Saturday, March 03, 2007

T Tales: The T's trip planner strikes again

Jared writes us at charlieonthembta@gmail.com. All he wanted to do was go from Brookline to South Station.
As if you don't already get this enough, you've got a great blog going. I'm originally from the San Francisco Bay Area so witnessing all the ridiculousness that goes on with the MBTA has been pretty eye-opening.

At any rate, I have a story to share. A friend of mine was arriving in Boston at the Greyhound station in Chinatown and I was supposed to go pick her up. No problem, I thought. I punched in my station (Brookline Village) and the address of the bus station (700 Atlantic Ave) and let the trip planner do its thing. Since the trip planner defaults to "Minimize transfers," this is what it gave me:

Itinerary 1 - Approx. 31 mins.

* Take Green- D Line - Government Ctr To Boylston Station
Approx. 1:41 PM Depart from Brookline Village Station - Inbound
Approx. 1:56 PM Arrive at Boylston Station - Inbound
*Walk For 16 Mins. To 700 Atlantic Ave, Boston, Ma

Alright, fair enough. That seems pretty simple. Except I didn't like the "Walk For 16 Mins." thing. That seemed like kind of a drag, especially since I'm not from Boston and have no idea how to get around. So I tried it again, this time selected "Minimize walking," and hit submit. Well, I got some fairly different results the second time.

Itinerary 1 - Approx. 52 mins.

* Take Green- D Line - Government Ctr To Park St Station
Approx. 1:41 PM Depart from Brookline Village Station - Inbound
Approx. 1:57 PM Arrive at Park St Station - Green Line Eastbound
* Take Red Line - Braintree Sta To Jfk/umass Braintree - Outbound
Approx. 2:06 PM Depart from Park St Station - to Ashmont/Braintree
Approx. 2:16 PM Arrive at JFK/UMASS Braintree - Outbound
* Take Red Line - Alewife Sta To South Station
Approx. 2:23 PM Depart from JFK/UMASS Braintree - Inbound
Approx. 2:30 PM Arrive at South Station - Inbound
* Walk For 3 Mins. To 700 Atlantic Ave, Boston, Ma

This struck me as a little bit odd - why would I have to take the Red Line to JFK/UMass only to turn around and get on a train going the other way to get off at South Station? Well, I wasn't familiar with the Red Line; in fact, the only time I've ever taken the Red Line was later that night on my way back home again. At that point, I assumed you couldn't get off going outbound at South Station. So, I went with what I thought would be simpler - taking the Green Line to Boylston and walking. Well, it wasn't.

See, the Trip Planner doesn't give you walking directions unless you select "Print Itinerary," which I didn't know. And guess what? Instead of walking east on Boylston and then Essex, I walked north on Tremont, thinking I was actually walking EAST on Tremont. I got hopelessly lost, and after I finally found Atlantic Avenue (at the corner of Atlantic and Richmond), I managed to lose it again about five minutes later without realizing I'd changed streets.

There's a point to this rambling story, and the point is that the trip planner is total garbage. I'm not mad for the planner telling me to get off at Boylston and walk; that met the parameters I set, and it's my own fault for not walking the right direction to begin with. I'm pissed because, when I tried to make it so that I didn't have to walk, it made me go all the way to JFK/UMass and then get off and back on going the other way. Now that I actually know how the Red Line works (yes, you CAN stop at South Station in both directions), I have to ask: why even bother? If you can't do it right, maybe you shouldn't do it at all. That sentiment seems to be echoed throughout your blog.

Jared

PS - I got an itinerary from Park St to South Station on the Red Line. I wonder why it works when you don't change trains?

Take Red Line - Ashmont Sta To South Station
Approx. 1:45 PM Depart from Park St Station - to Ashmont/Braintree
Approx. 1:49 PM Arrive at South Station - Outbound
Welcome to Boston Jared. I actually will be in the Bay Area as of Monday evening.

The trip planner has way too many quirks about it to be considered reliable.

I just tried it and used the landmarks option and it did have an option for the Greyhound Station but guess what????? Here is what it just spit out

Take Green- D Line - Government Ctr To Boylston Station view route
Approx. 12:21 PM Depart from Brookline Village Station - Inbound Approx. 12:36 PM Arrive at Boylston Station - Inbound
Walk For 15 Mins. To Bus - Greyhound Terminal (boston)

Walk approx. 1 block E on Boylston St.Bear right on Boyleston Sq.Walk a short distance SE on Boyleston Sq.Turn right on Washington St.Walk a short distance S on Washington St.Turn left on Beach St.Walk approx. 3 blocks E on Beach St.

Again this used the default option of "minimize transfers" and "use all services". I pity the poor tourist with bags wandering around Chinatown looking for the bus station.

It really is time to take this planner off-line and go back to the old one until they can work these bugs out. It has been almost THREE months now.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

The Trip Planner appears to be working now for the trip from Brookline Village to South Station. Just tried it, minimizing walking, for several different days, and got the following:
# Take Green- D Line - Government Ctr To Park St Station view route
Approx. 1:31 PM Depart from Brookline Village Station - Inbound
Approx. 1:49 PM Arrive at Park St Station - Green Line Eastbound
# Subway ServiceTake Red Line - Ashmont Sta To South Station view route
Approx. 2:02 PM Depart from Park St Station - to Ashmont/Braintree
Approx. 2:06 PM Arrive at South Station - Outbound

Maybe, just maybe, someone at the T is working to fix the problems with the Trip Planner.

Ron Newman said...

I don't see anything especially wrong with those walking directions, but it's not a 16-minute walk. The planner often doubles the amount of time needed to walk somewhere.

Still, I wonder if "minimize transfers" really should be the default setting.

SwirlyGrrl said...

I've had problems with it putting me on express busses (not covered by a zone 1a pass) instead of local busses. It does this even when the local busses are frequent and they run much closer to where you want to go.

If you want to get from west medford to charlestown, it will put you on a very expensive express bus to Haymarket, and then send you back outbound on a local bus. The same trip can be accomplished by heading to Sullivan on a 95 bus and picking up a 92 or 93 inbound. Not just massively cheaper, but faster too. There is no way to lock out express busses as the default, as there is with trains and rail.

Jared said...

I just tried it again myself. It looks like if you put in stations it works fine, but if you put in 700 Atlantic Ave. as your destination it screws up.

Anonymous said...

It doesn't exactly screw up when it tells you to get off the Green Line at Boylston -- it correctly takes into account that the South Station bus terminal is a bit of a walk from the Red Line station.

Anonymous said...

5 years late, but- your error was relying on the Trip Planner. Look up your address on Google Maps, which will be wrong, but close, plus it has bus stop info. Then open mbta.com in another window and work your route out that way. It's the only way I could figure out you couldn't get from Alewife to Harvard by bus- I wanted to avoid the weekend replacement bus.