Tuesday, May 29, 2007


Arborway over on Universal Hub rode the E line at just the right time today-- to get caught in an involuntary busing, and to snap a blurry photo of the reason why...

Monday, May 28, 2007

Brakes on for Fall River & New Bedford

The two bits of news didn't quite make sense in the first place: Gov. Patrick's announcement that he wants to extend commuter rail to New Bedford and Fall River, and a high-profile report on the billions of dollars it will take just to maintain the existing system.

As noted by AP writer Steve LeBlanc in Saturday's Globe (and several other spots), and in the words of the old standard, "somethin's gotta give," and it might be the commuter rail:

Critics say that, coming off the nearly $14.8 billion Big Dig and faced with a crumbling transportation infrastructure, the last thing the state can afford is a pricey new commuter rail line.

And at the Statehouse, some lawmakers are pushing for a moratorium on all future MBTA rail expansions, including the New Bedford project.

"Rather than promising the people of New Bedford and Fall River that we are going to be spending a billion-four, the priority of the administration should be making sure the bridges and roads we have right now are drivable and useable," said Senate Republican Leader Richard Tisei, R-Wakefield.

Tisei is pushing for the moratorium. He points to a recent report that found Massachusetts will need to come up with $15 to $19 billion in new revenues over the next two decades just to maintain the state's existing roads, bridges and transportation infrastructure.
The other side gets its say, too:
Steve Smith, executive director of the Southeastern Regional Planning and Economic Development District, is also upbeat, although he concedes there are still fiscal challenges for the project.

"The argument that we can't afford it, I can understand that, but in some ways it rings a little hollow because they've afforded it everywhere else in eastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island," he said pointing to other MBTA commuter rail lines. "There is a question of equity."

He also said that steadily increasing traffic on Route 24 may end up forcing the issue. Since 1984, traffic has tripled, he said, and shows few signs of slowing.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Proud Charlie Card Carrier?

Jason Elliott Benda, who appears to be in Chicago, is, by his own admission, feeling a little geeky pride that he now has a Charlie Card (or maybe a Charlie Ticket? He just calls it "fare media")... even though he hasn't used it yet.

(image from here.)

A Greenhouse for Canton Junction?

The T and the town of Canton are talking over three design proposals to enclose the Canton Junction station. The currently-open-air station is where the Stoughton line joins the Providence tracks, so any enclosure has to cover not just one set of tracks but two, as well as some pretty big pedestrian ramps and bridges.

Each of the three proposed designs would "enclose the ramps and walkways currently in place within a steel and glass enclosure in an attempt to increase safety and make the platforms more aesthetically pleasing."

Sounds like a greenhouse, eh? The designers hope not:
The station, which would remain un-manned, would protect passengers and walkways from the weather, and would include vents to eliminate a greenhouse effect in the glass structure. “Alternative JF” also includes an outdoor canopy around all entrances, and Del Vecchio asked that additional entrances and exits be considered to assist rush hour passengers.
Selectman John Connolly is quoted as saying "it's like painting a pig's ear."

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Bumping elbows in Roslindale

The Herald notes that more commuters catching the train in Roslindale Village (aka Rozzie Square) is one reason parking is hard to find in the area:
...[T]hose in attendance at the meeting said the lot fills up before 9 a.m. as commuters from other areas come to use the lot. Police Captain James Hasson suggested possibly closing the lot until 9 a.m., but he acknowledged the legality of such a plan would have to be checked because it is a municipal lot.

In a previous meeting, similar concerned parties offered recommendations that were reiterated, including:
· Encourage the use of the MBTA lot for owners and employees and address safety concerns of the lot. ...

All parties agreed that there are too many people coming from outside of the area to park in Roslindale so they can take the commuter rail.
Is this part of a Roslindale Renaissance?

An intersting historical note, probably not new to the railfans out there: Roslindale was the scene of the Bussey Bridge collapse in 1887, one of the first rail disasters in the U.S., which prompted regular inspections of bridges.

(By the way, a quick hello since this is my first post. Thanks to Mike for letting me join in. I plan to pull in some of the more interesting (to me) news and blog items each day. If you have a suggestion, feel free to post a comment.)

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Stand Clear of the Closing Doors, Please

We've all seen it happen, but when the doors closed on a Boxborough man at State station Monday, it wasn't due to the guard's quick flips of the door control.

According to multiple sources, the doors of an Orange Line train closed unexpectedly, without warning, trapping the man between the doors, with his briefcase and laptop outside the train. When the train's brakes released, he handed it to a good samaritan on the platform, who promised to meet him at Back Bay with his bag (and he did - kudos to him!). But this wasn't the end.

When the train rumbled in to Downtown Crossing, the doors didn't open at all. Passengers began to panic, pressing the emergency boxes in the cabin, but getting no response. Eventually, an alert employee noticed the passengers banging on the doors and came into the car from the next one to open the doors manually. The MBTA has since taken the entire trainset out of service for investigation.

Two key issues arise with this incident: Why did the doors close without warning, and how was the train able to move with the door still ajar; and Why were the emergency calls ignored? (The MBTA says all of the boxes on the train were working properly).

This may come down to operator error, but what bothers me about this is, if all accounts are accurate, the train began to move with the man trapped in the door, meaning the door was not fully closed and locked. The train should not be able to move when the doors are not all closed and locked, and the guard should get some sort of indication that they are not all closed. My guess here is, given the lack of warning and quick closing of the doors, some sort of malfunction caused this whole incident, giving no indication to the crew or the train itself that the doors were not all closed. At Downtown Crossing, there may not have been any indication that the doors hadn't opened.

As far as the emergency intercoms, passengers are told repeatedly to report anything suspicious or problematic, and to use the emergency intercoms to do so, but if these calls don't go through, or if they are ignored, then the boxes are completely pointless and leave passengers disconnected from vital help in a dangerous situation. This issue may be resolved with either employee re-training, or closer inspection and testing of the boxes across all lines (they are rather old, and maybe it is time to replace them with more modern equipment).

This is an issue that needs to be addressed quickly by the T, and action needs to be taken based on their findings. My best guess would be that this leads to a fleet-wide inspection of door-related equipment, ensuring that all failsafes and systems are working properly. This incident could have easily been more serious than it was, and I hope that all of the press that it managed to receive will mean a prompt response from the T.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Is no news good news?

Well, there hasn't been much going on in terms of the MBTA in the past few days, and I suppose this can be taken as good news.

Aside from the peculiar 'terrorist librarian' at Alewife, no major service problems or changes have occurred lately, which could be due to the transition of seasons. We've escaped the cold and snow of winter, but haven't yet entered the A/C-crippling heat of summer. So spring at the T is a breeze.

I'll take this opportunity to update y'all on the status of a few things at TH. I recently took over as the administrator of The Forums, relieving CS of his duties there. He will now head up our advertising & PR campaigns, including recruitment for our Forums and site promotions.

The Forums remain steady, and I thank you all for your continued posting. You've all made it the place for uncensored conversation about all modes of transit in Boston, and we hope to expand this concept (as well as TH in general) to other transit-rich cities around the country. (Email me if you're from another city and are interested in helping!)

This summer, I am planning to launch an ambitious and exciting multimedia endeavor that I hope will be both beneficial and educational to Boston railfans, commuters, and residents in general. Stay tuned for more...

Thanks again!


Thursday, May 3, 2007

Amtrak vs. Rail Crew; Forums Update

This morning, an Amtrak train struck a rail crew car near Back Bay station, leading to the death of the flagman due to a heart attack. This is the second train vs. crew incident in recent weeks, and leads to many more questions about crew safety on the MBCR/Amtrak network. Why was the train allowed to pass into the same block as an active crew team? Had the crew filed for appropriate protections while working on the busy line? It is unfortunate that this has lead to another death, but hopefully something good will come from this by way of policy review...
For more on the incident, visit the Globe

Also, I'd like to update you all on the forums situation. This morning, the forums went down yet again, however a message was available on the BoardZero home page stating that they are aware of the problems, and think they are fixed, but are testing their system now. Hopefully this means The Forums will be back up and running for good later today. I'll refrain from opening the "backup" forums in anticipation of the BoardZero ones reopening today, but I'll keep you posted!



Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Forums Information: Update 11:45PM

Okay, so leave it to BoardZero to make asses of us all.

The forums are back (again), hopefully for good.

We are monitoring the situation, and I have set up a "contingency" forum if there is another prolonged outage.

I'd like to thank you all for your patience during these frustrating outages, and your continued support of TransitHistory!


Mike Prescott
Owner, TransitHistory

Charleston Sargeant
Marketing & PR Chief, TransitHistory

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Hot and Crowded as Hell

This week's "Starts & Stops" column breaks the news of hot cars on the Commuter Rail and people not paying fares on the Green Line. I nearly dropped my coffee when I read these startling accounts.

First up is the news that MBCR plans to finally do something about its notoriously-malfunctioning heating, air conditioning and circulation systems on Commuter Rail cars. For the first time in over ten years the full fleet will get a full makeover, which will also include better training for mechanics to (ideally) prevent "hot cars" from plaguing the system during the summer. The price of a more tolerable commute? Over $1 Million. I suppose it's the price we pay for comfort.

Next up is a scene anyone who has set foot on a Green Line car ever is familiar with - the free ride vs. on time service conundrum. On one hand, we have the revenue department and fare-paying passengers, who would like to see every last little sneak pay their fare at every station along the crowded and delay-plagued trolley lines. On the other hand, those on board who have somewhere to be (or don't like sitting or standing in a hot, crowded trolley for an hour), or the operator who'd like to actually complete a trip on time, often like to open all doors and waive fares when the platform is packed from end-to-end.

Stations once notorious for such activity, like Prudential and Lechmere, have eliminated the practice thanks to AFC gates. Now it's the street-level stops that bear the brunt of this issue, and its something that has become even worse with AFC and the implementation of outbound fares on the street. Quite often, operators will still open all doors on the outbound trips, merely suggesting that everyone pay their fare over the PA system. Few people ever do.

So what can be done about Green Line overcrowding? Not a whole lot. At stations like Longwood Medical Area, when Boston Latin gets out, or Fenway, when a Sox game is over, crowds will always fill the small platforms, and collecting fares from everyone would not only be a grueling hours-long process, it would pose a safety hazard. Center-of-street stops like Longwood Medical Area have no room for long lines to wind off the platform, and busy ones like Fenway would become unruly and breed crime or violence.

The unfortunate solution to this problem is a "more of the same" approach. Though new portable card=tapping devices do help in moderately crowded situations, a packed to the gills platform will remain so until a train comes to gobble up the people on it, and this can only be effectively done by opening all doors and eating the unpaid fares of the non-passholding passengers.


Boston Globe Photo
I'd also like to welcome TH's own Charleston "CS" Sargeant to the CharlieBlog. He and Ron Newman will be contributing to the blog with me, hopefully making this a current and interesting blog!

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