously organized a better, bigger, stronger police
force for the system. I know the State Police don't want to inherit
the Transit Police's problems, but a merger would more likely than
not be in the best interest of the riding public, and that should
outweigh the internal frustrations of merging the forces.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

There IS a God!

After years and years and YEARS of an insufficient "Customer Service" phone service, the MBTA has announced a new, centralized Customer Service Department.

As reported in the Metro and regurgitated by the MBTA, the new department will, on paper, prevent people from being bounced around different offices and representatives who, from experience, weren't always knowledgeable, and weren't always there.

The new system is supposed to open this month, so we should find out by Spring whether it actually works any better than the abysmal system we've endured for oh so very long.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Weather-related Transit Problems

Today has proven to be a tricky one for local transit agencies...

Among the issues:

-- Blue Line is being bused from Maverick to Airport.

-- Green Line B Branch busing between Boston College and Washington Street.

-- Logan Airport has closed as of about 1:00PM while they clear runways.

-- A Fung Wah bus has crashed off the Mass Pike in Allston, no injuries reported.

-- Peter Pan & Bonanza have cancelled all bus service north of New York City.

-- Worcester's Transit Authority has placed all buses on snow routes.

-- Silver Line Waterfront is running on snow route in Boston, as are several other routes.

More later...

Stay warm & stay safe! And check out my previous post below if you haven't already.

Welcome to the NEW CharlieBlog

Welcome to the all-new CharlieBlog!

You can now add comments directly under each post and sign up for feeds of this blog, and I have greater abilities and easier access for updates.

I have transferred all of the posts from the previous edition on here, with their original post dates in parentheses below the title (they are all listed as Feb. 14th on here).

This is the first major step in bringing TransitHistory to a fully open state. In the next few days I'll also be adding new features, a new blog, and the very first Boston Transit eMuseum exhibit!

Enjoy, and have a happy, snowy Valentine's Day!

Site Updates; Greenbush Ceremony; Vandalism; and so forth

(Originally Posted February 13, 2007)

You may have noticed the slimmer logo above. This is a preview of the excitement that's building behind the scenes here at TransitHistory, as I'm working hard on the long-awaited "full" launch of TransitHistory, complete with new blogs, a newsroom, advertising, and the very first Boston Transit eMuseum exhibit. These things are still several days away from implementation, but tomorrow's stowstorm should help give me time to work in it, provided I don't lose power.
In other news, I was lucky enough to attend the Greenbush "Golden Spike" ceremony last week. Aside from drinking Dunkin Donuts hot chocolate and eating several DD donuts at MBTA expense, I got to watch as the transit big wigs of Boston each claimed a bit of personal responsibility for the new Commuter Rail line, which will open "this year." It was a neat little ceremony, held in Braintree where the line splits from the rest of the Old Colony network. We had to park in Weymouth, and were then shuttled by MBTA bus to the undisclosed location, where two engines and a large white tent were set up. Inside, various members of the media, dignitaries, invited guests, and myself watched the speaking portion of the program.

I filmed the whole thing, but YouTube wouldn't let me upload it since it's "too long", though it is only 30 minutes from the first fluff piece to the driving of the golden spikes. (The latter was the most entertaining part, as the Lt. Governor threatened to swing his spike-driver-tool (sorry I'm blanking on the official term) at the rest of the dignitaries. I'll try and at least get that up soon.)

Also of note is the "freebie" they gave out, which is the real reason why I attend these ceremonies: a black-painted railroad spike with "GREENBUSH 2007...." printed in generic type on one side. Both the most unique and the most lame freebie I've gotten yet.

In still other news, last weekend the local media (th included) hyped a convergence of vandals upon the city of Boston. Transit Police were on high alert, and actually busted a few creeps driving around in Braintree who allegedly tagged several subway cars at Forest Hills. The common excuse for graffiti art is that it's "public art" and freedom of speech, but take it from an artist: it isn't. Tagging a subway car or other transit property only ends up costing the fare-paying riders and taxpayers of Massachusetts. If I had to pay to view art, I'd rather go to a gallery.

A few things...

((Originally Posted February, 2007)

I've added a bio of myself (not to be self-promoting or anything) on the right, and de-cluttered this bage by removing the January and December postings and creating archives on the right. My *plan* is to update this blog semi-daily, but this could fluctuate due to my school and work schedules.

I need your input now. I'm working on re-creating this through a blog hosting service, which would allow for comments to be left right below each message, and allow for me to "categorize" each posting (if you're familiar with blogs you know this), but I'm finding it hard to get the layout I want. I like this layout, but it doesn't allow for such interface. Should I keep it like this, and just have people comment in the Forums (I'll create a new thread for each post) or via email, or should I put it on a hosting service, but lose the layout?

And a few other notes about the site in general... I've removed references to the Podcast, eMuseum, and Library from the homepage because, in all honesty, I can't get these completed in the near future. They will come, I assure you, but it may be quite some time. I also revamped the news block to feature an image and 'top story', with several RECENT headlines below. Everything older will be moved to the "newsroom" page, which I'm finishing up now and should be up soon.

PLEASE give me any feedback or comments you have, I want to make this site great, and I had a chance to speak to several people in person recently, and they want it to work out as well. Also, if you're interested in writing a column, doing an online "exhibit", donating photos, writing, or anything else, please email me. Thanks for visiting and reading the CharlieBlog!

New Fitchburg station could cause big problems

(Originally Posted February 2, 2007)

The recent proposal to extend the Fitchburg Commuter Rail line to West Fitchburg / "Wachusett" is great for commuters who currently drive down Route 2 to stations like Leominster and Littleton, or all the way to Boston, but for those who already ride the line, such an increase in ridership could spell disaster. As is stated in the Sentinel & Enterprise article, what should be addressed first is an increase in speed and reduction of trip times on the line. As it is, Fitchburg to Boston takes at least 90 minutes. A few years ago, "express" trains were added, which bypass inner stops between South Acton and Porter Square, but these trips are only about 10-15 minutes shorter than normal. These were a start, but if you add anticipated increased ridership, trains would be jammed and the line would reach capacity. We (I live and commute on this line) need more express trains, we need double-deck cars, and we need a more uniform schedule that doesn't feature 2 or 3 hour gaps in service to the outer stations. I know this will take a LOT of work, and at this time they don't have the crews or equipment reliability to do this, but these issues should be addressed before any extension to the line is made.

"Hairstyles of the '70s," or "How not to act when your actions have disrupted thousands of commuters for hours and cost the city of Boston $1 Million"

(Originally Posted February 1, 2007)

Last night, I recall thinking, "Man, that poor artist, he was just trying to make a living! I hope he doesn't get in too much trouble." Being an artist and a college student, I could relate. But today's, umm, let's call it unusual, press conference changed that sentiment a bit. They shouldn't have said anything to begin with. What SHOULD have happened was that their lawyer read a short statement and everyone go on their way. Unfortunately, their 'performance' soured any feelings of remorse from those who were stranded in traffic Wednesday morning. Say what you will of the city's response to these "devices", the two men who hung them up should have at least pretended to care. Maybe if they had to pay to refill everyone's gas tanks and reimburse all lost transit revenue, they would give half a damn about their fellow Bostonians.

More of the Same

(Originally Posted January 4, 2007)

Today I was in town for the Deval Patrick inauguration, an excuse for me to ride around the system for the first time since the big fare increase earlier this week. It seems that many have already adjusted to some of the changes, but there is a long road ahead before everyone comes to terms with the more drastic ones.
Most notably today, the D line seems to have two very different personalities -- Fenway to the Brooklines, where there were two MBTA officials at each station monitoring the doors for outbound fare collection; and the rest of the line, where not one MBTA employee was seen even near any of the stations, aside from Riverside. The result? Continuing "free" outbound fares. I disembarked at Newton Corner to run an errand, and when I got back on to head for Riverside, I was the only one who paid (and I had a pass). Everyone else got on the rear doors. No announcement was made. Chestnut Hill was much the same, except here NOBODY paid a fare, with some walking right past the farebox. After closing the doors, the driver made an announcement "announcing" the collection of outbound fares, and to "please" come up and pay. One person did, everyone else remained hidden. The train pulled away with no further comment.

I do pity all of the trolley and bus operators who must enforce policies beyond their control, but the lack of presence at the outer D line stations is concerning. I had thought at first that this Proof-of-Payment business wouldn't last till Summer, but after experiencing it first hand, I'm not sure it will make the Spring.

Double Feature: "Excuses, Excuses" and "Menino, Menino"

(Originally Posted December 14, 2006)

Welcome to the long-awaited (and greatly belated) first entry in the CharlieBlog. I'll take a moment to thank our mention in the Bedford Minuteman for forcing me to take a few moments away from writing a paper and being sick to make this site look somewhat presentable. For those who read the Minuteman article and have bravely clicked on from the home page, I'd like to welcome you, and apologize for the mess! I'm planning on rolling out the Podcast and some other big features over the next month or so, after finals. Please drop me a line with any comments or suggestions, as well, or you can post in the forums. For those interested in the artistic portion of my mention, I also have a "fetus" of an artists' website up at There's not much there now, but go ahead and bookmark it so you'll be pleasantly surprised a year from now when you stumble across the link. Now on to the topic at hand...
Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino announced this week his plans to sell the current urban tundra known as City Hall Plaza and create a new, stylish, and undoubtedly expensive City Hall on the current site of the Bank of America Pavilion. This is all nice and good, but one aspect I have yet to see addressed is the proposed move's effect on public transit in both areas, specifically the soon-to-be-renovated Government Center station, and the just-completed Silver Line Waterfront.

For Government Center, the changes could be as simple as a name change to whatever the new complex is named (The Mayor Thomas M. Menino Center?), but it could affect the entire design of the upcoming renovations. Interestingly, the renovations have been delayed, perhaps in response to a possible change in design of City Hall Plaza. As of right now, the official plans call for a new glass headhouse, completing a "ship" themed light, glass, and metal structure that currently exists as "masts", benches, and an overhang on the Northwest side of the plaza. Were the new development to encompass the entire brick-covered area of the property, this design could be altered or alltogether scrapped, and I would hope the resulting changes and redesigns would be paid for by Menino and/or the developer, rather than the taxpayers.

As for the Silver Line, the current station nearest the proposed City Hall site, Silver Line Way, would almost certainly have to be expanded, as right now the site is hardly handicap accessible via public transit. A more possible alternative is a new "branch" of the Silver Line to serve the new City Hall complex (The Mayor Thomas M. Menino City Hall Building?), or an alteration of the existing Boston Marine Industrial Park routing, but because the line is essentially a bus route, these changes should be relatively easy to initiate, save for constructing a new station at the City Hall complex and updating the system maps to reflect the change.

We'll be tracking the developments in this interesting project, and maybe even dig for some answers on our own. Given past government-initiated construction projects, I expect we'll have plenty of time to scrounge together all the details.

Layout By Blogcrowds