Saturday, December 23, 2006

Where will the new Green Line stops be in Somerville?

The Somerville Transportain Equity Partnership has been working to improve T service in Somerville. Since it appears the Green Line will be expanded to run into Somerville and possibly Medford they are concerned on where the new stops should be. This group has done their homework.
Where should the new Green Line stops be? Explore the possibilities using our interactive map, including aerial photos of each potential stop.
View interactive map

The MTA of 50 years ago

Thanks to for the tip

Mike posts a pre-1955 map of Boston's rapid-transit system.

I've seen this map before at the Trolley Museum in Maine and it shows the then MTA as it was after the Blue Line was extended to Revere in the early 1950's.

The map shows in detail the old elevated Orange Line which is far different than the modern version. This was the MTA the Kingston Trio sang about back in 1959.

UPDATE 12/23 "adding value to Charlie Cards if you only ride a bus"

Was on the #66 bus this morning and started talking to the driver about the CharlieCards. I told him I was happy to find out you can add value to the card and his reply was "on the radio they are telling us not to allow people to do that, otherwise we will have long lines"

He also told me that out of garage (The Cabot) while some of the boxes are programmed to allow adding value, others have been disabled.

So I would suggest that we all email the superintendent at Cabot to find out what the policy is going to be.

Carrie Dubose

Superintendent Cabot Bus Garage

275 Dorchester Ave.South Boston, MA 02127

By email:

One thing is clear. If riders all decide to fill their cards on the buses instead of retail locations the boarding times are going to be long. It took me about 30 seconds to load $5 on a card to test the system.

Also everyone should keepin mind that whatever you deposit into the farebox will go on the card, there is no way to get change on a bus.

previous posts
UPDATE 12/21 "adding value to Charlie Cards if you only ride a bus"

adding value to Charlie Cards if you only ride a bus

Nice work if you can get it

The T is hiring customer service agents. They are accepting applications until January 8th. The starting salary is $45,998.00

Click here for the full posting

Friday, December 22, 2006

MBTA converts final station (Fields Corner) to Charlie

It was the Friday before Christmas and all through the subway system not a token was needed, not even for Santa Claus.

MBTA: Driver, three passengers assaulted on bus

so much for holiday spirit

MBTA: Driver, three passengers assaulted on bus

The T's love affair with SIEMENS AG

For reasons only the Board of Directors of the MBTA can tell us the T has been using Siemens AG of Germany as a major vendor on the Silver Line, Blue Line and the GPS system on the entire bus fleet. To say the least Siemens record on T projects has been spotty.

The new Blue Line cars were supposed to be in service 2 years ago but the project has been delayed over and over again. A month ago the Globe wrote of the latest problems with the cars that include leaking doors and smoking air-conditioning systems. The T board approved purchase of the new cars in November 2001, with delivery of the first ones scheduled for January 2004. Siemens was hoping the Blue Line contract would give them a foothold in the United States subway market so one can assume they lowballed the bid to the T to get the contract. Once again the T is learning that you get what you pay for. For whatever reason you never see experienced subway manufacturers like ALSTOM in the Boston market. Coming on top of the BREDA fiasco on the Green Line you just have to scratch your head at how this continues to happen to the T. The Siemens website proudly tells us about the new Blue Line trains and their specs but doesn't mention when they plan to deliver them.

For the Silver Line Siemens touts these improvements (PDF) On paper it seems wonderful and I'm sure their salesman did a fine job selling them to the T but the problem is they have never worked as designed. The T's public response last April was "most of the technology developed for reliable and efficient service on the Silver Line is operational today -- sort of." But when it comes to letting riders know when the next bus is due, ''the MBTA has not been satisfied with the accuracy of the 'real-time arrival' messages," he said.
The contractor is working on fixing flaws in the software, said MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo. If they can be fixed, the ''next bus arrival" information will soon be displayed.

But not only did Siemens get the contract for the Silver Line they also got the contract for the GPS system for the entire bus fleet. The system is called TRANSITMASTER and as you can see from the company website it is supposed to do everything but drive the bus. Next time you are on a T bus you can see the Transitmaster display to the drivers left. It tells him at a glance how early or late he is and if he is early he is supposed to adjust. It also runs the automatic announcements (Loud & Clear - ADA Announcements ) It would be nice if the computer could be taught to pronounce Lechmere correctly.

I have spoken to several drivers who said the original test vendor for GPS did a much better job but was shutout by Siemens when the entire system went out to bid. That vendor was a company known as Clever Devices who did have the test contract with the MBTA a few years ago. They currently have contracts with Chicago, Washington D.C., Baltimore, Dallas, Long Island, Pittsburgh, Santa Monica, San Francisco, Sacramento and elsewhere. In Chicago the computer announcements sound human with a pleasant male voice. The SF Muni now ever offers real time status on their website for select transit routes. Will Siemens get it to work in Boston? We can only hope but the Silver Line is 4 years old and it hasn't been fixed.

Sadly as long as the MBTA keeps awarding contracts to the low bidder we the riders are going to suffer. In any event the T should make sure they never allow Siemens to bid ever again. They promise well but they simply do not deliver. Three strikes and out.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

thoughts while riding the T today - 12/21

While on the Red Line leaving Charles I saw a banner on the old Charles Street Jail touting the new name of the hotel being built in the renovated jail. THE LIBERTY HOTEL LOL

RANT OF THE DAY Is it just me or are the destination signs on the Green Line trolleys just too small to read? The Breda cars have them as do the Type 6 cars ( the 7's were never converted) It really is in issue these days as you have no idea what train is going to be on which track at Park. Today I saw a Heath St car loading where the Riverside usually does.

I use San Francisco has an example, you can read their signs from a distance and it is much easier with a black background and yellow letters compared to the yellow background and black letters the Green Line uses.

now can you transfer funds from a CharlieTicket to a CharlieCard (but)

As of today December 21st you can now transfer any remaining funds on a CharlieTicket to a CharlieCard but to do so you have to go to the new CharlieCard service center at Downtown Crossing and it will be open Monday-Friday from 8AM to 6 PM.

In Chicago Santa rides the L

The Chicago Transit Authority once again in 2006 operated their Holiday Train starting before Thanksgiving and ending today. I had the chance to ride it 2 years ago and it was amazing to see people standing on the platform smiling as the train came into the station. It operates as a regular revenue train complete with Santa and elves.

from the CTA website
The spectacular train is an amazing sight - during the daytime and at night. The outside of the six-car train is adorned with oversized garland and seasonal images. Thousands of twinkling lights outline the shape of the train and windows, with even more lights running across the tops of the cars.
Interiors of the cars are decked out with thousands of multi-colored lights, red bows, garland, and red and green overhead lighting. The hand poles are wrapped to look like candy canes.
As the train pulls into each station, Santa waves to the boarding passengers from his sleigh on an open-air flatcar that carries his reindeer and decorated holiday trees.

I would love to see the T do something like this.

YouTube has a few clips of the train in action and if you have the time this clip in particular captures the goodwill the train provides

Chicago Transit Authority's "Twas The Night Before...09:42
The popular Christmas story is told with the HOLIDAY TRAIN of Chicago's CTA in the background. The train, decorated with festive lights, makes the rounds of all of the CTA routes. Share in the surprise when it pulls into stations and pass The popular Christmas story is told with the HOLIDAY TRAIN of Chicago's CTA in the background. The train, decorated with festive lights, makes the rounds of all of the CTA routes. Share in the surprise when it pulls into stations and passengers board and are treated to a not-so-usual "L" train ride.

and I have embedded a shorter clip HO HO HO

UPDATE 12/21 "adding value to Charlie Cards if you only ride a bus"

An update to my post from 12/20 concerning the new fareboxes on the buses. Reader Ron has posted a link from the T that shows you can reload (add value) to a CharlieCard on a bus.

This is the FIRST I have heard about the magic "white button" on the bus farebox. I have asked several drivers if you could add value to the card on the bus and they all said no. But this is a perfect example of how blogging can help us by sharing info. The T has done a horrible job promoting this feature.

This will really help speed up boarding times... NOT

Using on-board fareboxes to add stored-value can hold up boarding lines and cause transit delays. Consider loading value at full-service in-station fare vending machines or retail sales terminals prior to boarding.

Touch the white button at the top of the farebox to begin adding value to your CharlieCard.

Tap your CharlieCard to the black card target and follow the directions.

Insert money—fareboxes accept cash, coins and even old T-tokens—and press the white button again to 'accept' the transaction.

Tap your CharlieCard again, a second time, to register the value you just added and you're done.

The good, the bad and the ugly (especially on the Green Line)

With the fare increase that goes into effect January 1st approaching there are going to be some changes that the T really hasn't spread the word about. Now the good news is that riders getting on the D line inbound beyond Reservoir Station will no longer have to pay $3 to board the train. The fare will be $1.70 on a CharlieCard or $2.00 cash or CharlieTicket. Riders on the Red Line will no longer have to pay the exit fares in Quincy and Braintree. The cost of the combo pass now named LinkPass drops to $59. That is good.

Now comes the bad and ugly. Green Line riders have for years enjoyed free outbound travel at stops beyond the subway. Under the new plan the freebie rides are gone, you will have to pay the same $1.70/$2.00 to return. This is going to cause delays especially on the B line on Commonwealth. Right now all the doors open and people can exit and board swiftly. However since the T now plans to charge for the ride outbound does this mean they will not open all the doors? Perhaps this is another use for the Validator.

Perhaps the T is planning to follow in the steps of the San Francisco Muni that has what is called a "proof of payment" plan.

The Muni plans works like this (MuniMetro is very similar to our Green Line)

Proof of Payment (POP) is in effect on all Muni Metro lines.
Always ask for a transfer on all Muni lines except Cable Cars.
Don't board a bus without paying your fare or showing a pass/transfer/fare receipt.
"Proof of Payment" is physical proof that you have already paid your Muni fare for a particular trip.
You must have valid Proof of Payment when riding on a POP line or while within the paid area of Muni stations.
Your Proof of Payment must be valid for the duration of your entire trip within the Muni Metro System, including time spent within the paid area of stations or waiting at station platforms.

Failure to produce Proof of Payment when asked by a Muni Fare Inspector will result in a large fine.
If you have Proof of Payment, you may board a Metro streetcar by any door.
You must board buses and historic streetcars by the front door, whether or not you have Proof of Payment.
To obtain Proof of Payment, you can:
Buy a pass, passport, or ticket ahead of time, or
At surface stops, pay when entering the front door of a single vehicle or the front door of the first car of a train.
West Portal through Embarcadero Stations: At subway stations pay at a faregate before entering the gated area or platform. Fares cannot be paid on Metro streetcars in subway stations.
Don't get stuck entering with a transfer/fare receipt that will later expire while you are waiting on a platform or riding in a vehicle. If you are not sure your transfer/fare receipt will last, then pay for a fresh transfer/fare receipt on the surface or at a faregate in the subway.

My hunch is this is where the Validator is coming into play. Riders on the Green Line are going to need to show a receipt when asked. Otherwise you can expect major delays on the Green Line especially the "B" line when BU is holding classes.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The Green Line Validator coming to a stop near you

Mac Daniel touched on this on December 10th

We all have our brand new spiffy monthly passes that simply say Charlie Card on them. So for those commuters on the Green Line that have been using the "Show-n-Go" how is one supposed to prove they have a pass embedded on the smart card. Well the people at Scheidt & Bachmann have come up with a solution. It is called the Validator. The T has installed these machines in the new vending machine sheds they have installed along the Green Line. Apparently the way it is supposed to work is before you board the train you tap your card on the validator and it will spit out a receipt that you are supposed to show. It will be interesting to see how this works out on January 2nd.

This is what the validator looks like. Fun Fun Fun......

adding value to Charlie Cards if you only ride a bus

While playing with the new website I was looking at where Charlie Card holders can add value to their cards if they are not at a subway station. I can already see that many bus riders are going to be either inconvenienced or be paying more for a bus (assuming they don't have a monthly pass)

For example look at Cambridge locations. (BTW will someone tell the T that Government Center Station, Suffolk Bookstore, Sullivan Square MBTA Station and Charles/Massachusetts General Hospital Station are NOT in Cambridge!!!) Notice no Store 24 or 7-11's on the list. I asked a clerk at the Harvard Sq 7-11 and she said "we not doing that, no way".

Prediction of what will happen on January 2nd, the first workday of the Charlie Card era. Riders are going to show their plastic card to the bus driver and then try to pay at the farebox only to find they have to pay a higher fare AND won't get their transfer. It won't be pretty folks I can guarantee it.

smiles at the Harvard T station

This banjo player has been a fixture in the subway for years and he was bringing smiles this weekend in Harvard Sq

MBTA new website back on line 12/20

The new improved MBTA website is back up and running as of Wednesday morning.
It shows a great deal of promise though it appears at this time you are still unable to get service alerts by e-mail or text messages. The Google maps are very clear. For example I have been testing the interactive map on the 66 Harvard-Dudley route. The map shows every stop along the route and when you click the stop you intend to use it shows you the due time of the next bus.
Route 66 (see it on this map)Union Sq Allston Via Brookline -->
Closest stop:
Harvard St & Kent St Times: 02:18 PM,
Hopefully it will soon display the arrival times of several buses so one can plan.
Another plus is the schedule now shows the times for every run instead of the old system where a star would indicate 10 minutes or less.
Overall the new site at first glance seems to be an improvement.
As far as Charlie Cards go there is of yet no provision for adding value to an existing card online but I am told this will appear after the first of the year.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

New MBTA website still ill

The conversion to Automatic Fare Collection (AFC)

It has been 18 months since the first AFC equipment showed up at Airport Station and finally most of the system has been converted. Will it work? The answer will come in January.

I have talked to disabled and senior riders who have used the smart card for the past year and for the most part they seemed happy with it once they got the hang of the vending machines. Come the first of the year senior and TAP riders will also be able to use the smart card to buy a monthly pass as will the rest of us with our brand new Charlie Cards.

But I have seen signs of possible trouble ahead and phone calls and e-mails to T staffers have gone unanswered. I have used AFC equipment in several cities but am very familiar with Chicago. Chicago has been using a smart card called Chicago Card now for several years and the system worked well when I used it. Chicago also offers lower fares and transfers when using the smart card. Chicago also has a system on buses where riders with a card can hit a touch pad on the left side of the bus upon entering while persons paying cash or have a ticket wait for the fare box. This speeds things along during boarding but the T does not plan to do this.

Chicago like New York also has special readers so a rider can check the balance on the fare card WITHOUT tying up a vending machine. The designer of the Charlie Card system Scheidt & Bachmann does not plan to do that. I also find it interesting that a search of the Scheidt & Bachman website has very little information on the "MBTA Boston Projekt" which was supposed to be a showcase for the company. It only has information on the new Smart Card Validator (MBTA Boston Projekt) which will appear on the Green Line in January.

I am interested in your comments about the new system as the more feedback we can get it will become harder for the T to ignore our complaints.

Much more to come

Welcome fellow T riders

With the Charlie Card era about to be unleashed on us in January and service seems to be at an all time low I decided to start a blog that concerns the MBTA and hopefully put a little pressure on the MBTA.

I have traveled on enough public transit systems elsewhere to see that the T is pretty clueless in running a transit system. What I hope to do is point out things the T does wrong compared to other cities and provide links to document that.

Et tu Charlie?