Saturday, January 27, 2007

Where is my train?

Bostonians who have visited Washington, London, Tokyo and San Francisco have marveled at signs on the subway platform that announce when the next train will arrive. Now word comes from New York that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority has rolled out train-arrival message screens at 14 stations along the L line and expects to have all stations on the numbered lines installed by the end of 2009. The New York project has had major problems being implemented and long time Boston transit observers will nod their heads at the reason. The MTA awarded the contract to Siemens in 2003 to install the screens at 157 stations on the numbered lines at a cost of $160.6 million but technical difficulties held up the project. The NY Post wrote a few days ago that Siemens has solved the problem. Now perhaps Siemens can focus on all the problem they currently have with the MBTA which we wrote about last month.

So now New York will soon join the modern transit age so why not Boston?

The General Manager of the MBTA, Daniel A. Grabauskas doesn't think it is necessary.
In May of 2006 Mac Daniel wrote in the Boston Globe

The system can count down the minutes until a train arrives, but Grabauskas said that isn't necessary.

''You don't need 15 minutes lead time for a rapid transit train," he said. ''If you know you have enough time to get down the stairs, that may be all the information our customers need."

The T is in the process of spending $35 million dollars to upgrade the PA system in the subway including $3 million for new signs that at present simply say "Train Arriving" when they work at all. So the T has the ability to show real time announcements on the Red and Orange lines but won't because Grabauskas doesn't think we need the information.

We can't blame Grabauskas for the Breda streetcars, the phantom Siemens Blue Line cars or even the choice of Scheidt & Bachmann to install the new fare equipment as those decisions happened before he came to the T but we can call him on this. I would think most passengers would be delighted to know how long they have to wait on the platform. If you know it will be a few minutes you might decide to sit down and take out a book. This is not a case that they would have to go out and spend money to implement it, they already can but just won't do it. I also take issue with the way the signs are being installed. As you can see they face the platform instead of being on the platform overhead. The problem with doing it this way is unless you happen to be on the platform directly in front of the sign you can not see it. Overhead signs like the example in New York lets everybody on the platform see them.

The irony here is Grabauskas when he ran the Registry of Motor Vehicles touted the improvements in customer service including a service that you could check on the web to see what the wait time is at any branch and signs at the branches giving the same information. So why did he think Registry patrons needed the information but not provide the same for the T?

Even on the low tech Blue Line there is one station that offers train status information now. When you enter at Maverick there is a sign hanging overhead that shows the location of every train between Orient Heights and Bowdoin and it has been there for decades. A passenger can see quickly where the next train is and if it is moving. That low tech solution could easily be converted to a sign that could simply say "Next Train in 5 minutes or less" based on what signal has been tripped. With the new signal systems on the Red Line and being installed on the Orange Line the information can be more precise.

For riders on the Green Line however there won't be any kind of messages giving train status anytime soon. The T can tell you when the next train is arriving at a station but not where it is going. A major overhaul to the signal system would be needed to implement that and in the T's current project list that indicates what they plan to spend money on through 2011, the Green Line signals are not on the list. The T is probably wise in waiting to do this as recent trolley signal upgrades in San Francisco and Philadelphia proved to be very difficult to implement. San Francisco trolley riders now get real time updates on signs in the subway stations and it can also be seen on the web as seen below.

Since last spring the T has had computer generated messages informing us that "The next train to wherever is now arriving" as part of the $35 million dollar overhaul. Since the new system began riders have been getting less information about train status. The T used to have live PA announcements that would say "train approaching Kendall, Park St and Broadway" so you had some sense what was going on but those announcements now are few and far between.
What information you do get from the computer announcements is no more than the low tech system the T has had at several stations for decades. Riders at Park St waiting to go towards Alewife can simply glance at the track light on the left side of the tunnel looking towards Downtown Crossing. When the light blinks off it means there is a train at Downtown Crossing and should be at Park in 2 minutes or less. Riders at JFK/UMass have the indicators that tell you if the next train is Braintree or Ashmont. There are others in the system.

It really is simple. Riders may grumble if they know the next train is 10 or more minutes but will appreciate the information. The T says they can do it now so there is no excuse not to do so.

What about the Commuter Rail?

Well back in May the T told the Globe
Daniel A. Grabauskas, general manager of the MBTA, said a similar system at commuter rail stations could be in place in from eight months to a year.
Commuter Rail riders are probably laughing at this after dealing with the $5 million dollar system the T installed on the Commuter Rail 5 years ago that has never worked and now it appears they are scrapping. If the T really wants to find a system that works we are happy to point them to California where Amtrak runs commuter service between San Jose and Sacramento that passes through Oakland with connections to San Francisco. This is how their system works.
About the Passenger Information Display Signs (PIDS)
Most of our stations are equipped with electronic message boards (PIDS), which display the date and time, provide much-needed up-to-date train status information, as well as other service-related messages. The signs provide real time train information status via electronic message boards. The system retrieves the trains location from an on-board GPS system, installed on each dining car, and transmits the data automatically to software programs that in turn send the status directly to the message boards. Starting 30 minutes prior to a trains scheduled arrival at a station, ADA-compliant visual displays provide waiting passengers with train status information every 5 minutes, with audio announcements at the station provided every 10 minutes.

Please bear with us, there may still be some lingering "bugs", and if that is the case, please let us know! We'd love to hear how the signs are working - please tell us what you see and hear. Call us at 1-877-9-RIDECC or E-mail us at
They admit there are still some bugs but when I was in the Bay Area last spring it worked perfectly at the Oakland Coliseum station. I hope that whatever system the T buys this time they will only install it on the new Greenbush Line that opens this summer and see if it actually works before installing it system wide. Look my $100 cell phone can find me within 100 feet, the T should be able to find a locomotive.

Really all I want to know is where my train is. Is that asking too much???

Charlie's Mailbag (1/27) Where's Fenway????

KMP writes to and sends a pic along.

Okay, everyone. I saw this last summer, and forgot about it - what's wrong with this picture?

Whoever composed this sign doesn't realize that Kenmore is closer to Fenway Park than the Fenway station, that's what. I think this falls under the category of "everyone knows this", except that I have had many experiences riding the D train with disoriented visitors from out of town wondering why all the other baseball fans were getting off at Kenmore, which is obviously not the station for Fenway Park. Isn't it?
(Just a reminder that in this 15 degree weather, spring will again come and people will care...)
When I saw the signs last summer I wondered the same thing. The only logical reason I can think of the signs going up is because of the ongoing construction at KENMORE and the T wants to spread the traffic going to games around.

However the summer of 2007 will bring major construction to the D Line and the station will be closed from August 2nd to September 2nd. KENMORE promises to be a real mess during Red Sox home games.

When the Riverside line opened in 1959 the station was actually named Fenway Park which created a lot of confusion and it was shortened to just Fenway years ago.

Friday, January 26, 2007

bloggers on the T (January 26th edition)

A sample of some blogging comments concerning the T in recent days

Colleen our Subway Knitter announces the winner of her mitten raffle for Rosie's Place
15: Minutes of fame.

105: Comments left for my original mitten post (the most ever for a single blog entry).

100: individual donations to Rosie's Place.

$1,625: total amount of donations, in US dollars. That's sixteen hundred twenty five US dollars in case you need it spelled out. I'm swooning as I type this.

2: fine articles about 1 pair of mittens.

1: Handknit hat

Caroline sends Bad Transit a copy of a letter she emailed to Mac Daniel
Today people along the Fitchburg line waited 25 minutes in 10-degree cold because when it is cold, the train is delayed. Also when it is hot and there are not enough cars with air conditioning. Also when it rains and switch boxes are flooded. Also when there is snow. Don’t forget wet leaves on the track. Can’t run trains on time if leaves fall in New England, you know. Where are these MBTA people from? And don’t they read the weather report?
Gary was also on the Fitchburg line Friday morning
This is the kind of day for which I reserve the phrase "utterly and obscenely cold." The 410 inbound train on the Fitchburg line ran 15 minutes late. Two of the cars were unheated, so passengers packed into the remaining cars. Some people got onto that train by mistake, thinking it was the 420 local which runs 20 minutes later. The Red Line subway wasn't much better; I had to wait about 10 minutes and then squeeze into a packed train.

Greg on writes about his 2 weeks working in the T complaint department last summer.
For about 2 weeks last summer, I worked in the complaint department of the MBTA as a temp. Here is a list of my 5 favorite complaints that I heard in that two week span. These are actual complaints and responses.

Ken wonders if the T really understands who Charlie was
Listen, guys. You do realize that the song was about "Charlie" who was stuck on the subway system because he lacked money for exit fares, yes? I mean, the song was critical of the MBTA and its boneheaded fare policies.

So are you sure you want to invoke Charlie as your new mascot?
splurby on decides to take the T up on their offer and "Write to the top".
Dear Mr. Grabauskas,

I want to express my great disappointment with your "Write
to the Top" program, which claims that if I "write to the appropriate
person" then "he or she will respond." Below are two messages that I
wrote to Tina Beasley, the first on January 19 and the second on January
24. Ms. Beasley has not bothered to take the time to respond to either of
these correspondences whatsoever...not even with an unsatisfying, canned
"Thanks for writing. We appreciate your feedback." Not a single word.

B-Line All Stars waits for the Green Line Friday morning..and waits and waits
Only, I would be warm if I was moving - no, instead, I got the pleasure of waiting 15 minutes for an inbound Greenline; those of you who don't know Boston, the MBTA above-ground trolleys have a maximum of two cars per train service. Imagine being in NYC where each subway car was only an eighth to a quarter as long as it needed to be for efficient service. Now take away one of those cars, for, due to some unimaginable reason, the second car sat in the dark, not accepting passengers. Why even have a second car?
RoTa makes some observations about BU students and the B Line
You are going to take a cab instead of just walk half a mile? You sure showed the T by throwing your money away on a cab instead. The kids don’t seem to get that the T isn’t losing anything by them not riding - the T wasn’t making any money off of them in the first place, as they were riding outbound FOR FREE. Yes, the loss of that NOTHING will surely cripple the (already mostly crippled) MBTA.
Anne Marie marvels about a MBTA application for her PC
My dad also told me about an MBTA program for PCs that you can download from the site . It is so cool ... you can get the schedules for the commuter rail train for every stop as well as the maps for the commuter rail and the subway.

Monthly pass information for February (correction)

Updating a previous post that had some misleading info and we appreciate the corrected information.

1. The Government Center pass sales office has been closed since the beginning of December.

2. The only passes sold (or loaded onto) on CharlieCards at Downtown Crossing, Harvard, Back Bay, North Station and South Station are Local Bus and LinkPasses. Same goes for the vending machines.

3. Both Express Bus passes, all Commuter Rail zone passes, and Commuter Boat passes will still be issued on CharlieTickets, whether you get them at a store, a pass office or a vending machine.

4. Customers who ride Zone 1A, their LinkPass MUST be issued on a CharlieTicket. There is no change in this from last month. This is an important point since most customers who buy passes at these pass offices are commuter rail riders.

5. The only customers who need to use the ticket windows listed above are those who get "transit checks" or "commuter checks" from their employer. Everyone else can get ANY pass (monthly or 1 or 7 day) from ANY vending machine throughout the system. There is no need to stand in line at these ticket offices if you are paying with cash or debit/credit card.

T-Tales: There must be a place in Watertown to load Charlie

The mailbag at brings this saga from Charlie (no relation)

Hello Charlie,

I work in Watertown Square, and today took the 57 bus to get there, as I occasionally do. Upon entering the bus and paying my fare, I noticed I did not have enough left on the card for my return trip. I said to myself, “Oh ok. There must be a place in Watertown Square where I can load more value onto my CharlieCard.” Instinctively, I went to the convenience store on Galen St across from Watertown Yard which has been selling monthly passes for years. I asked the gentleman there if I could load value onto my CharlieCard. He replied that he only sells CharlieTicket passes, and does not have a computer for CharlieCards. I then decided to call the Stop and Shop in Watertown to see if they were equipped for it. They were not. I did a search on to discover that the convenience store on Galen St is the only place in Watertown which sells T fare media, and only CharlieTicket passes – no CharlieCards whatsoever. So, on my ride home, I will board last in line and hope that the bus driver lets me add value to my CharlieCard through the farebox, as it truly is my only option. It truly astounds me that there are no sales locations in Watertown equipped to handle CharlieCard transactions. This is especially surprising since Watertown Square is where bus routes 52, 57, 59, 71, 502, and 504 terminate, and routes 70 and 70A pass through.

First off why hasn't the T installed a FVM( fare vending machine ) at the Watertown Yard. It would seem to be a logical location for one. But given the costs of these machines perhaps the T feels a machine there would not generate enough sales to justify installing one.

Indeed Watertown only has the one location to buy a pass and it is only at the end and beginning of the month.

Galen St. Mart
City: Watertown
Address: 39 Galen St. (across from Watertown Station)
Hours: M-F, 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Pass Types Sold: Local Bus, LinkPass, Zone 1A, Inner Express and Outer Express.
Payment Methods: Cash and Commuter Checks
Dates Sold: Monthly passes are sold the last four (4) and the first four (4) business days of each month.

Now the T website gushes

We are aggressively pursuing partnerships with retailers to sell our tickets, cards and passes using retail sales terminals. You will be able to obtain a CharlieCard from one of these retailers: Sales Locations. Once you have your CharlieCard, you can go to these retailers to load value or a pass on your CharlieCard.

So where are they? Watertown was one of the original 14 cities in the old MTA and is one of Boston's oldest transit suburbs with excellent bus service. So just how "aggressively" are they pursuing adding locations?

But the lack of retail outlets maybe because of the way the system was designed. I know of one location in Cambridge that was interested in doing this until they saw what was needed to implement it. The manager told me
What the T wanted to install takes as much space as the lottery and Western Union machines. It takes too long to run a transaction and it isn't worth the bother.

I personally tested the process at All Checks Cashed in Allston. The clerk has to take your card, go to a computer terminal, scan the card, and then enter the information on the keyboard. It took 2 minutes for her to load $5 onto the card. Most 7/11's, Store 24's and other locations just can't allow their clerks to be tied up that long. The T has signed up several check cashing stores and supermarket chains in the area but they are limited in number. The picture on the left is what the Scheidt & Bachmann device looks like.

In Chicago the CTA teamed up with their fare collection vendor(Cubic) and came up with a solution that retailers have installed all over the city. The locations marked with a (*) have the device shown on the left.

The process is simple.
Using Touch-n-Go devices,
simply follow these four steps:

Present your Chicago Card to the currency exchange clerk.

Choose the reload amount you would like to purchase and pay with cash. (Cash is the only accepted form of payment at this time.)

A $2 bonus is earned for every $20 of value added to your Chicago Card. This bonus can be earned only when adding value to Chicago Card and Chicago Card Plus accounts, not to Transit Cards.

Take your receipt and Chicago Card.

Start your trip!
The clerk never has to leave the register and the transaction is done as quickly as using an ATM. Riders love them and more importantly so do the merchants.

The Boston system allows credit and debit cards but Chicago made the decision not to use credit/debit cards at their point of sales locations including the stations when they installed their system. None of this helps Charlie this afternoon as he wants to get home ( there might be a song there ) but it may explain why retail locations are few and far between.

BTW I have no connection with Cubic Transportation. I simply have researched to learn about the system that the T rejected but is used by some of the largest transit companies in the world. (London, New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles and Washington to name a few)

T in the media (January 26th)

Mac Daniel in the Globe looks at the blacksmiths of the T's Everett Repair Facility

The Globe's Tom Long has a couple of T related items in the Northwest Edition of Stops and Starts.

T holding off on credit cards
A reader who identified himself only as Nate asked about the future of credit card use on the T."Is there any planning for such use? It seems like for those with credit cards [which frequently include tourists, and many locals], it would streamline the process of using the T by not needing to get an additional card -- just swipe what you already have and hop on," he wrote in an e-mail. "If so, do you know when it will go live? If not, do you have any insight on why a decision was reached to not include such a universal payment system in the T's plans?"

MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo said that is something the T will definitely be exploring down the road, but the immediate focus is on the transition to the Charlie Card system. "For the first time in decades, public transit fares in Greater Boston are being purchased and collected in a different manner," he said. "We feel it is very important for customers to become comfortable with this new type of technology before introducing another method."

Also Pesaturo explains why Charlie doesn't work in Winthrop

Pesaturo said the Winthrop run is not one of the MBTA's 175 bus routes. It's a private carrier bus route operated by Paul Revere Transportation. It is a popular route served by new buses that were introduced last fall."Because the service provides an important connection to the subway system [at Orient Heights], the MBTA provides financial assistance to the private operator," he said. MBTA passes are not accepted for this service. However, the fare on the Winthrop bus was set at 90 cents, which is lower than the $1.25 bus fare on MBTA-operated bus routes, to make the overall cost more equitable for customers making a connection at Orient Heights.

The Patriot Ledger looks at increased ferry ridership from Quincy and Hull

Bill Gouveia in the Easton News looks to increase safety at Commuter Rail stations

Bostonist looks at signs or lack of them along the Green Line.

Peter Pan Bus Lines tries the Fung Wah approach as they are now running buses from Providence to Boston that are cheaper that the $7.75 T Commuter Rail fare trying to attract college students in the area reports The Brown Daily News.

A Medford resident writes the Medford Transcript saying how the Green Line would be a bad idea.

Has anybody heard back from Team Charlie?

Anne from Somerville writes to
2 weeks ago my card stopped working and I am unable to get downtown during the week to the T's service center as I work in Burlington and commute on the 350 bus. I was told to report my problem to which I did.That was on January 11th.

Within seconds I received this auto-reply

From : teamcharlie
Reply-To :
Sent : Thursday, January 11, 2007 12:12 PM
To :
Subject : Re: Charlie Card not working at all

On behalf of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, thank you
for writing to us about our automated fare collection program. Your
e-mail has been forwarded to the appropriate personnel for any follow up
as needed.

This e-mail address is for questions or comments regarding our customer
service enhancements and automated fare collection. If your e-mail was
regarding a different topic, it has been forwarded to

Thank you for your comments.

Team Charlie

I gave them my home number, work number, email address and still after two weeks I have heard nothing.

Do they exist?


Anne that is a good question.

So I will ask you loyal readers, have any of you heard back from "Team Charlie" since the beginning of the month?

Hmmmm - could it be the card itself causing problems?

Colleen our now famous Subway Knitter has picked up a following in Chicago as well.

The Chicago blogs while complimenting Colleen on her idea are wondering if the current cold weather in Chicago is causing their Chicago Card to be acting up.

Chicago uses a different fare collecting system than Boston but both use smartcards with a RFID chip inside.

Anyhow I will link to the discussions in Chicago and see where this theory goes.

Can Mittens Solve Chicago Card's Cold Weather Woes?

Thursday, January 25, 2007

The CharlieCard comes to Fenway Park

The CharlieCard comes to Fenway Park in 2007.

The Red Sox in announcing the new improvements for the park for the coming baseball season added that new MBTA “Charlie Cards” vending machines will be installed inside the park to ease the process of “Taking the T.”

The real fun will be Opening Day when fans travelling back to Riverside find out they will have to pay to go outbound. Fenway Station will be a complete madhouse

The Sox announced that for the first time since the park opened in 1912 a ladies room will be available on the third base side of the park.

For all the details please click here

Charlie's Mailbag - T Tales (January 25, 2007)

From the mailbag at charlieonthembta@gmail we have a couple of "T Tales" to share.

I just want to let readers know that some mailbag entries concerning CharlieCards have been posted in Charlie comment thread. No email gets ignored here.

Lets see what is on the minds of commuters:

Ben writes
Hi, I've been enjoying your blog. Here's my Charlie Card story...

I usually do a quick T commute from Kendall to Central then walk the
rest of the way home. One day last week I had to go into Boston to
meet some friends. Out of habit went to the wrong side of Kendall, and
after I went through the gate said 'oops' and crossed Main Street to
the inbound side of the station. I tried the gate, but my monthly pass
is now denied, with a little note saying I have to wait 20 minutes. I
asked the attendant, and she "NO YOU CAN'T GO THROUGH TWICE, BUY A
TICKET!!" Totally unprovoked she was yelling at me. I pointed out this
was a valid monthly pass I'd paid a lot of money for and she closed
the window on me.

I am just outraged to be treated so poorly. It's not just the rude
personnel, it's the idea that I can't use my monthly pass for 20
minutes after using the first time ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE STATION. I
can't be the first person this has happened to. It seems the T just
assumes a I am trying to rip them off.

I understand the reason for the time limit to prevent a passholder from letting several people using the pass at the same time. Still in a case like Kendall where outbound and inbound have separate access areas they should just program the readers to reject cards used on that side of the platform. There are only a handful of stations in the system where this is an issue (for example Kendall, Central, Copley, Boylston)and it is easy for a commuter to enter the wrong side by mistake. This is something the T can and should fix easily.

Ariel's problem was more of a head scratcher
(This happened on January 22)

At 5:30, I left work. I had rehearsal in Porter Square at 7:30 and had an hour and a half to kill. so I arranged to meet my friend Al at Spike's in Davis between 6:15 and 6:30.

I get to South Station in plenty of time, but when I try to boop/ding my pass to let me through, the machine makes this loud noise and denies me by saying "not enough stored value." That's funny, I think to myself, because LinkPass, which I have, doesn't have stored value. It just lets you through if you're in the right month.

So I try every single turnstile, and none will let me through. I go to the purchasing machines and tap my card to see what the machine thinks I have on my card. Bing! You have a monthly LinkPass for January. So, hoping that the purchasing somehow reset the card since it knows I have a monthly LinkPass, I try again to get through with no luck at any turnstile. So I go and put $10 on my CharlieCard, because I have to ride from South Station to Davis, from Davis to Porter, from Porter to home, and then home to work tomorrow before I can go deal with this.

I add the money and it works. I am let through and now I have $8.30 left. Now I spot an MBTA employee, who was nowhere to be found before. I go up to him and tell him that I purchased a LinkPass for January, which worked perfectly up until today, but now registers as "not enough stored value" to pass through, even though the purchasing machine knows and recognizes that I have a LinkPass. I told him I bought $10 worth to get me through the next couple days in case I couldn't fix it, but could he please try to see if he could reset it somehow and have my LinkPass re-recognized.

He dings/boops my card to the machine to investigate and enters his MBTA employee super secret machine access code. "You have $8.30 on this card. You're fine!" at which point I had to tell him again that I just bought that $10, and had to use $1.70 to get in the turnstile to talk to him, and that that is not the problem. The problem is that the turnstile machine doesn't recognize my LinkPass and I don't want to pay $35 more dollars just to be able to go to work for the rest of January, which I already paid $59 for.

He checks the card again and he's like, "You have a LinkPass on here. You're fine!" Then I was like, I know I have a LinkPass. I have the receipt for it. The problem is the turnstile doesn't recognize my LinkPass and won't let me through. "But you came through. You're fine!" Then I had to re-explain why I put the $10 on there in the first place.

He screws around with the machine a bit more and announces he can't help me. He takes me to his supervisor, who is huddled over a desk in the tinted-window booth in the subway part of South Station. I give my card and my receipt for the LinkPass to him and I explain again to the supervisor what happened. He repeats the story, and seems to understand. Then he says, "where's your card? Let's check it." And I pointed to his hand, which was holding my card and receipt, and said "you're holding it." The guy is like, "oh look at that! I am!" and starts to fiddle with the purchasing machine. Meanwhile the first employee is trying to talk to me about Powerball.

The manager stops fiddling turns to me and goes, "You have $8.30 left on this card. It should work fine." I had to go through the whole thing again about how I have a LinkPass "oh yeah! Look at that! The computer says you do have a LinkPass!" and how it magically stopped working when I tried to enter today.

10 minutes later, the manager is like, "I can't help you, you have to go to the sales center at Downtown Crossing tomorrow." By now it's 6:20, and I had told Al I would be in Davis between 6:15 and 6:30. So I rush to the train, and the driver proceeds to drive approximately as slow as possible between every redline station. I arrive at Davis at 6:40, find Al has left because he thinks I stood him up (I didn't have his number somehow). So I order and eat fast, email Al from my smartphone to apologize and run back to the train at Davis in time to make it Porter by 7:15, so my bandmate could pick me up and drive me to the hinterlands of North Cambridge for rehearsal.

Here's the kicker. The card somehow reset the LinkPass itself. I entered Davis and it gave me the "good until 1/31/07" reading that you get with a pass. So at Porter I checked the machine, and lo and behold it still had $8.30 on it, meaning it didn't deduct cash when I entered at Davis – meaning it recognized my pass! When I enter Porter after rehearsal, it has the same result. Now I'm really mad. I wasted $10, missed dinner with a friend and subsequently looked like a complete jerk, rushed around and scarfed my dinner down and generally was crazy for no good reason. The pass works fine today (two days later) too.

I still have no idea whether it was my card's fault, or the fault of every single turnstile at South Station, or just an MBTA poltergeist that decided to ruin my day
You are not the first person to write that their LinkPass "vanished" only to reappear. The cards are designed to have three "wallets" embedded on the chip. One is for "stored value", the other 2 are designed for passes so the card can have February's pass already on it even though the January pass is still valid. There is also a part of the chip that stores transfers.

The T never had the chance to fully beta test the pass part of the CharlieCard when they made the Senior/Disabled passes into smartcards 18 months ago because all the stations had not been converted. Hopefully this bugs are minor and will work themselves out in the next month or two. But it would probably be a good idea to get a receipt when you buy a pass and keep it with you.

R from Somerville sees strange behavior in a bus driver
Most of the T bus drivers I've seen in Somerville are okay folks. In
the past few years I've had some interesting conversations with a few
of the local drivers on the 90 and 88. This morning, though, I watched
a real winner on the 94 forcing the car ahead of it to break the law.

It happened on College Ave, heading in towards Davis. The traffic was
stopped at the red light and backed up all the way to the library.
There was a compact car in the left lane at the corner of College Ave
and Winter Street (the one-way that goes between the Store 18 and the
block with the realty agency and Deli-icious.) The car was stopped at
the legal stop line well ahead of the vehicle in front of it, keeping
the intersection free for anybody who needed to turn onto Winter
Street. Only problem was, the 94 bus was behind this car and was
growing impatient in the face of the red light.

It began to honk at the car. First briefly, then consistently. It
wanted the car to move ahead and block the intersection, even though
there's a sign right there on the corner that says DO NOT BLOCK
INTERSECTION. Cars travelling north on College Ave who want to make a
left onto Winter will often find jackasses blocking the intersection,
and they hold up traffic behind them while the southbound traffic
clears enough for them to make the turn. The compact car was obeying
the law and following the rules and keeping that intersection clear,
but this wasn't good enough for the 94 bus. It leaned on its horn as
it loomed behind the tiny car. The compact driver finally relented and
pulled ahead into the forbidden spot. This pleased the 94 bus, for it
quickly swung out into the right-hand lane and sped over to the Store
18 stop.

I realize there's commuters on that bus waiting to get to the bus
stop. But the bus has to obey all traffic laws to get to that stop --
and it certainly can't force other vehicles to break the traffic laws.
And honestly, if it knew it would have to get to that bus stop, it
should've been in the damn right hand lane to begin with.

I feel bad for the driver of the compact car, who was unnecessarily
hassled and forced to do something they didn't want to do. In the
grand scheme of things this isn't such a bad infraction, but it's bad
driving habits to begin with and shouldn't be encouraged. I don't know
if I'd have felt annoyed this way towards the honking vehicle if it
had been like a regular pick-up truck or something, but it did rub me
the wrong way this morning.
What can I say? There are good drivers and bad ones. I have had one driver tell me that he feels a little pressure because of the GPS tracking system on the bus that displays how early or late he is at all times and then issues a report at the end of the shift on how the driver performed with the schedule. Still I think any of of who drive know that Boston is the perfect example of the "butterfly effect" where a fender bender in Quincy can cause a backup in Medford. It is easy to schedule trains and trolleys but a bus is not master of its domain. So what I am saying is the driver should chill out and the T should not put undo pressure on drivers to maintain a schedule in traffic conditions they don't control.

keep the feedback coming, this is your forum. I'm just the bus driver.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Boston Globe Editorial: The tax that fails the T

The tax that fails the T
ASKED WHY sales tax revenue in Massachusetts barely increased last year, Alan LeBovidge said playfully: "You're not spending enough!" The Massachusetts revenue commissioner has a point. The purchases of new cars and home improvement supplies are down, and they are important sources of sales tax revenue. But he acknowledges a broader trend: the 5 percent sales tax, based on the purchase of goods, does not reflect the move to Internet transactions and other consumption patterns. Massachusetts policy makers are unwise to rely on the sales tax so heavily to support the MBTA

Sales tax revenues are up 1.1 percent so far this fiscal year, which ends June 30. And for the last five years, it has gone up about 1.3 percent a year. In the 1990s, the annual growth rate averaged 4.6 percent a year.

One reason for the slowdown is the popularity of Internet transactions. Because of federal law, Internet businesses with stores outside Massachusetts do not have to collect sales taxes. Congress ought to include them in the state tax system, but even this would not return sales tax revenues to their earlier rates of growth. Consumers today prefer to spend more on services, such as legal work, cosmetic treatments, and financial counseling, which are not taxed.

In hindsight, it was bad timing for the Legislature in 1999 to tie state support for the MBTA to the tax. The T receives one percentage point of the sales levy each year, a subsidy that will amount to about $734 million in this fiscal year. The legislators figured that support for the T would increase at least 4 to 5 percent a year, but they were wrong.

The shortage of sales tax money explains why the T had to raise fares 27 percent on Jan. 1. Fares are the only major source of revenue under its direct control. If sales tax revenues remain flat, another large increase is inevitable unless the Legislature intervenes. This must be avoided, as fare increases drive down ridership, which is key to any successful public transit system.

Some legislators are proposing that the state assume $2.9 billion of the $5 billion T debt, but that's too much for the tight state budget. T General Manager Daniel Grabauskas hopes the Legislature will increase the operating subsidy by 3 percent a year, no matter what the sales tax does. That should be more palatable for budget writers.

The School Building Assistance Authority also depends on a percentage point of the sales tax. That source needs to be revisited at some point, but the authority has more discretion over the pace of spending than the MBTA does . The T needs relief quickly.

Massachusetts consumers may eventually heed LeBovidge's advice and buy more cars and sheetrock. But the MBTA shouldn't have to depend on shopping habits to determine the affordability of its service. The Legislature needs to revisit MBTA funding this year.
© Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

Refill your partly-used CharlieTicket -- don't throw it away

You insert your paper CharlieTicket into the gate, and the gate refuses to open, saying "NOT ENOUGH VALUE". Do you throw away the ticket and buy a new one? Lots of people do, but if you're one of them, you're throwing money away.

Instead of buying a new ticket, put the ticket you already have into the Fare Vending Machine. The machine will display the ticket's current value. Let's say, for this example, it's $1.25. Now select "Add Value", then "Other Amount". Enter the EXACT amount that you need to add to reach $2.00 -- in this case, you would enter 75 cents.

Now insert the needed amount of cash. Don't worry about having exact change, as the machine will give you change if necessary. Once you're put in the money, the machine will spit out a new $2 CharlieTicket. Go back to the fare gate, use the ticket, and throw it away. Then don't buy any more tickets -- get a CharlieCard from the station agent, and fill it with cash for all future use.

The Herald gets the story wrong

Today's Boston Herald published a story about the recent renovation of Uphams Corner station on the Fairmount commuter rail line. Too bad the Herald got the story so wrong.

According to the Herald article, the station closed two years ago and reopened yesterday. In fact, the station remained open throughout the renovation, at the neighborhood's request. It was never removed from the T's schedule. I used it three weeks ago, when the Herald claims it was closed.

The Herald used to assign a full-time reporter, Robin Washington, to the transportation beat. Unfortunately, they never replaced him after he left for Duluth, and it shows.

A T worker pleads: Mr Grabauskas, please come to my station

This morning I received the following email at

I replied back to the writer and they agreed to meet me for coffee this afternoon. The writer works for the T as a CSA at Porter and has worked for the system for over 20 years. She was a schoolteacher and decided to change careers because she liked meeting people. She told me it was OK to post the letter and her background because the public needs to know what is going on.
Hi Charlie

I am writing because of your post that things seem to be getting better with the Charlie Cards. I feel compelled to tell you that is not the case.

I am currently stationed at Porter Square as a “T Ambassador”, the T’s Madison Avenue way of describing a customer service representative. After working many years behind bullet proof glass I have come to enjoy interacting with customers and enjoy my job. Our complaint is we are getting virtually no help from T officials’ downtown. They want the public to believe the system is working flawlessly and I must tell you it is not.

Since the weather got colder in the past couple of weeks the machinery has not been working properly. Yesterday morning we must have admitted over 40 people with Monthly passes that the turnstiles refused saying their pass had already been used.
We also have been having problems with gates that deduct fares and then will not open.

The ticket machines have been a nightmare. While they don’t malfunction the way the turnstiles have they are very confusing for customers to purchase tickets. I have a stack of unused railroad tickets that passengers have bought in error. We let the people in after they have bought the wrong ticket but our lives would be so must easier if we could correct errors like this on the spot but the T will not allow that. We also have been seeing many passengers throwing away tickets that still have value on them. Over the weekend I collected about 25 discarded tickets and about half of them still had value remaining from amounts raging from 30 cents to eight dollars.

We try to intercept passengers using machines for the first time and offer them a Charlie Card but when the station is busy that is next to impossible. It is especially chaotic when the railroad arrives upstairs and we can have 300 people entering at once. Many are day trippers to Boston and have no idea how the new system works and wind up making mistakes that we can’t fix. Customers then get angry at us and I can’t really blame them.

Then we have customers that do have a Charlie Card who want to buy either a one week or one day pass and the machines instead of putting the pass on the Charlie Card issues a Charlie Ticket and passengers then say why do I need this dumb card? All I can say to them is that is what the marketing department of the T wanted.

You mentioned that the ticket machines don’t tell passengers how much a ride is and wonder why there are no signs on the machines. Again this was not something that was overlooked by the T but done by design. They do not want people buying single ride tickets and designed it so it appears the cheapest ticket available is $5. I had a suit from downtown upset that we had put up hand written signs informing passengers of the fare amount. They have at least responded to another concern we had and now have stickers on the machine telling customers how to insert a credit card.

What infuriates me and my co-workers is the T’s Sgt. Schultz approach that all is well with the new equipment and for the workers not to speak up about what is going on. We are not allowed to talk to reporters but must refer them to some guy named Joe downtown. When the system was first introduced we had reporters from the Cambridge Chronicle and Somerville Journal asking us questions and we are forbidden to respond if they say they are a reporter.

I have become a coffee buddy with a guy that works for the company that built the machines out in Burlington as he has spent a lot of time at our station. He gripes he is spending too much time going out to Logan to get spare parts from Germany for machines that are only a few months old. He told me that the design choices made in Europe sometimes leaves him scratching his head.

The main reason I wrote this message is the hope that somebody at T headquarters reads it and decides to actually do something. I want nothing more than for Dan Grabauskas to come to our station during rush hour by himself and see first hand the mess this system is. We have called and asked his office for him to come and have been rebuffed. But we shouldn’t be surprised by this as the running joke with T employees is “The people who run the T have never taken it in their lives.”

Thank You for a place I could vent.

A “T” Ambassador
No THANK YOU for sharing.

The driver of bus #0010 did everything you could ask...but

This afternoon around 2 PM I was on the #65 bus leaving out of Kenmore. Let me begin by saying the driver of this bus was everything you could possibly want from a T employee and more. He should be awarded the Ralph Kramden Cup for bus driver of the month/year. Let me explain what happened.

A passenger got on board near Fenway Park and had a blank CharlieCard another bus driver had given him. The driver of #0010 took the time to explain to the customer how the card worked and even told him to put his fare on the card first and then pay to save 25 cents and be able to transfer. The driver even said he would work the passenger through the process. The driver also told the passenger he could put extra money on the card so he would have the proper fare the next time he rode the bus. The customer thought that was a good idea and inserted $5 into the farebox.

The farebox ATE the $5 without recording it.

The poor driver then spend a couple of minutes writing down his bus number, farebox number, the route number and his employee number and gave it to the passenger so he could get a refund.

I can't stress enough how professional this driver was and the way he handled the situation. For the T is is another issue with the farebox that needs to be addressed.

MBTA Cop saves man at Davis Station

A round of applause to MBTA Transit Police Officer Danny Vieira who rescued a man from the path of a Red Line train entering the Davis Square Station Monday evening.
Mac Daniel has the details in the Globe.

The folks over at BADTRANSIT.COM point out that the situation could have been averted if the T had a better communication system.

MBTA “communications” system fails; T Police officer fills in the gap

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

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.

T media coverage - January 23's weekly cartoon captioning contest concerns the T this week. Illustrator Peter Wallace shows a "superhero" baffled by the new fare vending machines. wants you to submit a caption and the winner will receive a copy of the Wallace's book The Boston Handbook co-written with Globe sportswriter John Powers.

The Newton Tab gives residents the details of the D Line shutdowns this summer.

Cambridge residents seemed pleased with the T's plan for new elevators at Porter Station

The T is announcing a major renovation at the Uphams Corner Station on the Fairmont Branch of the Commuter Rail.

Town officials in Wayland
are considering joining the new MetroWest Regional Transit Authority but express concern that the town would only be subsidizing bus service in Framingham.

Raynham looks at possible commuter rail options
if the T expands service to Fall River and New Bedford.

Salem continues to lobby for more parking at commuter rail station.

Monday, January 22, 2007

The curious choice of Scheidt & Bachmann to install Charlie

A few weeks ago we posted an article concerning the T's new fareboxes and the problems they were having. Turns out the T wasn't concerned that Scheidt & Bachmann of Germany had no experience in bus collection because they wanted them to bid on the contract. Back on July 1, 2002 Cosmo Macero, Jr questioned in the Boston Herald why the T chose Scheidt & Bachmann over San Diego based Cubic Transportation.

Former MBTA General Manager Michael Mulhern defended the choice.

While Mulhern's technical staff may have understandably been won over by Scheidt & Bachmann's low bid, the company has yet to demonstrate prowess in at least one key area: development of a new fare box for buses.

Skeptics are already second-guessing the German company's pledge to create a bus fare system "simultaneously" as the subway and station smart-card elements are installed.

Observers sympathetic to Cubic's cause suggest Scheidt's "simultaneous" development of the bus system could actually put the project as many as six months behind schedule.

By comparison, Cubic partnered on its bid with GFI Genfare - the largest provider of fare box systems in North America.

But Mulhern counters that if the T disqualified Scheidt because it has never developed a fare box, there would have been no competitive bidding process.

Still, it's hard to ignore the fact that Cubic - whose corporate parent has its hands in everything from military instruments and surveillance systems to corrugated cardboard - seems to have achieved critical mass in the very area of expertise the MBTA needs.

The company has provided automated fare systems to transit authorities in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco and Washington, as well as overseas in Great Britain, China, Australia and Germany.

Mulhern then spoke to the Boston Globe's Mac Daniel a week later
Scheidt offered a proposal that was slightly inferior, on a technical level, to the one submitted by their archrivals, Cubic Corp., but MBTA general manager Michael Mulhern says that Cubic's bid was $19 million higher, so Scheidt won out in the end. The Burlington, Mass.-based Scheidt (progeny of a German company) won a similar contract six years ago, but had its bid tossed out in court because of irregularities in the procurement process.

Mulhern tells us he's quite certain that the contract, if awarded as expected, will stand up to the all-but-certain legal challenge that Cubic is expected to once again mount. "The process was squeaky clean this time around," he says.

If all goes well, T riders should be using smart cards to get onto subways and buses by July 2004, Mulhern says, and the lovable token will go the way of French franc, the Italian lira, and the Dodo.

2 and 1/2 years after the target date T riders are using the new system to mixed reviews. But it is important to point out that the T had a previous contract with Scheidt & Bachmann that was thrown out by the courts. Macero explained in the same column

When the MBTA's effort to upgrade to an automated fare collection system degenerated into an ugly court battle in 1996, the blowout was over a $40 million contract to replace tokens with magnetic smart cards.

Now, almost six years to the day since the state Appeals Court threw out the winning bidder - Scheidt & Bachmann - the total cost of the project is pushing $120 million.

And the MBTA, come July 11, will once again try to give the long-awaited contract to the German company.

The problem is, rival bidder Cubic Transportation Systems - which helped nudge the court into vexing Scheidt & Bachmann six years ago - is still nipping at the company's heels.

It's not hard to predict what probably happens next: another ugly court battle.

"This is a totally new procurement with an entirely new scope," insists MBTA General Manager Michael Mulhern. "We went into it with our eyes wide open."

The appeals court in 1996 ordered the T to rebid the automatic fare contract, lending credence to arguments from Cubic that Scheidt & Bachmann did not fully meet qualifications for the project.

But Mulhern says the T is actually conducting a whole new process - accounting for years worth of technological advances, and an expanded program of new fare systems on buses as well as subway trains.

That wider scope explains some of the tripling of costs. Blame inflation for the rest.

"The technical staff is going to recommend (to the MBTA board) that Scheidt gets (the contract)," Mulhern says. "I know that Cubic knows that. Cubic is obviously unhappy. But the MBTA technical team determined that Scheidt & Bachmann delivers the best value. It saves us $19 million."
I'm sure by now that the $19 million "saved" has long evaporated into the ozone. It maybe years before we discover the true cost of this contract. Cubic and S&B are bitter rivals and they have had ugly clashes before. Macero wrote

In San Francisco nine years ago, Cubic gummed up a Scheidt contract to install fare systems in five stations by arguing that the "buy American" clause under the federal Transportation Act prohibited the German company from supplying components.

Cubic also used its influence as a defense contractor to get congressmen to petition the Federal Transit Administration to deny Scheidt a waiver.

Finally, they sued San Francisco's BART system to block the deal. But the suit was dismissed.

On the other hand, just three years ago the BART system tapped Cubic for a $53 million deal to replace the fare systems in all of its stations.
But according to a poster on a similar transit blog that follows San Francisco Bay's Bay Area Rapid Transit system, BART went back to Cubic because of problems they had at the 5 new stations.

BART didn't go with S & B this time around. Probably due to the fact that S & B refused to service the equipment after they installed it in the "extension stations" -Pittsburg/Bay Point, North Concord, Colma.

BART doesn't like Translink because the money doesn't go directly into the BART treasury. It has to go to Translink first and then they pay BART. BART hates to give up control of the $$$$$$. Gee, you'd think they don't trust anyone.
So is this going to be a problem in a couple of years of maintaining the equipment that Scheidt & Bachmann has now installed in Boston systemwide? BART gave them a chance with 5 stations and then gave the contract for the rest of the system to Cubic. Meanwhile BART riders are wondering what is going on with the planned smartcard conversion of all San Francisco Bay area transportation systems. BART is supposed to join with the other agencies in a system known as TransLink but one month ago suddenly announced their own smartcard BART EZ Rider and nobody knows for sure what exactly this means for the future.

But it seems obvious that that T management wanted Scheidt & Bachmann to have this contract. Maybe in the long run it was the right choice for Boston. But given the T's track record with Siemens , NeoplanUSA and Breda I have my doubts.

Chicago subway robbers picked wrong victim

When 3 robbers attacked a rider on Chicago's Blue Line last Thursday evening they had no idea that their actions would bring a swift response from Chicago Police.

The victim was the son of Chicago Police Supt. Philip Cline.

The Chicago Tribune gives details

The Chicago transit blog CTA Tattler comments

Watertown has commuter rail service.

This may come as a surprise to the residents of Watertown but according to the manufacturer of the T's Commuter Rail information signs, Watertown does have commuter rail service.

The company Adaptive Micro Systems of Milwaukee installed the signs some five years ago which 99% of the time happily tell commuters "All trains operating on or near schedule..." have never provided the train information that was promised at the time due to a communications system that was considered obsolete when it was installed (analog cellular)

I find it amazing that the company cites the T as a testimonial for their work.

Charlie says "cheer up Patriots fans"

It seemed with a 2nd quarter lead of 21-3 the Patriots were well on their way to the Super Bowl.

But Payton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts engineered the biggest comeback in AFC Championship game history and the Patriots will think about this game for a long, long time.

Years from now last nights game will be considered one of the greatest playoff games of all time but the day after that is of little consolation to Pats fans.

The commute Monday morning was full of sad faces.

But Charlie says to cheer up as in just over 3 weeks from now the Red Sox will begin spring training in Florida which is the true indicator that winter will soon be over.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Globe says : T website is better, but still has quirks

Mac Daniel in the Sunday Globe takes another look at the T's new trip planner and mentions us.
The MBTA's new website failed at first but is now up and running well. It's quite a change, and all in all, despite some quirks, it's a step ahead of the T's last Web portal.

But there are problems. First, according to the charlieonthembta blog and others, the trip planner, which suggests routes using MBTA services, initially ignored the Orange Line for any trip taking place on a Friday. Go figure. This was fixed late last week.

But you can still get some surprising results if you don't properly tune the trip planner -- one of the site's most useful features.

We put in our home address in Andover as the starting point and the Globe as the destination. The site lets you choose options from three categories. We wanted our trip to "minimize transfers" and "use all services" and said we would be willing to walk a half-mile, the planner's default setting.

The planner produced two itineraries -- two very long and wrong itineraries that surprisingly ignored a key part of our normal trip -- the Red Line.

The first route: Haverhill commuter rail to North Station to Orange Line to Ruggles to the No. 8 bus to JFK/UMass. Total time: 122 minutes.

The second: Haverhill line to North Station to Orange Line to Jackson Square to the No. 41 bus to JFK/UMass. Total time: 119 minutes.

Change the settings to "minimize time" and "use all services" with the half-mile walking distance, and the planner has you taking the Orange to the Red Line, getting off at Andrew, and taking the No. 16 bus to JFK/UMass. Total time: 98 minutes.

The quickest trip, which used commuter rail and the Orange and Red Lines the way we do, was found by minimizing time, using rail only, and setting a walking distance of three-quarters of a mile. Total time: 89 minutes.

Why the differences?

Seems this trip planner is so sensitive that the walking distance selected can have a big impact on the trip.

T officials said that when the trip planner ignored the Red Line, "It yielded [that result] because it literally found the closest T service 1/2 mile or less to 135 William T. Morrissey Boulevard, the Globe's address." That happened to be a bus stop.

"We in fact have a T bus that goes closer to the address than any Red Line station," officials said in an e-mail .

Seems the JFK/UMass bus stop is 0.44 miles from the Globe and the JFK subway station is 0.6 miles away.

"Therefore, the trip plan was correct based upon the walking distance parameter specified," officials said.

Officials acknowledged that they need better instructions on the trip planner page to alert readers about this sensitivity. Your suggestions are welcome, dear readers. Officials were working to make the change. You, too, should make a note.

Over at the Boston Community on Live Journal Stan writes about using the trip planner to go from Prudential Station to 640 Tremont St in the South End. It is a doozy.

Charlie made some cosmetic changes

The blog had a little facelift over the weekend and hopefully the changes will make your time here easier.
The biggest change is the blog can now show partial text of articles on the main page and then if the subject interests you will see a link for Read full article

Most of the older articles have been manually converted which may have caused some of you getting feeds from feedburner to see many duplicate messages. We apologize for any inconvenience.

On the sidebar you will notice that the last few comments to the board are now listed so you can see at a glance which threads have been updated. Also in the sidebar is a dropdown menu of T related websites and blogs.

Please let us know if you like the changes and offer any suggestions to help improve the blog.