Friday, February 16, 2007

Charlie's Mailbag - February 16th ( a very full mailbag )

A warm welcome to the new readers who are visiting after reading about us in Metro today.

from the mailbag at

Oddjob reports at 7:15 Friday morning
Hi, Charlie,
I and my fellow travellers are sitting at the rt. 128 CR station. The train in front of us broke down at the station, and inbound trains are backing up behind it. We've been stopped for about 10 min. So far, and they say we will have to push the other train into Boston.
Be curious on how that saga ended, please let us know.

We haven't heard much from Orange Line commuters but Isabel gives us a report

Good morning,

let me start by saying that the Orange Line one of the best lines I used to think has been lately a nightmare...everyday allways the same delays with signal problems and some other poor excuses, well this morning it took the cake.

If you expect to raise fares and have the same type of equipment as the well run systems like NYC and other countries, maybe you should try to do a little more research on how things run and the best equipment to have, the Charlie card machines have been the worst experience and the service and assistance is next to null, and when you do ask a T person to assist you they give you the third degree and treat you like you are cheating the system, if the machines don't operate correctly but meanwhile show on the monitors as accepting my TPass but not opening the door for me then I should not be looked upon as not being believed or trying to cheat/manipulate the system, most of those turnstyles/new doors don't work half the time and it takes forever to get into the station and catch your train when it is never on time and running like crap.

This morning it took us all orange line patrons trying to get to work on time or try to make connections over a half hour to get from Community College to North Station, and that is after the guy froze us at the station by keeping the doors opened and just sitting at the station, then when we finally got to North Station they told us all to get off the train they were having power problems, have no idea what that had to do with the train we were in and then not a word of whether they was going to be any service as usual communication is null and limited....when finally they said there would be another train directly behind and as we crossed back from the green line to the orange line they were announcing that they were busing from North Station to Back Bay.....not that the announcement was very clear and loud enough for everyone to hear, I asked an inspector a question and he just walked by me like I said nothing and just totally ignored me....needless to say no one made their connections today and thanks to the T again we are left out on the cold and the dark, we are all getting very tired of the lack of service and the terrible treatment.

We expect better service and treatment not just fares to go up all the time.

I expect an answer from someone and don't copy from JetBlue try to follow the ones that have close to perfect service........

We should all be compensated for our troubles on a daily basis.

If I don't hear from you I will send a copy to this email to the proper hands and the news media.

Hope you have a better day than the people of the first train on the orange line.
Not much I can add to that Isabel but you can be sure somebody at the T will see what you posted.

Erin writes about a pass snafu from 2 months ago that still hasn't been resolved
I believe it was around November 30st that the MBTA converted to
automated fare/Charlie Ticket kiosks at all stations. The last and
first days of any month are, of course, the busiest days for
purchasing passes for the upcoming month. For many people, debit or
credit cards have become the established method of payment for pass

Beginning sometime Thursday, November 30th 2006, riders were unable to
make purchases using debit or credit cards at these new kiosks
because, as I understand it, the kiosks were temporarily unable to
connect to banks, etc. At first, I thought this issue was specific to
the Oak Grove station, where many riders were allowed to pass through
without paying on Friday, December 1st.

At the end of the day on Friday, I attempted again to purchase my
December pass at the State Street station, but the connections were
still down. Lacking the cash for a pass, I was required to purchase a
$1.50 ticket for my ride home. I was handed a complaint form by an
MBTA worker standing by, which I promptly filled out and mailed to
MBTA customer service. Why should anyone pay $1.50 (or more) in
addition to fees for a subway pass during the same month?

I believe it was not until December 2nd that connections were
reestablished, and I was able to purchase my December pass. In
mid-February, I have yet to receive a response from MBTA customer

My company pays for my monthly MBTA pass, and so this email is not
about $1.50. I am writing about the thousands of dollars the MBTA must
have "earned" during this three-day span from riders forced to pay for
individual fares in addition to their monthly pass fees.

I have been wanting to pursue this issue for quite some time, but keep
forgetting about it. I have to think that this "forgetting" is exactly
what the MBTA planned on.

Sigh.... I really hope the new customer service department the T announced this week will help prevent stories like this. What astounds me is that the T really thinks they are doing a good job with customer service NOW...I simply have to point to the comment the T made about my blog on Friday morning
When asked to comment on the blog, T spokesman Joe Pesaturo responded:

“While blogs come and go, people will always be able to present comments

and concerns directly to the T’s Customer Support Services.”
I think the T REALLY believes that. Last week I saw the movie "The Queen" which tells the story of how out of touch Buckingham Palace was after the death of Princess Diana. The Queen honestly thought her subjects were pleased at the way she was handling things and Tony Blair had to go to great lengths to tell her that wasn't the case. Sadly the T is as clueless as "The Queen". Again MAYBE things will improve with the new customer service department. It is something we will watch closely.

Roni writes about Bowdoin Station
Weekdays - Monday thru Friday - 5:00 p.m. Bowdoin Station
I've been taking the Blue line from Wonderland to Bowdoin for years.
The 5:00 o'clock "T" conductors at Bowdoin - don't have the courtesy to let passengers on and will approach Bowdoin - stop open the doors- and within less than 10 seconds slam the doors right in our faces - and lo and behold people are running down the ramp hoping to make it -
And it never fails, they wait for no one and why the doors are slammed so quickly is beyond my comprehension - It's rude- and almost deliberatlely mean -
They do it at no other station but, Bowdoin - - the train pauses and waits everywhere else and in between but, will always speed away and quicker that you can say :Jack Flash" the doors are closing right in your face- at Bowdoin only - try it - go there - see for yourself - it's demeaning!
Also, they will toot the horn and when we hear that we know they will not be stopping for us at Bowdoin - Thank you very much - how insignificant are we? -
but,- that's another issue ~
Bowdoin is the forgotten subway station downtown. During the budget cuts of the early 1980's they made it into a part time station and it remains that way today. It really seems that they just want to turn around the trains there as quickly as possible and then load at Government Center. With the new Charlie equipment there is no good reason not to have the station open more hours than it is now.

Finally Lou comments on many things he read on the blog this morning
I just found your blog today and, as many have said, I like it a lot. A few confirmations, comments, etc on things currently on the main page:

The headlights on heavy rail cars: Some drivers turn them off when coming in to the station, but I have actually seen some turn them on while coming in. These observations come mostly from Sullivan square (inbound), ruggles (outbound), and back bay (both).

The arborway line: I wasn’t even alive when the service stopped to arborway, but I would love to see it open. It isn’t even of any use to me really, but I just like the idea of it. One question about this portion of the E line though:

What would delays be like on this line if service were to be restored? Both Wednesday and Thursday I saw ridiculous morning delays on inbound service at Mission Park, bad enough that when I was standing there waiting for an inbound train, I saw an outbound pass 15 minutes after I arrived, and came to realize that that car would be the one I would be boarding… after it made its way around the heath st. loop (which, during heavy traffic and bad weather can take extraordinarily large amounts of time). The policy seems to be either short turn the second outbound train (if its close to the first of the delay) at Brigham circle, or to split the first train and short turn on of the cars. If service were to be restored to arborway, would there be any way to short turn a train or car between heath and arborway? In bad weather, it seems the traffic on the street can cause significant problems on this portion of the E, and I only see it being worse for those who live further outbound from heath if trains went to arborway.

Also, having read up on the T and its history extensively since moving to Boston for school about a year and a half ago, I have become interested in different Green Line cars: do you, or does anyone else, know when the best time and place to spot a type 6 car is? I had read that they still run at high traffic times on the D branch, but wasn’t sure if this info is outdated (or even if they have stopped running type 6 cars altogether, although I think I saw one at park last month when I was sitting on an E)

Regarding fare gates that accept only “smart cards” (Charlie cards), I have seen this happen at Ruggles, Sullivan Square, and I think downtown crossing as well. Sometimes all but one of the gates is for the cards only, and they change from day to day (probably hour to hour even). I haven’t ever seen a case where gates are only accepting one or the other but aren’t labeled as such, when the have no indication usually both seem to work. I also am curious as to what causes this.
Welcome aboard Lou and thank you for your observations and I am sure someone will comment on them.


Anonymous said...

I was train #832 this morning (7:35 out of Sharon). We got stuck heading inbound in the backup caused by the broken train at 128. The crew on this train is great and they kept us well informed. We had Amtrak 66 in front of us and we also had to wait for an outbound Stoughton train to clear Canton Junction before we could pull in to Canton Junction. The disabled train was moved by the time we got to 128. We had many more passengers than usual since we were so delayed and we were the first train through since the disabled one (the conductors said about three trains worth of people). We got to South Station at around 8:52 am (about 45 minutes late).

I really can't say enough about the train crew -- friendly and informative as always. They kept the passengers in the loop about what was going on which made the situation a lot better than it could have been.

oddjob60 said...

Here's the rest of the story on the commuter rail...

They pulled our train (the 6:07 from Providence) right up behind the broken down train at Rt. 128, where we sat for about 15-20 minutes altogether, including periodic announcements ranging from "when we know something we'll tell you" to "they've asked us to push the train in front of us into Boston, so there might be some jostling." In the meantime, 2 inbound trains leapfrogged us on the other track.

Finally, they kicked everyone off, and told us to move to the other platform to catch the next inbound train. Well, first the southbound Acela had to come through. Then the inbound Amtrak regional stopped, and they were nice enough to let a few (very few) of us on. I was not one of them, since when the train stopped I was looking at the baggage car.

Another 20 minutes passed. Did I mention it was cold?

I will say this-- the Rt. 128 station announcer was trying her best to keep us informed, and finally said she would make sure to announce when the next train was coming well in advance. As a few of us headed for the waiting room and warmth, the disabled train started moving, pushed by the train I originally was on. Then we heard that an inbound commuter train was on the way, and would stop on track 1-- not where we'd all been waiting.

As we scrambled for the steps, the voice of goddess warned us not to run, because there was plenty of time. She was right; after another, what, 10 minutes, the train pulled in. We all squeezed on board, and arrived at South Station at about 9:05, an hour and 40 minutes late.

We could only imagine the domino effect on both CR and Amtrak...

Anonymous said...

It really bugs me when they announce that there is a train "directly behind us"

Of course there is, there always is! It would be nice if they would actually say what train it was that is "directly behind us." Is it Ashmont or Braintee? Let us know, so we can choose whether to wait, or cram on the already packed red line.

Redliner said...

Type 6 cars:

Sorry Lou, I think you missed out on the Type 6 cars. Those were Boeing cars, which according to the T's current Capital Investment plan, no longer exist in the fleet. The Green line fleet now consists of LRVs, Bredas and 10 old PCCs. However, if you want to take a trip back in time, visit this site (ironically run by the NYC transit system) which has the best collection of picures of the T that I have found anywhere. For those of us who rode the T in the late 70s and early 80s this collection holds some interesting memories.

Charlie said...

Redliner said...
Type 6 cars:

Sorry Lou, I think you missed out on the Type 6 cars. Those were Boeing cars, which according to the T's current Capital Investment plan, no longer exist in the fleet

NETransit keeps a pretty up to date vehicle roster and they show six Type 6 cars still in service

Green Line Active Fleet 183 cars:

Boeings, overhauled by Amerail 1996-7: 6 active cars

3424, 3485, 3491, 3499, 3500, 3520

The MBTA Vehicle Inventory Page

Page was last updated Feb 12th

we wrote about the Boeing cars a few weeks ago saying goodbye to the Boeing Green Line cars

Charlie said... has a customer service issue that was resolved well on Friday

Nomi blogged at first about her problems at Harvard Friday morning

"Improved," "Upgraded" Service But it bothered me that my pass wasn't working properly, so I called the T's Customer Service line and told the person who answered it the above story (up to the bit about the second official.)

"Oy. I don't know what sorts of idiots they're hiring there," the phone person said. She then transfered me to the Automated Fare Collection office. Where I got someone's voicemail, so I left a message.

I then called the T's complaint line to complain about the disinformation that the (first) official at Harvard was passing on. And the line rang and rang and rang and rang, with no voice mail or human picking up.

Is this sort of treatment what they meant when they said the improvements will bring "enhanced" customer service? If so, I'd like my old, classic, benign neglect back, please.

But later on Friday she DID hear back from the T

An Update -- Excellent Customer Service
About ten minutes ago, the guy on whose voicemail I'd left the message called me back. Not only did he express sympathy for what had happened this morning, he looked up my card (reporting that it was, in fact, registering as a Link Pass in the system), checked the usage history from this morning (explaining that he had the Rapid Transit info in his system but the bus info had to wait until it was downloaded directly from the fareboxes on the buses -- something that happens once each day), and reported that it must have been gate error, since the system had me going through the gate at Harvard at 7:21 AM this morning.

He then gave me the correct spelling of his last name and his direct office phone number and told me I should call him if I ever had another problem with the AFC system. He was also concerned that I had been unable to reach the T's complaint line and said he was going to look into that once he got off the phone with me (not that I expect any follow up on that, but he sounded very surprised that no one was manning those phones).

Now THAT is customer service as it should be.

oddjob60 said...

Just a reminder to all those delayed on Friday: go here to get your fare reimbursed.