Saturday, February 03, 2007

30 years ago Sunday - disaster on the Chicago 'L'

One thing we do take for granted is that even with delays our transit system will get us to where we are going safely. 30 years ago in Chicago 12 commuters didn't make it home.

Sunday marks the 30th anniversary of the darkest day in Chicago 'L history when 12 persons were killed and more than 180 injured as four cars of a CTA train toppled frown elevated tracks in the Loop and plunged to the street during the evening rush hour.

The dead and injured included pedestrians who were crushed beneath cars that slammed to the pavement at Lake Street and Wabash Avenue.

Please remember our fallen commuters.

On February 4, 1977 the worst accident in "L" history occurred at the sharp curve on the Loop elevated at Wabash Avenue and Lake Street.

It was not the worst accident in CTA history however. In 1950 a streetcar hit a gasoline tanker truck at 63rd and State killing 33 passengers. The streetcar ran on what is now the 36-Broadway line but in those days the route went from Devon Avenue all the way to 119th Street and Morgan Avenue on the far south side. It was because of this accident that the CTA decided to abolish streetcars in favor of buses with the last one running in 1958.

bowing head for the riders who never made it home

Charlie's Mailbag February 3rd - More Green Line follies

From the mailbag at we hear from Deb in Brookline
Last night I boarded an inbound D line train at Reservoir and it took nearly 30 minutes just to get to Copley because of boarding lines.

For starters they only seem to run one car trains on Friday nights which is foolish given the number of students that go into the city. The train arrived at Reservoir and it took nearly 4 minutes to get everybody on even though most had prepaid fare cards. When we got to Brookline Hills it took another 4 minutes but the worst was yet to come.

At Fenway Station it took nearly seven minutes to get everybody on the train. Part of the problem was many of the students boarding there paid cash with the driver. Can't the T refuse to board these clowns since there are vending machines at each station on the D line?

I also thought last night that you have these T workers at each station standing around and doing nothing inside their little heated sheds. Why can't these people check fares before the train arrives and speed up boarding by opening all the doors?

The T promised fasting boarding with this Charlie system and it seems to be much worse at least on the D line!!!

Deb from Brookline
Hi Deb You made 2 very good observations.

I would agree there is no reason for a passenger to pay cash on a D Line trolley since every station has vending machines. At least on that line they could impose a no cash on train policy and that would help a little bit with the boarding lines.

As far as having the "ambassadors","CSA's or whatever the T is calling them this week checking fares beforehand it does on the surface make sense but since the T plans to do away with these workers in a couple of months it wouldn't be a long term solution.

I also find it interesting that many of these workers on the D line are retired T employees who have been called back to "help out". One worker at night at Brookline Village used to be the head of the Green Line before he retired a couple of years ago and you can be sure he is not getting $8 an hour in this temporary position.

Still the T has to figure out a better way to board people on the Green Line. The B line outbound has been really crazy as of late as some operators are only opening one door outbound at night after 30 years of all door openings towards BC. I was on a packed car Thursday night and the driver only opened one door at Harvard and Commonwealth where half the car wanted to get off. That is complete insanity.

My suggestion to the T is to at least TRY the system used in Chicago.

Nobody can tell me this would not reduce boarding times on the trolleys and some high use bus routes. I have seen it work on the heavily used bus lanes of Michigan Avenue in Chicago and buses don't get bogged down as much as they had in the past. How hard can it be to test the idea on one line to see if it works in Boston?

Friday, February 02, 2007

T Tales: New North Station not ready for prime time

North Station unveils new renovations (02/01/2007) VIDEO from 7News

Peg drops a note to about the "new and improved" North Station

think the T might have jumped the gun a bit in their ‘ribbon cutting’ for the expanded and improved waiting area at North Station. Last evening, trying to catch a 4:30 train, I ran into the new area at about 4:27, looking for an electronic monitor to tell me what track to go to…..oh wait, there are no monitors in the new area, just a large digital cartoon of the Bunker Hill Bridge and an ad for Banknorth. Suddenly though, a garbled voice announces (I think) the 4:30 train to screech!@garble& now loading on ???...Where, thought I, is that coming from? Overhead?? Behind me in the older part of the station? Apparently, there are no speakers in the new area either. Oh well, no time to spare, I run out to the boarding area to read the monitor at track side to see which track and then turn right to go to track 3….Ooooops! Orange cones and yellow ‘do not cross’ tape is strung across the head of the platform parallel to the tracks, but blocking access to adjacent boarding areas. I stood in muted frustration as I watched my train depart, and dejectedly went back to sit on one of the new benches to wait for the next train. Gee, I guess I SHOULD be happy that there was a place to sit! Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarghh!!!
Does sound like they rushed the opening a bit. The ironic thing is media coverage was almost non-existent of the opening because it occurred just as invasion of the Cartoon Network was happening. Still it is a huge improvement over what north side commuters have had to deal with the past 12 years.

T Tales: 40 minutes from Kenmore to Government Center

CME writes us at about her trip on the Green Line Friday morning

This may explain why I waited 25 minutes at Park for a Riverside train today.
Here's (part of?) why there was a huge backup on the green line this

I commute from Allston to Government Center, and this morning I was lucky
enough to get a 57 to Kenmore. When I hit the platform, there was a
pretty big crowd standing around looking impatient, so it seems something
was already delayed.

We waited about 10 minutes for a train, which, after we'd all piled on,
did the thing where it closed and then reopened its doors. This is
Kenmore-station speak for "This train will be standing by". A couple of
passengers made angry noises and jumped off the train in favor of the
other inbound train that had just arrived across the platform.

Our train pulled out a few minutes later and stopped, as they usually do,
in the tunnel right after Kenmore where the track takes a large, non-flat
curve to the left. And it stayed there. And stayed there. And of
course, the lights and the ventillation kept shutting off like they do
when the train isn't moving. At this point, there were quiet funny noises
coming from the front of the car/train (I'm not sure which, I was in the
back of the second car) as the drivers tried to reboot the train.
Finally, the PA system beeped, there was a long slince, and a grumpy voice
said "-workin' on it". Everyone around me gave an annoyed laugh at how
uninformative this was.

After a few more minutes of waiting, we heard voices in the tunnel outside
the train. Suddenly someone banged violently on the doors next to me
(rear doors on the righthand side), and all of the passengers nearby
jumped away from the door in alarm. The guy outside forced the doors open
and jumped on, panting like steam engine, then forced them closed behind
him. He pulled out his keychain and unlocked the platic panel covering
the control circuits over the door (this was a Breda Type 8 car), reached
in, violently threw a few levers back and forth, and in his hurry nearly
dropped the panel on the heads of the surrounding passengers. (It was
really great to see someone treating the problem like it mattered, but he
was as wound up as if someone were being injured, which was disconcerting
and causing him to make mistakes like almost braining a dozen passengers.)

It turns out that there was a fault in the door control circuitry such
that the door registered as open even though it wasn't, and the train's
safety systems wouldn't allow it to move with an "open" door. The T guy
repair guy had "isolated" the door; I assume this is T-speak for "turning
it off". They dumped us on the platform at Hynes and took the train out
of service; radio traffic from the repair guy indicated that that the
train would be taken to Park St without passengers so it could be removed
from service.

I was then on two more trains that were turned early; the one I got on at
Hynes (after skipping the first to come through) was turned at Park, and
the North Station train after that was turned at Goverment Center- by the
high-tech method of a T guy standing on the Government Center platform and
stopping the train to tell the driver this was his last stop. If I'd been
going farther than Government Center I'd have *really* been ready to spit
nails. As it was, total time from hitting the Kenmore platform to
Government Center? 40 minutes. You can bet I'll be filing an on-time
service claim.


Boston Held Hostage - Day 3

Hopefully all this will die down shortly and we can focus on more pressing issues like

As some new facts come out it was just a very difficult day for the Boston Police Department.

I just hate seeing our fair city being laughed at by many across the world. Boston has warts but it is still our home.

Turner says sorry to Boston

“We never intended this outcome and certainly did not set out to perpetrate a hoax. What we did is inadvertently cause a great American city to deal with the unintended impact of this marketing campaign. For this, we are deeply sorry,”

Turner Broadcasting System yesterday accepted full responsibility for the guerrilla marketing campaign that caused a scare in Boston.

The two young men charged with perpetrating a hoax that gripped the city launched into a smirking, rambling performance - art skit yesterday as reporters sought to question them about the terrorism scare. As their chagrined lawyer looked on, Sean Stevens, 28, of Charlestown and Peter Berdovsky, 27, announced they would respond only to questions about human hair.

BRIAN MCGRORY: Bad hair day in Boston

STEVE BAILEY: Laughing to the bank

Thursday, February 01, 2007

T in the media - February 1 ( and other transit news )

Quick look at local papers in the area on what they are saying about the T the past few days

Megan Murphy a student columnist for the Daily Free Press at BU looks at the CharlieCard in another way

The first mistake the MBTA made with this new system was with the CharlieCard's design. Call me crazy, but I don't think that I have ever been on a T that looks like that. The car itself is so shiny and clean that it is literally producing a luminescent glow on the window sills and doors.

Secondly, all of the passengers featured on the card are in their ultimate states of Zen. The pseudo-feminist-business woman who seems to be day dreaming about a CharleneCard, the young girl who hopes to be just as heroic as Charlie some day and an aging bald man all stare admiringly at the fun-loving Charlie. Actually, the aging bald man looks as though he is missing an eye and giving us, the consumer, a pirate-like wink that is pretty creepy. We'll let that one go, MBTA.

Also, it seems to me that Charlie may be passing around a little Irish coffee to his fellow passengers, if you know what I mean.

There is concern in Framingham that the users of the T's Ride system will suffer when the town starts up a new regional transit system in July. The chairman of the Framingham selectmen Dennis Giombetti spoke with T General Manager Dan Grabauskas who told Giombetti not to worry .

"He assured me there would a smooth transition," said Giombetti, who is joined by Ashland on the still-forming authority. Giombetti said the goal of the RTA is to increase service, not lose something that's seen as valuable.
Residents have mixed opinions about the possibility of an MBTA commuter rail station being located at the East Bridgewater-West Bridgewater line.

Other transit news of note

A bus strike looms on Cape Cod. Bus drivers, mechanics and dispatchers for the Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority will vote Saturday on a new union contract. Should they vote it down, a strike will be called on Wednesday, Feb. 7.

In New York City the citizens subway watch group Straphangers has now embraced the concept of customer service agents over token booths
While originally skeptical of the plan, the Straphangers Campaign now says the "roving customer agent" experiment seems to be working. The group reached the assessment after having campaign staff and volunteers observe the roving clerks at 50 booth locations.

"At least 94 percent of the time – at least once during our observation period – they would answer questions; 56 percent of the time they would give directions; 44 percent [of the time] they would buzz people into the system," said Gene Russianoff of the Straphangers Campaign. "And these are the kinds the things that we think really help riders figure out where they are going."
Does this sound familiar Boston? New York City Comptroller William Thompson says the MTA has spent too much money on the suburban commuter lines at the expense of the New York City Transit system.
"They've spent more on Metro North and Long Island Railroad than they should have over a period of time ... more should have been directed at the city. If the money had been there, things would be better," Thompson said.
The Seattle Times looks at Portland, Oregon and their brand new tram.

In Toronto which has a transit network very similar to Boston the commuter rail service known as GO Transit is having all kinds of problems this winter. Also in Toronto a new streetcar line opens on February 18th.

and finally if you think the T's Commuter Rail has problems consider the plight of passengers in Sydney, Australia.
RailCorp has apologised to passengers who have endured long journeys without toilets, which, in some cases, have forced people to wet themselves, urinate in carriages and ask for toilet stops.

The problem is worst on the South Coast line, where people travelling for two hours or more can lack basic amenities due to a combination of vandalism, trains with no toilets and delays to long-promised new carriages.

Passengers have faced the humiliation of wetting themselves due to lack of toilets. Others have been seen urinating between carriages or, if the area between carriages is enclosed, inside them.
Suddenly the Lowell Line looks like the Orient Express

1-31-2007 NEVER FORGET

The day after the mooninite invasion there are far more questions than answers. But there is one question that should be front and center and so far the media has been ignoring it.

How could someone install a device 20 feet above a busway without anybody seeing anything?????

Peter Berdovsky and Sean Stevens may have done the City of Boston more good than harm when they installed those 38 lite brite devices all over the city because it exposes just how vulnerable we are to someone who would really want to hurt us.

Think about it.

Nobody saw or reported anything amiss when these "ads" were deployed. Nobody thought anything was unusual. THAT should frighten Mayor Menino and Governor Patrick far more than what actually happened yesterday. Peter and Sean could have been planting explosives just as easily as the lite brites. Every security measure implemented after 9/11 FAILED in this case and the Mayor and Governor instead of screaming at Turner Broadcasting should instead look in the mirror and ask 'how did we allow this to happen'. Don't think this hasn't gone unnoticed by real terrorist who now could think it would be easier to launch an attack against the city.

Then at the next level there are so many questions to be asked that you almost don't know where to begin. Just take the simple fact that these devices were sitting around for TWO WEEKS before anybody in authority really noticed them. For 2 weeks the Boston Police didn't notice this strange light on an overpass?

or this?

Of course nobody in 9 other cities reported anything amiss either but today city officials nationwide are expressing dismay over the stunt

In the Seattle area, the first device was found Tuesday by a Woodinville Public Works Department crew working on a railroad trestle over Highway 202, said Woodinville Police Chief John McSwain.

"Public Works found it and took it down and didn't even bother to call us" because the device didn't appear to be threatening, he said.

When news of events in Boston began to be reported Wednesday, he said, the Seattle Police Department called and passed on the information about the locations of other devices.

McSwain and other officers removed three more of the devices from various locations, including an awning at a business, in a mini-mall and in front of another business.

The appearance of the devices indicated they weren't too sinister, with one officer describing them as a battery, a light and a cartoon character making an obscene gesture, McSwain said.

Three devices also were found in Bothell, police reported. Officers acting on information from the Seattle Police Department removed the devices and knew the devices were not a threat.

Seattle police also found several of the devices in the city but declined to reveal their location or how many there were.
Police here believe there were 56 devices in Philadelphia similar to the ones in Boston that caused a terrorism scare, authorities said yesterday.

However, the blinking electronic devices in Philadelphia were not discovered until after the ones found in Boston were revealed to be a promotion for a late-night cable television cartoon show. There were no immediate signs of anyone panicking from the Philadelphia devices.

Mayor Street's spokesman, Joe Grace, said one device was found attached to a commercial sign at Sixth and South Streets and there were possibly 55 others. A cease-and-desist letter was sent to Turner Broadcasting, threatening fines for violating zoning codes.

Grace said Philadelphia intended to recoup all costs associated with what he called "a stupid, reckless, irresponsible prank."
"Chicago Police are aware of the marketing campaign locations and have been taking the necessary steps to remove the devices," said Chicago Police spokeswoman Monique Bond. The number of devices removed and their locations weren't available.

"It's behavior like this that can divert the city's first responders from genuine emergencies," said Kevin Smith of the Office of Emergency Management.
New York City
The publicity stunt that put a scare in Boston also had repercussions in New York City, where police took to the streets in search of the blinking devices and the marketing firm thought to be behind the hoax is based.
The NYPD had not received any complaints about the devices prior to the Boston scare, said police spokesman Paul Browne. But when the police department became aware of the situation in Boston, it contacted the New York marketing firm Interference Inc., which cooperated and provided a list of locations so the devices could be removed.

Police said Interference gave them a list of 41 locations where they had planned to place the signs — on an awning in the trendy Meatpacking District, on a metal door frame in Greenwich Village, on a fence-top on the Lower East Side — but it was unclear how many were actually dispersed.

Officers went to the various locations amid the hysteria in Boston, and found only two of the devices — both attached to an overpass at 33rd Street and the West Side Highway.
San Francisco
The outfit responsible for planting blinking devices that prompted bomb scares and a wave of road and bridge closures today in Boston scattered 20 of the devices in San Francisco, police said.
One of the devices was found last week on a sign above a Clement Street art gallery and design store called Park Life. Store owner Jamie Alexander, 37, said the device was 12 inches wide and 15 inches tall, with a blinking, robotic figure displaying a middle finger. It had been attached with magnets.

Alexander said he did not suspect a terrorist plot.

"I thought, 'What the hell is this?' " Alexander said. "I left it up. I though it was cool."

On Sunday, after the device ran out of battery power and stopped blinking, he had a friend climb a ladder and take it down.

Alexander said he could understand some of the anxiety caused by the devices, if only because the one he found had about a half-dozen "D" batteries crudely taped to it.

"But those people are pretty paranoid," he said of the reaction in Boston.
Paranoid??? Bostonians??? I'm shocked, shocked!!!!

As for Turner Broadcasting? Well they wanted publicity and they got it. Brendon Behan once remarked "There is no such thing as bad publicity except your own obituary." and since it is unlikely that Turner or Time-Warner will suffer any more than some fines and restitution for this stunt there maybe some executives giving themselves high fives behind closed doors. Millions of people are now aware that Adult Swim exists that didn't yesterday. This story is front page news across the globe from Sydney to London.

This morning the Commonwealth went after Peter Berdovsky and Sean Stevens but they are nothing more than scapegoats in this. What they have done is show just how very much at risk we all are.

Charlie's Mailbag February 1st (good driver and fare evaders)

More reader mail at

BTW we would like some feedback on the preview windows that allow you to look at a link without clicking. Should they stay or should they go? Please let us know.

Last week we heard from Charlie (no relation) who was having problems trying to reload his CharlieCard in Watertown. He writes back to us with a happy ending to his story.

Hi Charlie,

To update you on how my Watertown experience turned out... I intentionally boarded the bus last at Watertown Yard, held out my CharlieCard and a $20 bill, and said to the driver "I need to load value onto my CharlieCard". He then replied "OK just a second" and pushed a few buttons on his farebox keyboard. He then instructed me step by step to follow the instructions on the screen, tapping my card, loading my money, hitting the little white button to confirm it, tapping my card again to load it, and then finally tapping to pay the fare. It took probably 15-20 seconds total, and the driver was very courteous and helpful throughout the process. This was a welcomed experience given the stories of confusion and rudeness I've read about when people have tried to load value on their CharlieCard on buses.

That is great to hear. I truly believe the vast majority of T employees are good and this why the blog started the T employee appreciation thread.

Teresa comments on fare evasion


After being subject to a circuitous ride on a 70 bus to Central Square that thought it was a 47, I was a bit disgruntled when I entered the T station on the inbound side. As I waited for the next train near the main fare gates (with Charlie machines and T attendant), I witnessed one young female delinquent offer entry to her delinquent friend by opening the gate from the track side. She didn't even try to hide her behavior. Then, seconds later, the two delinquents loudly call over to delinquent #3 who was just entering the area. Delinquent #1 proceeds to open the gate for her as well.

A bit shocked that they would do this so brazenly in front of the T rep (rather than at the more inconspicuous entrance at the end of the platform) I had to say something. So I poked my head between the fare machines and asked the T attendant "Don't you even care that people are basically jumping the turnstiles right in front of you."

His reply was, "What can I do, I have to help these people" as he gestured to the masses that have yet to figure out the byzantine machines.

As I shook my head and went back to waiting on the platform, he called out after me "and yes, I do care."

Now if only the T management would care.

The T decided to change the order from turnstiles to gates to combat fare evasion in the system thinking the gates would make it harder. Just the opposite has happened. Honestly in all the years I have been riding the T I can't recall very many cases where I would see somebody jump a turnstile. You were much more likely to see someone plead poverty to the token clerk and usually they would get waved through something not likely to happen now with Charlie. What fare evasion I did see regularly was on buses where people would just waltz by the driver without paying. The driver might yell at them but most of the time it was just ignored and Charlie won't solve that problem on a bus. Since it is impossible to have T Police on every bus this will remain a problem.

In New York several stations have been converted to a newer floor-to-ceiling turnstile that is impossible to jump but city officials are concerned that it is a fire hazard as it allows only 20 passengers to exit a minute compared to 40 at a regular turnstile so Boston is not alone with this issue.

Now the Green Line has its own issues with fare evasion as Boston tries to introduce "proof of payment" (POP) to the street level trolleys. I asked users of a San Francisco transit blog how well POP works there and got some interesting feedback. Some examples
from Viscus: If you don't already have a pass, you buy a ticket either from a turnstile in a subway station, one of the vending machines that they have at surface station platforms, or you go to the very front of the train and buy a paper transfer from the train operator.

Randomly, Muni fare inspectors will show up on trains or station platforms to check everyone for proof of payment. If you don't have it, you're subject to something like a $250 citation.
Now that sounds exactly what the T is trying to do at least on the D Line. One major difference between MUNI and the T on the trolley lines is the second cars in San Francisco are not manned so when boarding the second car you must have some form of proof of payment. Fare evasion is a hot topic with riders in San Francisco
from factfarmer3000: I guess its safe to say its not handled that much

lots of people who want their POP go to the front after they board to get it.

there are lots of fare jumpers, unfortunately. However, I think it is only the Muni Metro that has police men come on board and check that people have their POP. Although, I think that fare jumpers are usually on the regular buses, especially those long crowded ones like the 14- Mission.

I'm just a commuter though, so you might want to wait for a professional response form someone else.
and indeed a MUNI employee did post
Currently there are only Fare Inspectors checking in the subway/light rail and the cable cars. Alas, the greater majority of fare evasion is done on the buses.

Muni has hired 47 new inspectors but they are slated to work in the same venues. I am constantly being told my managers that I speak to that fare inspection on buses are not in the near future.

Officially, when there is a fare evader, we are supposed to call Central Dispatch and wait for instructions. The vast majority of the time, operators don't call because it is a waste of time to pick up the phone and nothing happens to the same people; AND then it will make you even more late in your bus schedule. People have been evading the fares for generations. Grandmothers tell little grandson how the MUNI UNIVERSE works and the knowledge is handed down thorough the generations. Even kids of MUNI bus drivers do it. Why? Because they know nothing will happen from asking their parents.

To me, the paper transfer is one of the many reasons why MUNI is losing so much money. There is so much room for abuse of the system. I would say that only 30% of the time, people would show clearly what the date is and what is the expiration date
which prompted more posts
Well, about half of the time that I've been around when the fare inspectors showed up, one or two people got busted for fare evasion. As others have said, most of the fare evasion probably happens on the bus lines, where people jump on through the back door, only show half of an expired transfer, etc.

A lot of people in San Francisco have a really sick sense of entitlement when it comes to mass transit.
Fare evasion on the T will continue to be an issue until the fare inspectors start writing tickets or the MBTA Police arrest people. Then the word will spread on the streets that it isn't worth it.

That is how cities operate.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Let's Make February T Employee Appreciation Month

A few days ago we got an email from Fred who made a fantastic suggestion
I was thinking this morning about the story on the blog yesterday about the driver of the 0010 bus and it clicked. This morning I happened to catch the 7 in Southie with my favorite driver. I don't know his name, but every day when I ride the bus he drives, he puts me in a better mood. This morning they rerouted some of the buses (I have no idea why) so he stopped at the corner, flashed 7 fingers at us and turned the corner to wait for us... not only did he not have to do that, but he opened the back doors to get us on the bus quicker and not have to be out in the cold. Then he proceeded to apologize for the inconvenience and the delay. At the end of the route, he also took time out to give a rider directions to their destination. He was great! Normal days, he calls out "7 Downtown" if he pulls up to a stop with another bus or a lot of people or he calls out the major stops on the route.. for some reason he always puts me in a great mood and I am not a morning person. I plan on writing a letter to the T commending him of his service.. and it got me thinking.

We all know that there are good operators and bad ones out there. We're stuck with the cards we're dealt and there's not a whole lot we can do. But I was thinking what if we all took it upon ourselves to try to change things thru the "trickle down effect". If everyone that has a good experience, or good operator takes a few minutes out of their day to write a short note during the month of February... let's leave the negatives aside for one month (they'll be there in March I'm sure).. maybe it will have a positive effect of the morale of the T employees. And if the T actually recognized good service (imagine the same driver getting ten nice notes about them) maybe it would inspire the less friendly folks to be a little friendlier. It's so easy to complain, but if we all tried to make a difference by being positive maybe we could put a few more friendlier people out there.

Who knows - it just might work!


Fred that is an outstanding idea.The vast majority of T employees are good,hard working people trying to deal with a very large and aging transit system. It is human nature (especially in Boston) to dwell on the negative but we should stop and praise those T employees who ARE doing a good job.

So please send your nominations for "A good T employee" either in the comment section of this thread or by email to

But if you have a bad experience please tell us about that as well and those will be posted separately.

Thanks Fred for the idea!!!!

UPDATED Boston is becoming a national laughingstock


Well we survived the Mooninite invasion.

I got 2 emails from friends in Chicago in the last hour and I have a sense that many others that live in Boston are hearing similar from friends around the country.
from my emails

I'm not sure who looks dumber, Turner Broadcasting or the city of Boston. I'm picking the City of Boston right now.

No one's seen Aqua Teen Hunger Force in Boston before?

How could they not recognize the mooninites?
The simple fact is there were similar displays in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, Seattle, Portland, Austin, San Francisco, and Philadelphia. AND they have been on display for 2 weeks in Boston!!!! Boston bloggers are having a field day with as well as you can sample at

I have to admit I laughed out loud at this one -If you are going to bomb a subway station, why on earth would you pick Sullivan Square?! Seriously the response at Sullivan was justified as it is a key area for the entire Boston transportation system (expressways, subway, commuter rail ) and knocking it out would cripple the northside of the city.

Now certainly Turner Broadcasting should have informed the city about what they were doing and late Wednesday evening Turner officials admitted they had not done so.

The Cartoon Network ran an apology to Boston Wednesday evening

But be prepared to be laughed at by your friends out of town. Expect Leno and Letterman to have fun with this. This wasn't an issue in Manhattan which is the most security conscious place in America. It happened here and it will become another chapter in local folklore.

Because I love that dirty water
Oh, oh, Boston, you're my home

The Globe has a blistering editorial for tomorrow

Turner Broadcasting has admitted responsibilty

Turner Broadcasting acknowledged late this afternoon that the suspicious packages that ignited fears of bombs across Boston today were magnetic lights that were part of an outdoor marketing campaign for an adult cartoon. Turner was promoting Adult Swim's animated television show "Aqua Teen Hunger Force" in Boston and nine other cities, according to a statement e-mailed by Shirley Powell, a company spokeswoman. "Parent company Turner Broadcasting is in contact with local and federal law enforcement on the exact locations of the billboards," the e-mail statement said. "We regret that they were mistakenly thought to pose any danger."

from WBZ-TV

Hoax Devices Part Of Cartoon Ad Campaign

"The "packages" in question are magnetic lights that pose no danger. They are part of an outdoor marketing campaign in 10 cities in support of Adult Swim's animated television show Aqua Teen Hunger Force. They have been in place for two to three weeks in Boston, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, Seattle, Portland, Austin, San Francisco and Philadelphia. Parent company Turner Broadcasting is in contact with local and federal enforcement on the exact locations of the billboards. We regret that they mistakenly thought to pose any danger."

Charlie's Mailbag 1/31- smelly stations and Red Line woes

From the mailbag at

Amanda ponders the fumes at Back Bay Station
Hi there,

Was just checking out your blog -- lots of great stuff -- and was curious if there's ever been any discussion about the noxious fumes at Back Bay station in the commuter rail passenger waiting area (adjacent to the customer service windows for commuter rail and Amtrak)? When I've stood in line to purchase a ticket, I have been stunned by the smell and the level of pollution, presumably coming up from the tracks below. Thankfully the employees don't have to breath this crap all day. But the passengers do. Has anyone ever tried to do anything about this? Seems like it could be a violation of federal or state indoor air quality or something...I doubt the fumes are harmless...

Amanda from Malden
Hi Amanda and welcome to the blog.

I have to agree it is really getting bad at Back Bay in recent months. They have massive exhaust fans in the tunnel but they have not been doing the job lately. While Amtrak is electrified the T's commuter rail locomotives are not and their engines generate exhaust emissions and they are enhanced being in a tunnel. Electrifying the Commuter Rail is not a viable option for the T at this time because of the cost but hopefully they will work on the exhaust system.

While on the subject of "smelly stations" there are 2 subway stations downtown that are very funky. Aquarium has smelled like a fish tank for the last 6 months and now the same smell is at the North Station "superstation". I have no idea what it causing it but it is a very noticeable dank smell. I can't be the only person who has noticed this.

Paul is new to the Red Line and wonders about poor service
Hi, As a new daily rider on the Red Line from Braintree to Park St, I am blown away by the poor ride quality and service. I know the Red Line "is what it is" and all, but is there any information out there on why the Red Line Trains seem to be brought out of service so often, why they stop, start so often between stations and why the ride is so jarring? Just curious. Are the rails and trains obsolete or something?

Paul believe it or not it is actually better on the Braintree line as some speed restrictions have been lifted. However one major problem still exists and that is the set of switches between JFK and Andrew where the Red Line splits. The T in November set aside $19.2 million to address the issue. The Globe quoted T General Manager Daniel A. Grabauskas on November 21st, 2006
Delays on the subway system, especially on the Red Line and a problematic area of aging switches in South Boston, "are a direct result of the age of the infrastructure," he said.

"This is almost $20 million to fix this problem."

So Paul the T is addressing the issue but it is going to take time. Expect to see a lot of bus shuttles on weekends when they start working on the switches.

This is how your February pass SHOULD read

If you have already purchased your February pass the card info display at the vending machine SHOULD look like this.
Notice that my pass is showing a start date of January 1 and now expires on February 28th.
Check your card before leaving the FVM and get a receipt.

Green Line to become "Yellow Line" on February 9th

The Green Line will be renamed the Yellow Line on February 9th as part of a one day promotion with Verizon Yellow Pages.

As part of the promotion Jewel will perform first on a trolley and then at a free concert at South Station.

Mac Daniel has all the details on the Starts and Stops blog.

T has found no weapons in random searches

Front page story in the Wednesday Globe which details the results of 2,449 random inspections made between October and December on T property. Mac Daniel reports...

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

bloggers on the T January 30th edition

Fact of life people blog about the T

There are some unhappy campers out there. We do try and find positive blog entries about the T but what comes up in the searches is what comes up....a recent sample

Allison e-mailed me about her blog entry
I posted a story about my experience on the MBTA bus with a careless driver that slammed on the brakes (several times) causing people to fall and I've got a huge bruise on my leg now because of this:

I just wanted to share.
Landed in Swampscott tells us about morning entertainment only the T can provide

A basket case writes an open letter to T Conductors

The Somerville News blogs about trash at the Davis Square T station

Bad Transit has another problem at the fare vending machines

Jen writes on My Space about Vermin on the MBTA

A brand new blogger has his second entry which is not negative about the T

Drew on Live Journal rants about the T's new faregates

NEPete at Blue Mass Group laments the failed attempt to restore the E line to Arborway

and finally
a poor college student complains about the fare increase.

Yup Boston bloggers talk about the T. I just linked them for people to sample.

Hopefully this is an isolated case

Just got a note from Jim in Cambridge who reports his January LinkPass vanished when he bought his February one.
According to the MBTA (and the Globe on January 28), “T officials are encouraging folks to put their February passes on their CharlieCard now to avoid lines. You can do this for any month, beginning on the 15th of the preceding month. There's no need to wait until this Wednesday, the 31st.” It’s true that you can add the February pass . . . but what they forgot to mention is that doing so erases the January pass from your CharlieCard. This evening, on my way home from work, I stopped at Park Street to add a February pass to my card (which had a January pass already on it, and which I had been using without problems for the whole month of January). After adding the February pass, I went to enter the gate . . . and got a “Not enough value” message. I tried another gate – same story. I went back to the vending machine, which confirmed I had a pass good through 2/28/2007 . . . but failed to inform me that, evidently, the pass now would not be good until 2/1/2007. As a result, I had “add value” to the pass so I could get home (and for my two trips tomorrow). Steve from Boston (see Globe Starts & Stops dated January 28, 2007) was apparently correct in stating that “it is not possible to have both January and February on the card's chip at once," and it is the MBTA and the Globe who are handing out the “Bad Information.”

I will refrain from speculating how much money the T will be making off of this error, or the lines which will be at all the T Fare Vending Machines on the morning of the first of each month once this error becomes more widely known. I would have sent a copy of this e-mail to the MBTA, but I can’t find an appropriate e-mail address on their website.

- Jim in Cambridge

P.S. The funny thing was, up until this point, I was personally quite happy with the CharlieCard system. Well, I guess you live and learn.

This is the first report of this I have heard so I am thinking this is an isolated case. The CharlieCard is designed with three stored value slots, 2 which are used for monthly passes and the third is for any stored value.

The question to throw out there is has anybody else experienced this?

On a related note posted a blog entry from Moxie who had her own horror show on Tuesday when she tried to buy her February pass with her WageWorks card.

Charlie's Mailbag: Jan 30th - bus #504, the trip planner and North Station

The mailbag at has 3 items today

Greg from Watertown is unhappy with the 504 express bus

almost directly coinciding with the fare increase, the recent service on the 504 has been terrible.

first, the wait between buses at around 7:30-8am (on a weekday) is around 15 minutes. they advertise the buses run every 10 minutes or less during that time frame, which is just laughable. (it's also frustrating when you're standing in the cold and two 502's and three 57's pass you during your wait.)

second, for some reason, they're no longer using the "new" buses, including those fancy "double" buses. no, we're stuck in an old, trash-strewn bus that is filled to capacity before reaching newton corner. and even worse, the back doors don't fully close, so when we're zipping down the pike, the temperature on the bus feels like that of a meat locker.

real frustrating, especially in light of the fare increase.

greg, Watertown ma
Greg the bad news is the 60 foot buses have been reassigned to Jamaica Plain (the #32 route). The T only has a limited number of the 60 footers and they are found mostly on the Silver Line-Washington, Silver Line-Waterfront and the #39 Back Bay-Forest Hills route that replaced the Arborway trolleys some 20 years ago. The T currently has no plans to order any more of the 60 foot buses that are so popular in Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle and other cities. I know that drivers are not fond of them because they are extremely difficult to back up. So it appears that on your route you have smaller buses and less of them running. Maybe somebody out there can offer more info.

David was using the T's trip planner and is puzzled

On the whole, the new trip planner is good, but as the Orange Line problem showed, there are some issues. I have another one:

Currently, if you travel on the Worcester line from Newtonville to Yawkey or South Station it shows the fare as $2.25. If you travel to Back Bay it says the fare is $2.75 (?!). The actual fare is $4.25. I wrote to the T, but (naturally) received no response. Actually, according to the rules on the T web site it's not clear if the fare to Yawkey should be $2.25 or $4.50. No help from the T on figuring this out.

David, I than ran it to South Station and it quoted a fare of $ 2.25 as well.

Now Newtonville is considered Zone 1 ( West Newton and Auburndale are Zone 2 ) and it is supposed to be $ 4.25 one way. So it looks like another bug to squash in the trip planner. Another website note, The T should really include the zone number on each individual station page to make it easier for a rider to figure out the fare. Notice on the Newtonville page there is no mention that it is in Zone 1, you have to look elsewhere for the info.

finally we have Peg who would like to see something basic installed at North Station. Or simply turned on.
I, too am impressed with the progress at North Station, but I’m not about to toss any bouquets to the T or DNC, who were the ones who forced us into that ridiculously small waiting area in the first place. My real pet peeve, however is in the Green/Orange ‘super station”. On the main level where the tunnel across to N.Station is, hangs 2 commuter rail track monitors, exactly the same as the ones in North Station. They’ve been there, not turned on, since the super station opened. Last year, I inquired at the “Information” booth when they might be activated. The T employee told me it was a question for Commuter Rail, so I asked there. You can guess the rest – MBCR referred me back to the T, the Orange Line personnel said it was a Green Line issue and vice versa, and then ‘Customer Service” at MBCR actually told me that they are NOT monitors but security cameras! They’re stainless steel hooded TV’s!!

It seems to me that this is a simple matter of flipping a switch and could make a difference in my daily commute home; often times, running from the Orange line, it’s good to know if the train I’m rushing for is actually still in the station, also which end of North Station I should be running for!

Thanks for providing a place to vent!!
Thanks for sharing Peg.

I know the monitors that you speak of and it is obvious what they were intended for which makes all the sense in the world. But this is a classic case of the byzantine world that lives between the T's seperate divisions. The commuter rail to the rapid transit people simply don't exist. This probably goes back decades when they were run by separate companies but there seems to be little or no cooperation between the T divisions. Take a look at the #94 bus route that servers Medord and Somerville. It describes what areas it serves and also promises connections to the Red Line. But nowhere on that schedule does it mention that it connects with the Commuter Rail at West Medford. It becomes obvious that it does when you look at the map but the T ignores that. How hard could it be to tweak the 94 schedule so a passenger could get a decent transfer between the 2 lines? IF there was a reliable connection a passenger coming inbound from Lowell heading for Somerville or Cambridge could simply get off at West Medford and ride the bus to Davis and connect with the Red Line. Instead because the connection is not reliable that passenger has to travel all the way into North Station and then navigate back to the Red Line. This happens elsewhere in the system.

Nobody is asking for perfection from the T, but a little common sense could make every rider a little happier every day.

Monday, January 29, 2007

North Station renovations nearly complete

Just 4 weeks ago we reported on the renovations at North Station and since then much progress has been made. Joel sends this report to the mailbag at

Joel here from I think you ought to get over to North Station and take a look at the new, vastly expanded commuter rail waiting room that's nearing completion. I like the old-school oval bench islands and the snazzy signage for the track numbers. Not so sure about the regular benches that will apparently fill out the space. But anything is better than the current chaos and gridlock.

Well, almost anything. There's one awful development: this morning the coffee-breaking construction workers were enjoying a big diamond vision screen that was hooked up even though it hadn't been attached to the wall yet. And the very bright and vivid picture was showing A BANK NORTH GARDEN AD. Let's hope they're not going to put this ten-foot screen to work brainwashing their captive audience into attending Rod Stewart concerts and Celtics losses, no doubt accompanied by a decibel level that will make us all bleed from the ears. That would be ten times more annoying than any airport departure lounge screen.

It's great that they finally figured out the existing space wasn't enough for train passengers alone, much less on the night of a game or concert. It's too bad that they didn't figure it out when they were designing the building in the first place. It's also too bad that at that time they didn't design a direct connection from the commuter-rail lobby to the subway station. It's asinine that everyone has to march outside and then ten feet later go through another set of doors to get back inside. And there's quite the bottleneck there at busy times.

Northside Commuter Rail passengers are finally getting a decent terminal again at North Station, something that has been lacking since the Boston Garden closed in 1995 to make way for the now TD Banknorth Garden.

Don't blame the T for the long delay as the station is the responsibility of Delaware North Companies of Buffalo the owner of the Garden. DNC has been trying for a decade to develop the land the former Garden was on ( and currently a parking lot ) and they put the train station on the back burner. I'm told the reason there is not a direct entrance into the station was that the Garden and the T didn't exactly know where everything would wind up. The T plans a ribbon cutting ceremony this week and crowd control should be much improved at the station especially on event nights at the Garden.

The T itself did an excellent job with the Green and Orange Line superstation and now transferring between lines is much easier.

T revises Green Line boarding policy again

The mailbag at indicated some confusion on Show-n-Go on the Green Line in recent days. First we hear from Sue in Newton
They don't seem to have made up their minds whether we still have "Show and Go" at Newton Centre or not. Usually they open the back doors but then the driver howls at you to come up to the front to pay your fare -- whether you have a Charlie card, a Charlie ticket, a "validator" or anything else. Then, of course, you lose your seat ...

This will be fun when they interrupt D Line service during Red Sox season.

What's the official policy, if any?
Hmmmm The T had signs at all the D Line stations that "said" what the policy was supposed to be but they don't seem to be following it.

Then this afternoon we got a long letter from Katie in Brighton who after a bad commuter morning last week decided to complain to the T and got a response back from them. It appears that the rules have changed once again.

I wanted to share a recent CharlieCard experience and pass on some information I received from the MBTA.

Last week, I witnessed a T driver shout at a passenger on the B line boarding at Long Ave. The passenger had a monthly pass on a CharlieTicket—the kind that still has the month clearly identified on the ticket. The passenger felt that this should allow him to enter at any door and "Show and Go", as did I. This is in agreement with both the signage on the B Line and with the internal driver-instruction memo posted on your blog a few weeks ago. The driver, however, disagreed, forcing the passenger to insert the CharlieTicket as well as responding to his comments that his pass "says JANUARY on it" and that "this is taking longer and people are cold" with by shouting "We don't do 'Show and Go' anymore. If you're cold, you should wear more clothes."

Since the new fare system was introduced, I've noticed that the drivers are terribly inconsistent about whether they open all doors (as someone who gets off above-ground on the B line both in- and outbound, this is a particular concern for me as I'm less willing to move all the way to the back when only the front door will be opened at my stop), however, this combined with the incredibly rude behavior and a bad morning was enough to inspire me to register a complaint with the T. (I've copied the letter and full response below.)

The most surprising thing about the response (other than that I received one at all) was that it states "Therefore, operators are opening all doors in stations and at stops where a fare monitor is present with a hand held validator. The Fare Monitor is able to verify payment on their hand held validators.

At station stops and locations where no fare monitor and or fare validator is present, Green Line operators are instructed to open front doors only and board passengers through the front door ensuring proper fare collection" (emphasis mine). This is in direct contradiction to everything else I've read and might answer some of the questions I've seen people raise about this policy. I think the T could really decrease problems with the system is there was a bit more transparency on these boarding and payment policies. And, in any case, the drivers should be trained to be as polite as possible to the customers.



Mode: Subway

Line: Green Line

Incident Date: 1/23/2007

Incident Time: 8:20 AM

Topic: Employee Complaint

Sub Topic: Rude/Abrasive

Route: Green Line

Vehicle: 3138

Additional Comments: This morning on a Green B train, I overheard the driver shout at a passenger. The passenger was carrying his T pass on a

CharlieTicket-- the kind that still has the month written on it in large letters. He attempted to board the train without inserting his pass into the fare box-- just holding it up in the "show & go" fashion. When the driver told him to go back, I believe he made a comment about the cold weather and slow boarding. She shouted that "We don''t do Show & Go anymore. If you''re cold, you should wear more clothes."

While I think it's inappropriate for her to shout under any circumstance (and really not what I want to hear during my already unpleasant early-morning commute), I believe that the passenger was in the right. Per all the signage adorning the B line that explains the "faster, easier boarding" policies (which I was unable to fund on the website to quote directly), the drivers are to open ALL doors at ALL stops on the Green Line, whether there's a validator at the stop or not. It also says that passengers with monthly passes (I assume this refers to the exact kind of pass the passenger was carrying and not to, for example, my Link Pass which is on a CharlieCard and thus indistinguishable from stored value) can board at any door as they could previously. It then says that other passengers can board ALL doors and come to the front to pay their fare.

If I am reading the signs incorrectly, please let me know. However, from all indications, drivers on the Green Line should now be opening ALL doors at ALL stops. As someone who gets off above-ground on the B line, this is a welcome change and overall I've found the change to the CharlieCard to be a good change. Though this is not the first time the drivers have refused to open all the doors-- perhaps they are not being adequately trained in the new procedure-- this is the first that I have heard a driver treat a (legitimately) confused passenger with such disrespect.

Thank you for your time.

Name: Katie

City: Brighton

From: Feedback []
Sent: Wednesday, January 24, 2007 12:54 PM
To: Katie
Subject: Re: Fwd: MBTA Customer Comment Form: #070123521

We apologize for the confusion with our new fare collection procedures

on the Green Line. We appreciate your taking the time to write and

request further clarification.

In order to make the transition to the new fare collection procedures

as easy as possible, we are installing new signage and training all

personnel and customers in the new methodology. All passengers are

required to pay a fare when traveling in both directions on the Green

Line. Therefore, operators are opening all doors in stations and at

stops where a fare monitor is present with a hand held validator. The

Fare Monitor is able to verify payment on their hand held validators.

At station stops and locations where no fare monitor and or fare

validator is present, Green Line operators are instructed to open front

doors only and board passengers through the front door ensuring proper

fare collection. We apologize for any inconvenience this may have

caused you and appreciate your patience while we implement these new


So now it appears that Show-n-Go will only be used where they have fare inspectors.

While many cities employ an honor system with POP (proof of payment) and a rider is subject to inspection it appears for now the T isn't doing that. If anybody at the T wants to challenge what the above information says the case number is included in the T's response. The only thing I have done is to delete Katie's last name.

If this indeed the policy I would hope the T installs some signs saying this.

UPDATED: The new Blue Line trains exist....REALLY

photo from

The first 2 of the long delayed new Blue Line cars have been delivered and are at the T's Wellington service center in Medford to begin testing.

The cars which are manufactured by Siemens were ordered by the T in 2001 with a promised delivery date of January 2004 but the contract has suffered numerous delays.

94 cars have been ordered and Blue Line riders can look forward to 6 car trains in the hopefully not to distant future.

T officials and riders are keeping their fingers crossed that will not see a repeat of the Breda trolley fiasco that has plagued the Green Line. The first Breda cars were delivered for testing on January 31, 1998 and the T is only accepting the final cars in that order now.

Back in June a T insider posted on the reason for the delays and says neither the T or Siemens was at fault in this case

Ok let’s give this a shot!!!!

The Blue Line Siemens #5 cars are only about 20 months delayed and this delay has been caused by circumstances beyond Siemens and the MBTA control.

The primary reason for the delay is the fact that Buckeye Steel the company which was originally going to supply the trucks went bankrupt. The reason Buckeye Steel was chosen was because their the same company which made the Hawker Siddeley #4 car truck and it was service proven. Siemens was forced to scramble and locate another truck supplier which took the better part of a year.

There have been 4 or 5 other sub-suppliers which have had to withdraw for similar reasons and each time forcing siemens to find other suppliers.

So I suggest you cut Siemens and the MBTA some slack by being a little more patient before you start passing judgment on a vehicle which has not even been delivered yet.

I would rather the Siemens #5 car be delivered late and configured correctly then have to deal with fixing problems which could have been resolved prior to delivery.

The proto-type is quite an impressive vehicle from what I’ve seen and If Siemens delivers the same quality in the rest of the fleet I can assure you and the MBTA will not be disappointed with the finished product.

Keeping fingers crossed.

Globe Editorial: Rail tracks for sale

Rail tracks for sale

The Patrick administration has been handed a major opportunity to improve the commuter rail network in eastern Massachusetts. The CSX railroad corporation wants to sell its rail lines west to Worcester, south to Fall River and New Bedford, and north to Somerville. Assuming the price is right and there are no adverse implications for freight transportation, the state should welcome the opportunity to buy them.

John Cogliano, the Romney administration's last secretary of transportation, worked hard to complete the deal last fall, but ran out of time before the transition to the Patrick administration. It would have required a bond authorization from the Legislature as well, which would have been hard to get in the last months of the year.

Now negotiations are up to Bernard Cohen, appointed this month to succeed Cogliano as transportation secretary. "This has potential long-term transportation and economic development benefits," Cohen said in a telephone interview yesterday. "I'm anxious to restart negotiations."

Purchasing the rights of way to Worcester would allow the state to improve the maintenance of this line, which CSX, in its eight years of ownership, has rarely done well. A state takeover would allow the MBTA to expand service by shifting from a one-track to a two-track operation. It would also provide land for construction of a commuter rail station near the proposed Harvard campus in Allston.

State ownership of the tracks to New Bedford and Fall River would facilitate the extension of commuter rail service there, a priority of the governor during his election campaign. And ownership of the Grand Junction line through Cambridge would make it easier for the MBTA to move trains from the southside rail network to the repair facility in Somerville.

It's a great deal, as long as the price isn't outlandish. Cohen wasn't saying yesterday how much the state would be willing to spend. But it sounds as if CSX is phasing out its freight service to the rail yards in Allston, and, if that's the case, it will not need rail lines in eastern Massachusetts. Both sides ought to be able to reach an agreement.

A few contrarian voices have been heard recently against the longstanding state policy of encouraging commuter rail expansion around Boston. These people favor more spending on highway construction. But where would the new roads go in crowded eastern Massachusetts? Without the alternative of a reliable rail service, congested highways would tip into gridlock. The state owns all the commuter rail tracks except for the CSX property. A purchase here would enhance the reliability and extend the reach of an essential transportation service.
© Copyright 2007 Globe Newspaper Company.

"That's the design of the hardware" says the T

Globe had a little story on Sunday about the limits on coins and bills you can put into the new FVM's. (fare vending machines)

The maximum number of coins a self-service station will take at one time is 19 , according to the T.

Now, you can store up to $100 in value on your CharlieCard .

But, as with the 19 in coinage, you can't feed the automated dispenser more than 14 pieces of paper money at once -- in $1s, $5s, $10s, or $20s, says the T.

Those particular limits were not chosen capriciously, or because they are Charlie's favorite numbers.

They are all that each machine's bin can temporarily hold before a transaction is completed and the money goes into a vault, says the T.

"That's the design of the hardware," says Lydia Rivera , a spokeswoman for the MBTA.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Globe Magazine calls CharlieCard Best of the New-2007"

The Boston Sunday Globe Magazine cited the T's CharlieCard as one of 94 people, places, and things that in the last 12 months have changed Greater Boston for the better.
Fare Fix
The unveiling of the CHARLIECARD - a fare card that replaced subway tokens - dragged America's oldest subway system into the 21st century. Now you can buy a new card or add value to an old one in train stations; eventually the cards will be registered online, allowing users to cancel a lost card and replace it. Try that with a token.

How other transit systems interact with commuters

Thanks to Adam over at Universal Hub who told me about this.

The Metropolitan Transit Authority of Houston has started a blog called WRITE ON METRO to inform commuters of what is going on.

The Houston Press found out that the job pays $76,622. The job duties include
– Plans, prepares and disseminates information regarding the organization through blog-based communication network.

– Manages the research and development of content for publication of product, services and public information.

– Writes, edits, proofreads, and copyedits material being presented to the public via the blog-based communication network.

– Works in conjunction with IT to develop and maintain standards for the blog-based communication network.
Maybe the T would consider something similar?

In Chicago the head of the Chicago Transit Authority actually has a blog to communicate with commuters. She has been taking a lot of heat because of major problems with the CTA but she doesn't hide from them and is very candid. Could we expect to see something similar from the T? Not very likely since they can't even answer e-mail to Team Charlie.

Now much has been written about the T's new website and while it has bugs to be worked out they have made an effort to embrace the so called Web 2.0. Compare what the T has done to what the City of San Francisco unveiled Saturday for a new transit website. The Bay Area is perhaps the most wired metro area in America and the new MUNI website looks like something designed in 1995.

76,000 for a blogger? Sheese I'm living in the wrong city

Mac Daniel has more Charlie Stories

Mac looks at some more Charlie related issues, express bus changes and explains that you can add a February pass to a CharlieCard in January.

One reader thinks he knows why there are problems at the faregates
Stop 'tapping'

William of Wilmington chimed in last week about how best to use a CharlieCard, and we think he might be on to something.

For most of this month, folks have complained about the new T fare gates not accepting their CharlieCards. The T has come back, saying the system reported few problems, and we were left with a conundrum.

Then William wrote. Maybe the problem's not with the technology, though there have been problems, but with the instructions.

The key word the T uses with its CharlieCards is "tap," which means "to strike lightly." But Williams says this doesn't work, and it never has with proximity cards.

"Never mind the marketing people," wrote William. "Can we get past the idea that CharlieCards are magic wands? It's a proximity card and reader system.

"I've been using proximity cards for 20 years -- they used to be about three times as thick as a credit card, didn't bend, and the readers were slower because computers didn't run as fast back then," added William, who appears to love his caps lock key.


"If people weren't 'tapping' their cards, they wouldn't have to do it three times before the gate opened. They wouldn't be confused as to why the fare machine isn't telling them the card has been updated with new funds.