Monday, February 12, 2007

UPDATE: This angry T rider has clout

Paul Levy was interviewed by badtransit.com this afternoon
Between 1983 and 1987, Levy served with the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities, and was involved with safety regulation of the MBTA. When asked about the current state of the MBTA compared to years past he told us that the T has suffered a “slow, gradual deterioration”. “It hasn’t been since Dukakis that we had a governor that cared about the T. He put into place really good managers and who believed in making the investments to keep it running well. Since then we’ve had a series of administrations that didn’t care.”.

That said Levy’s positivism showed through. “I don’t blame the employees. They’re put in an awful situation and truly do the best they can. It has to be difficult for them, especially once people get riled up, to maintain good humor and a sense of what’s important.”

Most T riders when they have a bad commute can only complain to friends, co-workers, blog about it or perhaps take the time to e-mail the T. Very few of us can call the upper levels at 10 Park Plaza and actually talk to top management.

Our friends at universalhub.com alerted me to a comment left this morning by Paul Levy. Mr. Levy is the President and Chief Executive Officer, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. The BI is one of the T's largest corporate partners in the sale of T passes to employees. He is not happy this morning.

Express to Fenway
Submitted by Paul Levy on Mon, 02/12/2007 - 8:17am.
This morning: A packed carload of people on the Green Line because service has been slow out on the Riverside line ... and more get on at Reservoir. The doors close, and the LCD sign all of sudden says, "Express to Fenway." Half the car is filled with people going to Longwood. I make my way up from the rear and ask the driver, nicely, "Would you mind stopping at Longwood? We weren't told this was express to Fenway till after the doors closed."

"I can't do that."

"But, you have 100 people who want to go to Longwood who didn't know that this was express to Fenway till after the doors closed at Reservoir."

"I am not allowed to do that."

"Would you please call your dispatcher and ask permission?"

We sit at Brookline Hills for five minutes -- backing up still more cars behind us -- while the driver waits for Central to respond. He does, and she is told to open her doors to let people out. Next announcement,

"Get out of the train if you don't want to go to Fenway, and take the next train."

Even before people get off the train, the platform outside is packed. At least two trainloads of people are waiting.

I decide to stay on and go to Fenway and walk back to Longwood. After all, who knows I would have been stranded in Brookline?

---

I really like Dan Grabauskas, and I know he is trying hard to improve the T. But can I offer a suggestion? Take down those really big pictures of yourself at the T stations -- you know, the ones of you standing in front of the American flag -- because I fear for the personal abuse you will take if people get to know what you look like and recognize you on the street.


Well Paul I wouldn't worry about that as Dan Grabauskas doesn't take the T into work like you and I do.
That's the commuter whom the rail system relies on - the one who recognizes its value and embraces it as a part of his or her life. But winning over the car commuter has always been the challenge. Even Grabauskas, the MBTA's general manager who lives in Ipswich, a town served by commuter rail, usually drives to work. "Where I live in town is right off the highway," he says, "and my schedule is erratic enough that it tends not to be convenient for me."
The Green Line has been a disaster since the first of the year. 70% of the complaints to this blog come from D and B line passengers. It has to be addressed now. It really is time for the T to go out and hire a transit professional to be General Manager and not a political hack.

Luckily for the rest of us a passenger like Paul Levy can make the phone calls we can't.

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

I suspect Levy had to identify himself to the operator to get the dispatcher called; any normal commuter would have gotten the "get the fuck off my train" response. It's obvious from the PA announcement that the operator was extremely pissed off.

Jane said...

I am actually looking foward to the shuttle buses this summer as it might improve things on the D line.

I've never seen it as bad as it has been the past six weeks.

Paul Levy said...

Nope. I did't identify myself. I really just tried to be polite and friendly to her. It really wasn't her fault.

Anonymous said...

How nice of Mr. Levy to make the hundreds of other people late so he could try and get a special stop made for himself. He should have dealt with it and called later if he was pissed. Also nice of him to insight people to attack Dan Grabauskas if you see him on the street. I wonder if anyone not making a million bucks lost their job beacuse he made them late today. Keep up to good work...

Brian said...

Hey! Its the return of the "anonymous" poster from the MBTA. Not that these anonymously pro-MBTA posts are ever fair, but accousing Mr. Levy of inciting violence is frankly insulting to the reader and moreso to Mr. Levy. Furthermore, his actions were appropriate. I've been on trains before when an express is announced after the doors close. Its inexcusable practice and it does demand action. While going express to Longwood was a sensible suggestion (anyone riding the D Line in the morning knows that it clears out considerably at Longwood), so I can't fault him for making that rather than the more likely MBTA response of simply ditching everyone at the next stop. The problem isn't a rider, no matter who that rider is, demanding that something be done in that situation. The problem is that this situation occurred at all.

Phil said...

I commend Mr Levy. How rude of the T driver not to tell anyone the train was now an express. I have been riding the Highland Branch for 40 years and it has not been this bad since the PCC cars ran on the line 30 years ago.

Charlie said...

Because of software limitations many choose anonymous rather than other or google accounts. I could choose to screen comments but would rather not. One thing being overlooked is that it took 5 minutes for the operator to reach dispatch. What if it had been a life or death situation? The simple fact is skipping Longwood at rush hour is madness given the number of people who work there. Skipping the 3 Brookline stops should be enough to clear headway. The Green has become a civic nightmare.

Paul Levy said...

Dear anonymous,

I was not trying to get a special stop for myself. First of all, it wasn't a "special" stop: When we got on the train and the doors closed it was a regularly expected stop. Second, I was trying to get them to stop for the dozens of people on the train who were trying to get to work or maybe doctors appointments at the hospitals in the Longwood area.

Sorry that makes you angry.

Anonymous said...

Making a stop which was supposed to be on the schedule isn't an inconvenience. The driver failed to inform the passengers about the express designation while the doors were still open, so Paul Levy did the right thing. I'm glad I no longer rely on the D line for work, it sounds like a disaster.

Charlie said...

Paul Levy said...

Dear anonymous,

I was not trying to get a special stop for myself. First of all, it wasn't a "special" stop: When we got on the train and the doors closed it was a regularly expected stop. Second, I was trying to get them to stop for the dozens of people on the train who were trying to get to work or maybe doctors appointments at the hospitals in the Longwood area.

Sorry that makes you angry.


Thank You Paul for stopping by.

My sense is most Green Line riders are simply frustrated by the level of service on the line. I'm not one that looks back at the past as "the good old days" but the Green Line was far more reliable when I was a teen 40 years ago.

Problems developed in the late 70's when the Boeing cars proved to be unreliable and the T didn't have enough PCC's to keep the lines running. Things got much better in the mid 80's when the reliable Kinki cars came into service but the past few years riders have been held hostage by the non delivery of the Breda cars.Hopefully the 10 week construction this summer on the D line will finally allow the Bredas on the Riverside line and that will help things.

The D line by its construction should be the most reliable on the 4 trolley lines but it isn't and I am at a loss to explain it. The C is by far the most reliable.

I am just hopeful that the T will monitor what is said here and other blogs and get a better sense of what is happening day to day on the system.

Ron Newman said...

If I worked in Deval Patrick's office I'd already be on the phone to Paul Levy, asking if he's interested in a new state job ...

Paul Levy said...

Thanks, Ron, but I have already done my time in state service (I'm the one who quadrupled the water and sewer rates to pay for the Boston harbor cleanup!) and am currently pretty busy at Beth Israel Deaconess. Hospitals, by the way, have many of the same tough service issues as the T. See my blog at www.runningahospital.blogspot.com for more on those.

Ron Newman said...

Although people aren't thrilled with the water rate increases, I think we're generally happy with the result -- a cleaner, healthier, more swimmable harbor. You did it on time and on budget, too.

The T fare increase would also go over better if it were tied to obviously visible improvements in service.

Anonymous said...

How bad is the MBTA service?

My employer, whom I cannot name, is now offering all employees greatly discounted parking in the downtown area. And we're not exactly a small company.

SJG said...

I am just hopeful that the T will monitor what is said here and other blogs...

This attitude has bothered me for a long time. That is, expecting people to find comments scattered around various online venues and act on them. The only way you can reasonably assure yourself that someone of authority will read something is to send it directly to them (or at least provide a pointer to it). I'm sure that's done is many cases, but don't expect action by merely "hoping" someone will read comments.

Charlie said...

SJG said...
I am just hopeful that the T will monitor what is said here and other blogs...

This attitude has bothered me for a long time. That is, expecting people to find comments scattered around various online venues and act on them. The only way you can reasonably assure yourself that someone of authority will read something is to send it directly to them (or at least provide a pointer to it). I'm sure that's done is many cases, but don't expect action by merely "hoping" someone will read comments.


In a perfect world I would agree with you.

Look here is an example....A few weeks ago we asked if anybody had heard back from writing teamcharlie@mbta.com

people responded that they had written, but NOBODY has yet posted they actually heard back from the T

Has anybody heard back from Team Charlie?

All it takes is for ONE person either at 10 Park Plaza or the State House to read some of these comments and then wonder 'what on earth is happening over at the T'