Saturday, February 17, 2007

Where is my train......(updated)

A few weeks ago I posted a long entry on WHERE IS MY TRAIN? and in the article T management is quoted as saying riders don't need this kind of information.

The Saturday New York Times looks at NYC Transit which is working very hard to provide this information in Manhattan and Brooklyn.
Subways future and subways past seemed to collide on a recent morning at the Jefferson Street station on the L line in Bushwick, Brooklyn. New electronic signs on the platforms showed how many minutes a person would have to wait until the next train: at this moment it was eight minutes for a Canarsie-bound train and four minutes for a Manhattan-bound train.

But the recorded female voice on the public address system that was supposed to work in tandem with the signs was showing signs of a breakdown: “Ladies and gentlemen, the next L, the next L ——,” it said over and over, like a scratchy recording.
I am bothered by the fact the T has the ability to do this but flat out refuses to implement it in Boston.


Adam said...

Absolutely. I can guarantee that a huge degree of the discontent with the T is the "I'm stranded in a station" blues. If we know how long we're supposed to wait definitively (because the T clearly considers headways and schedules to be nothing more than 'suggestions') then I'd be happier waiting for a train, knowing AT LEAST that it's moving.

Patrick said...

I've never understood why companies make these kinds of decisions. It seems like they do it purely out of spite. I admit that ETA information on rapid transit isn't usually critical, but if the capability is already present, why not use it? It doesn't hurt anything.

There's also the fact that one "next Red Line train to Alewife" and another "next Red Line train to Alewife" are not equal. Sometimes when that message is activated it can be another ten minutes before it shows up, or it can be in the process of showing up right then. Sometimes it even plays after the train is already present.

(And this isn't a T criticism, but I'd like to add it took me a good couple months to notice the arrow indicators at JFK/UMass for northbound trains. I felt really stupid once I realized I didn't have to worry about frantically running back up and down the stairs in case I was on the wrong platform...)

Oh, and congrats on the Metro article, Charlie. I've been following your blog since you started it and have been consistently impressed. Keep up the good work. :)

Anonymous said...

It is very frustrating that the T tells us we don't need this information. If they EVER bothered to make decisions about projects based on their customers like most companies do, they would get more riders and therefore revenue. Also, it is hypocritical of them to say we don't need the info on the subway trains when they bragged about how great the Washington street silver bus would be because of the real time arrival system it was going to have. How can it be such a great attribute one moment and useless the next?

Editor said...

Funny... the MBTA thought ("thought" used loosely) all this fancy "gps" stuff was essential for their Silver line (bus) back when the T was sucking from a $Billion dollar straw. We really needed the arrival information then (apparently) and, true to form, we never got it. Instead the signboards at the T's $125,000 each bus stops say "next bus in 10 minutes". Yes, like many other expensive, overdue, mistargeted, mismanaged, and unfinished MBTA projects, the essential high-tech features still do not work. Traffic light preemption; bus location information; "intelligent" displays; proper bus spacing. None of it ever has. But the buses do manage to rattle china and jangle nerves within a considerable radius, and are very efficient with the job of running over people without the driver even knowing, which happened a while back.

So really.. does anyone here expect the MBTA to make something simple like "Next train arrives in 5 minutes" operate on another line when they have yet to achieve the basics on the first one??


Still overheard occasionally on the T's radio system from it's "central control" is the burning question, "where are ya?". The T apparently still relies on a train crossing a mechanical switch which turns on a light on a board or, and this is innovative, flipping a bit in a software program so the train data can be displayed in their multi-$Million "control" center - the one that shorted out when the T lost a "backup" power supply, sending the entire system into late-night chaos. Still, when they can manage to keep the power on, all that low tech to high tech makes it all look so high tech that they squeezed out a few million more last year to "upgrade" their fancy toy room with even newer displays. All the while pieces fall off buses; trains can't make a hill; and commuter rail trains have to be pushed into their destination on cold mornings by the other engines that managed to keep running.

"Where are ya?" likely means "where exactly are you between the coarsely-spaced switches?", or more likely, "Which train are you?". Do we know of any other transit systems that need to call out to their assets: "where are ya?". It would be laughable anywhere else, but here it's apparently the norm. What is this, ca 1960 and "Car 54 where are you?"

If the "central control" of our MBTA has to call out with such a request, no wonder they can't display anything for the riders. Location? *They have no clue*

Blaming us is, of course, the way to get out of the whole stinking mess. "The riders don't care if the trains are clean", so they remain filthy. "The riders don't care if we're a little late. They understand that we're the oldest system in the country" (barf), so the trains show up, sometimes.

"The riders don't need this information?" Well, that may be so, particularly if the trains just stop running entirely, which is certainly where we're headed, MBTA, given your inept and irresponsible management.

Of course, the real reason is that *they don't want us to know*. Displaying how late the trains are running would serve to document how chaotic, ad-hoc, and poorly managed the whole mess truly is, and - here's the greatest irony - it would do so on a regular basis.

Saul said...

"Where are ya?" likely means "where exactly are you between the coarsely-spaced switches?", or more likely, "Which train are you?". Do we know of any other transit systems that need to call out to their assets: "where are ya?". It would be laughable anywhere else, but here it's apparently the norm. What is this, ca 1960 and "Car 54 where are you?"

Actually, the NY subway (except for the L train now) uses a block signalling system that hasn't changed much in 100 years, where trains occupy a specific block of track, and where the train boards don't specifically identify a given train.