Friday, January 19, 2007

from Charlie's Mailbag - January 19th

more comments from the mailbag at

Chris writes about the fare vending machines at Mattapan

We have two of them, in a shed. An unheated shed.

When they get cold, they get very stupid and unresponsive.

The T employee who was there a week or so ago, to demonstrate how to
charge up a CharlieCard, told me that the machines at Lechmere
Station were badly affected by the rather mild cold weather at the

As the temperature the last two nights was in the very low two digit
range, I'm wondering how the Mattapan, Lechmere, and other exposed to
the weather/semi-exposed machines fared.

I've noticed that a lot of people here in Mattapan who use the #30
and #31 buses are using the CharlieCard, by about 2 to 1 vs. the
CharlieTicket. With some poor souls still feeding dollar bills and/or
coins into the farebox.

I'm sure part of it is the pass on a card option, however, given the
slowness of the Ticket reader vs. the speed of the Card reader, I
suspect that is a major selling point. You get on the bus so much
quicker with a CharlieCard.

I don't know if it is a problem or not. I am sure part of the reason the Blue Line was selected to get the machines first was to test them in outdoor conditions and to see if there were problems. I know the morning I really had a problem with my card at Harvard the station was very, very cold.

Kevin writes about smaller buses on the 502/504 express

Hey Charlie --

Love your web site. I live in Newton Corner and both my wife and I ride the express buses into Boston every day. She takes the 502 into Copley, and I take the 504. I love having the express bus in Newton Corner, because it's great to leave our car at home, and the presence of the buses was a major factor in our decision to move to Newton Corner.

For the past few weeks, though, I have noticed that the MBTA has stopped running the "accordion-style" buses that bend in the middle. Those buses are obviously far larger than the smaller buses, and the 502/504 routes certainly need the larger buses. Every day for the past two weeks, the bus has been packed to the gills, standing-room only. All of the seats fill up at the first stop - passengers that board after the first stop have to stop, uncomfortably, for the entire 10 minute trek into Boston. With the heat on at full blast, I often emerge from a crowded bus, angry and sweaty. A great way to start the day.

Do you know why the MBTA has stopped running the larger buses on the express routes? I love that now my fares have gone up over 25% (from a $70 combo pass to an $89 inner express pass!), and service has deteriorated to the point where I never get a seat on the bus. It's enough to make me consider driving to work again.


Newton MA
Good question and hopefully somebody will post the answer.

Barry writes from Florida
I'm in Florida for the month, reading about the problems with the T fareboxes, etc. I think you're doing a great job...keep it up.

One think I wrote to the Patriot Ledger about several months ago, but to my knowledge has never been addressed, is the lack of signage...and wrong the Quincy Adams station. If you drive up to the station, there is not one sign saying that the station is Quincy Adams. And there is no signage telling you that you can only enter the garage from Rt. 3! Also...half of the signs at that exit say "T Station Quincy Center" and the other half say "T Station Quincy Adams"! I think the ones that say "Quincy Center" are meant to direct you to the center of Quincy, but since there is also a T station by that name, one would assume that the T station they are directing you to is Quincy Center. Truly amazing.
I just got confused reading that let alone trying to figure it out when driving, I will pass that on to the Massachusetts Highway Department who is in charge of signage.

Keep the comments coming and hopefully we can get some answers.


Anonymous said...

I too had that same problem understanding the signage at Quincy Adams.

Charlie, if you find a way to contact MassHighway that actually works, please post it here. I've tried to contact them several times and have never gotten a response.

Anonymous said...

To answer Kevin's question, the longer buses have been re-assigned to route 32 in Hyde Park. Of course there's no change in frequency to offset the reduced capacity...