Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Observations while riding the T (January 23)

A reminder that you are invited to share your "T story" just drop an e-mail to charlieonthembta@gmail.com

Boston is in the fourth week of the CharlieCard era and we are adjusting. There haven't been as many problems the past week or so as riders have adjusted. The biggest single change I have noticed is that on the #66 bus I would estimate that 90% of riders are now using either a CharlieCard or CharlieTicket to be able to transfer.

The Green Line and the new POP(Proof of Payment) system is still having growing pains.Today at Fenway station a fare inspector had me tap my card and I boarded in the middle and still the motorwoman (car #3626) wanted me to come to the front. The train had already left the station and I told her I had tapped my card with a fare inspector but she demanded I tap it again. Since I have a monthly pass it was only a minor hassle for me but what if I had a fare deducted from "stored value"?

Other blogs are reporting similar problems today, here are links to Bad Transit and Universal Hub where other riders are telling their tales. In the evening most inbound Riverside trains are only opening the front door causing longer lines at the fareboxes. That appears to be going against the memo issued to drivers at the beginning of the month but perhaps they have updated it since. I wish they would let the passengers in on what the policy is.

In the subway there seems to be less confusion as riders get used to the FVM's (Fare Vending Machines) but a CSA at Harvard tells me they still are having problems with people buying commuter rail tickets by mistake. I am also amazed that after nearly a month the T has not put printed decals on the FVM's with information on how much a fare is. Remember the machine doesn't tell you what a ride costs. I also would like the T to follow the lead of Washington and Chicago and put a CharlieCard decal on the card reader as I have seen many people who still don't understand the black target. Putting Charlie's face on the target would help solve the problem.

The computerized train arrival announcements seem to be having problems downtown for example I haven't heard one at Park Street for several days. Luckily I know the secret of the track light that goes off when a train arrives at Downtown Crossing.

One random observation. Where have the T's characters gone? When you ride a train in Chicago or New York you are almost always "entertained" by a cast of characters. New York has the women selling cheap trinkets from car to car, Chicago has their shell game schemers, San Francisco has its poets. But for some reason the Boston system doesn't have them anymore.

I remember one in particular who used to be a regular on the Red and Green Lines. He would board the train and start whistling "Yankee Doodle" then sing a little verse and then get off at the next station to wait for the next train. I haven't seen him for years. There were others but the past few years the characters have been missing.

Now if there is any advantage of not having the trains run all night it is that we don't have homeless people sleeping all night on the trains. In New York the "E" line is notorious for this as the street people know the line never goes outdoors. In Chicago the Red Line every car at night is full of people sleeping as the train meanders along its 24 mile run.

Maybe the characters are on your train, if so share a story with us.

6 comments:

Ron Newman said...

I'm hearing the arrival announcements at most Red Line stations I've used in the past few days -- Davis, Porter, Harvard, Downtown Crossing, South Station. Maybe something's just broken at Park Street.

The most annoying 'characters' on the T system are the young kids who, just as the car closes its doors and starts to leave the station, yell out at the top of their lungs about the candy they are selling for some charity.

Vin said...

OMG I haven't thought about the Yankee Doodle guy in years.

David said...

Kendall and Oak Grove, at least, both have a bunch of handwritten signage explaining fares and instructions to ask the CSA for a CharlieCard if you don't have one, right on the FVMs. Ditto for Oak Grove.

Now if the T would just get around to making the "SMART CARDS ONLY" a lot more visible on the gate screen. Nearly every day they change which gate is smart card only, and you can't see the small print underneath the giant, unchanging WELCOME until you're basically in the gate, blocking it for the person coming in behind you.

John said...

Tuesday 5:45am we encountered "Jack-In-The-Box" guy; every ten to thirty seconds from Braintree to South Station he'd jump up and grab the crotch of his jeans and tug furiously and sit back down.
However, one weird performance does not a "character" make. I'll let you know if I catch a second act.

maria said...

I have noticed that Downtown Crossing, near the Chauncy Street Fare gates, bas posted a large size printed poster with all the fares. It looks professionally printed, so I would hope that all stations will have them up soon.

Train Mon! said...

Unless things have changed at "the new, great" North Station within the last couple of weeks (I bike in on nice days, even when it's cold, only T-it on crappy days), the Inbound train announcements haven't worked since at least early August; Outbound announcements only work when they're not frequently trumped by Dan Grabauskas's safety message or the other nice-female-voice safety message.The VMB (variable message board) that is supposed to print a train announcement for the hearing impaired in conjunction with the audible announcement only works half the time for the Outbound trains, stopped working for Inbounds about a week later than the audible announcement.

Personally, I think it would be a lot cooler to have a mini-power board like the one at Maverick (haven't been there in a while, can anyone verify that it's still there?) at each station that shows the train locations. That and the old female-announcer-voice system that said every so often, on the Orange Line for example, "Southbound train leaving Chinatown; Southbound train leaving Mass Ave; Northbound train approching Jackson Square; Northbound train leaving Wellington." Then at least you could gauge your wait time.

As far as "train characters," I think we'd have a lot more on the trains if you could cross between cars like you can on all of NYCT's ex-IRT and most ex-BMT and ex-IND trains (except sometimes in the middle). Having to walk out of one car to the next at station stops would discourage anyone from peddling wares or putting on shows (usually for some compensation) after awhile. Personally I like being able to cross between cars:

A. It's a rather unique experience that you can't get in Boston, especially fun when you're underground blazing through local stops on an express train.
B. It helps with overcrowding since , like the commuter rail or Amtrak, if your car is too crowded, you can move to another, less crowded car.
C. It makes it easier to transfer between cars as necessary if, for example, your car loses all its lights or the heat/AC stops working.
D. It makes it easier to transfer between cars for safety concerns. I remember one time some idiot kid let off a stink bomb in a car on the Red Line (and then jumped out as the doors were closing, of course) and it was slow going between stations and we all had to sit or stand and suffer until the next station so we could move; one of the longest minutes of our lives, let me tell you.