Saturday, February 17, 2007

New Charles station opened Saturday 2/17 (updated)





UPDATE 10:45 PM elevators and escalators are working at Charles/MGH


The new Charles/MGH station opened on Saturday, February 17. When I passed through it around 11:45 this morning, the new lobby was open. Plywood boards blocked off the old temporary stairs to the platforms.

I did not get on or off at this station today, so i can't yet report whether all the Charlie gates have been installed, or whether all of the elevators and escalators were operating.

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


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

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

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

Friday, February 16, 2007

Finally!!!! fare vending machines have fare charts


The T has finally put up fare charts on the FVM's (fare vending machines) so customers can now figure out how much to add to their CharlieCards or when buying a CharlieTicket.

Why it wasn't done on January 1st when the new fare structure was introduced I don't have an answer but better late than never.

Charlie's Mailbag - February 16th ( a very full mailbag )

A warm welcome to the new readers who are visiting after reading about us in Metro today.

from the mailbag at charlieonthembta@gmail.com

Oddjob reports at 7:15 Friday morning
Hi, Charlie,
I and my fellow travellers are sitting at the rt. 128 CR station. The train in front of us broke down at the station, and inbound trains are backing up behind it. We've been stopped for about 10 min. So far, and they say we will have to push the other train into Boston.
Be curious on how that saga ended, please let us know.

We haven't heard much from Orange Line commuters but Isabel gives us a report


Good morning,

let me start by saying that the Orange Line one of the best lines I used to think has been lately a nightmare...everyday allways the same delays with signal problems and some other poor excuses, well this morning it took the cake.

If you expect to raise fares and have the same type of equipment as the well run systems like NYC and other countries, maybe you should try to do a little more research on how things run and the best equipment to have, the Charlie card machines have been the worst experience and the service and assistance is next to null, and when you do ask a T person to assist you they give you the third degree and treat you like you are cheating the system, if the machines don't operate correctly but meanwhile show on the monitors as accepting my TPass but not opening the door for me then I should not be looked upon as not being believed or trying to cheat/manipulate the system, most of those turnstyles/new doors don't work half the time and it takes forever to get into the station and catch your train when it is never on time and running like crap.

This morning it took us all orange line patrons trying to get to work on time or try to make connections over a half hour to get from Community College to North Station, and that is after the guy froze us at the station by keeping the doors opened and just sitting at the station, then when we finally got to North Station they told us all to get off the train they were having power problems, have no idea what that had to do with the train we were in and then not a word of whether they was going to be any service as usual communication is null and limited....when finally they said there would be another train directly behind and as we crossed back from the green line to the orange line they were announcing that they were busing from North Station to Back Bay.....not that the announcement was very clear and loud enough for everyone to hear, I asked an inspector a question and he just walked by me like I said nothing and just totally ignored me....needless to say no one made their connections today and thanks to the T again we are left out on the cold and the dark, we are all getting very tired of the lack of service and the terrible treatment.

We expect better service and treatment not just fares to go up all the time.

I expect an answer from someone and don't copy from JetBlue try to follow the ones that have close to perfect service........

We should all be compensated for our troubles on a daily basis.

If I don't hear from you I will send a copy to this email to the proper hands and the news media.

Hope you have a better day than the people of the first train on the orange line.
Not much I can add to that Isabel but you can be sure somebody at the T will see what you posted.

Erin writes about a pass snafu from 2 months ago that still hasn't been resolved
I believe it was around November 30st that the MBTA converted to
automated fare/Charlie Ticket kiosks at all stations. The last and
first days of any month are, of course, the busiest days for
purchasing passes for the upcoming month. For many people, debit or
credit cards have become the established method of payment for pass
purchases.

Beginning sometime Thursday, November 30th 2006, riders were unable to
make purchases using debit or credit cards at these new kiosks
because, as I understand it, the kiosks were temporarily unable to
connect to banks, etc. At first, I thought this issue was specific to
the Oak Grove station, where many riders were allowed to pass through
without paying on Friday, December 1st.

At the end of the day on Friday, I attempted again to purchase my
December pass at the State Street station, but the connections were
still down. Lacking the cash for a pass, I was required to purchase a
$1.50 ticket for my ride home. I was handed a complaint form by an
MBTA worker standing by, which I promptly filled out and mailed to
MBTA customer service. Why should anyone pay $1.50 (or more) in
addition to fees for a subway pass during the same month?

I believe it was not until December 2nd that connections were
reestablished, and I was able to purchase my December pass. In
mid-February, I have yet to receive a response from MBTA customer
service.

My company pays for my monthly MBTA pass, and so this email is not
about $1.50. I am writing about the thousands of dollars the MBTA must
have "earned" during this three-day span from riders forced to pay for
individual fares in addition to their monthly pass fees.

I have been wanting to pursue this issue for quite some time, but keep
forgetting about it. I have to think that this "forgetting" is exactly
what the MBTA planned on.

Sigh.... I really hope the new customer service department the T announced this week will help prevent stories like this. What astounds me is that the T really thinks they are doing a good job with customer service NOW...I simply have to point to the comment the T made about my blog on Friday morning
When asked to comment on the blog, T spokesman Joe Pesaturo responded:

“While blogs come and go, people will always be able to present comments

and concerns directly to the T’s Customer Support Services.”
I think the T REALLY believes that. Last week I saw the movie "The Queen" which tells the story of how out of touch Buckingham Palace was after the death of Princess Diana. The Queen honestly thought her subjects were pleased at the way she was handling things and Tony Blair had to go to great lengths to tell her that wasn't the case. Sadly the T is as clueless as "The Queen". Again MAYBE things will improve with the new customer service department. It is something we will watch closely.

Roni writes about Bowdoin Station
Weekdays - Monday thru Friday - 5:00 p.m. Bowdoin Station
I've been taking the Blue line from Wonderland to Bowdoin for years.
The 5:00 o'clock "T" conductors at Bowdoin - don't have the courtesy to let passengers on and will approach Bowdoin - stop open the doors- and within less than 10 seconds slam the doors right in our faces - and lo and behold people are running down the ramp hoping to make it -
And it never fails, they wait for no one and why the doors are slammed so quickly is beyond my comprehension - It's rude- and almost deliberatlely mean -
They do it at no other station but, Bowdoin - - the train pauses and waits everywhere else and in between but, will always speed away and quicker that you can say :Jack Flash" the doors are closing right in your face- at Bowdoin only - try it - go there - see for yourself - it's demeaning!
Also, they will toot the horn and when we hear that we know they will not be stopping for us at Bowdoin - Thank you very much - how insignificant are we? -
but,- that's another issue ~
Bowdoin is the forgotten subway station downtown. During the budget cuts of the early 1980's they made it into a part time station and it remains that way today. It really seems that they just want to turn around the trains there as quickly as possible and then load at Government Center. With the new Charlie equipment there is no good reason not to have the station open more hours than it is now.

Finally Lou comments on many things he read on the blog this morning
I just found your blog today and, as many have said, I like it a lot. A few confirmations, comments, etc on things currently on the main page:

The headlights on heavy rail cars: Some drivers turn them off when coming in to the station, but I have actually seen some turn them on while coming in. These observations come mostly from Sullivan square (inbound), ruggles (outbound), and back bay (both).

The arborway line: I wasn’t even alive when the service stopped to arborway, but I would love to see it open. It isn’t even of any use to me really, but I just like the idea of it. One question about this portion of the E line though:

What would delays be like on this line if service were to be restored? Both Wednesday and Thursday I saw ridiculous morning delays on inbound service at Mission Park, bad enough that when I was standing there waiting for an inbound train, I saw an outbound pass 15 minutes after I arrived, and came to realize that that car would be the one I would be boarding… after it made its way around the heath st. loop (which, during heavy traffic and bad weather can take extraordinarily large amounts of time). The policy seems to be either short turn the second outbound train (if its close to the first of the delay) at Brigham circle, or to split the first train and short turn on of the cars. If service were to be restored to arborway, would there be any way to short turn a train or car between heath and arborway? In bad weather, it seems the traffic on the street can cause significant problems on this portion of the E, and I only see it being worse for those who live further outbound from heath if trains went to arborway.

Also, having read up on the T and its history extensively since moving to Boston for school about a year and a half ago, I have become interested in different Green Line cars: do you, or does anyone else, know when the best time and place to spot a type 6 car is? I had read that they still run at high traffic times on the D branch, but wasn’t sure if this info is outdated (or even if they have stopped running type 6 cars altogether, although I think I saw one at park last month when I was sitting on an E)

Regarding fare gates that accept only “smart cards” (Charlie cards), I have seen this happen at Ruggles, Sullivan Square, and I think downtown crossing as well. Sometimes all but one of the gates is for the cards only, and they change from day to day (probably hour to hour even). I haven’t ever seen a case where gates are only accepting one or the other but aren’t labeled as such, when the have no indication usually both seem to work. I also am curious as to what causes this.
-Lou
Welcome aboard Lou and thank you for your observations and I am sure someone will comment on them.

blogs come and go ( well this one isn't going anywhere )

The Friday edition of Boston Metro does a feature on our humble little blog.

One blogger making tracks on the T
by christina wallace / metro boston


I want to thank Christina Wallace for the positive tone of the article. I am quoted on the agenda of the blog

“The agenda is to try to make the T as good a public transit as it can be. If they screw up, of course I’m going to call them on it, but I’ve also tried to be complimentary as well.

“Honestly, I think people want to vent their frustration, send it out there — even if it’s not to the T — and get a response. So many people say they complain to the T and get an automated response back.”


The T was asked their reaction to the blog
When asked to comment on the blog, T spokesman Joe Pesaturo responded:

“While blogs come and go, people will always be able to present comments

and concerns directly to the T’s Customer Support Services.”
Well I am here to tell the T that this blog will be around for as long as readers continue to make it viable.

BTW it is very weird to be on a subway car and have Metro readers looking at their paper and then have them stare at you, and look back at their paper.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Bloggers on the T February 15th edition

quick scan of the Boston blogging community to see what is being said out there about the T

Despite its failings, I’m still an MBTA defender. Consider this: the entire transit system in the city of Pittsburgh — ironically also nicknamed the T — closed down yesterday. Including the fancy, all-new $1 billion Light Rail Transit. ...
Idea Critic - http://www.jesselegg.com

Apparently that had something to do with the T not running on schedule. When I left work yesterday, I had to wait over an hour and a half to get on a train. At the Aquarium stop. I cannot remember a time where I’ve been so angry.
I can understand if there’s something that causes a delay. But the trains were still running…they were just so packed that no one could get on. And they were saving one car on each train for T employees. You’d have completely packed cars, and one car with five guys on it. So annoying.
tellhimfred.com Winter Weather Rage

Give me a brake
by Christie MBTA's technology failed and everyone had to revert to the best-kept secret in public transportation, the 57 bus. With the T blocking an intersection for most of the day, students and cars couldn't reach their destination and the bus ...Rants Above the Radar - http://rantsabovetheradar.blogspot.com/index.html



Winter Blunderland
7 hours ago by DavidColeman222 A MBTA official (T cop) drives by in his SUV while I'm frantically trying to dig my car out from being stuck and says "You're going to have to move sir."
The Adventures of Funkyman - http://davidfcoleman.blogspot.com

I waited for the shuttle bus from the parking garage near my apartment to the station (which is owned and operated by the MBTA), and waited, and waited. Forty-five minutes later, a bus arrives, but apparently since the driver doesn't ...
Colin the Bold - http://wisefool.livejournal.com/

MBTA Commuter: “I’m done!”
by editor@badtransit.com Daniel R. writes:. So low now that I’m on the verge of paying the additional expenses of driving into the city every day. It just couldn’t get any worse. Over 2 hours to travel from Copley to Watertown! Problem 1. No Express buses. ...
BadTransit - http://badtransit.com/index.php/site/index/

As reported in the Metro and regurgitated by the MBTA, the new department will, on paper, prevent people from being bounced around different offices and representatives who, from experience, weren't always knowledgeable, ...
CharlieBlog - http://thecharlieblog.blogspot.com/index.html

But she was upset, and I told her that when she got home, she could look up the customer service number on the MBTA website and to call them and ask for the number for the garage for the 73 lines, and that she could then call *that* ...
Boring stuff here - http://gwendolyngrace.livejournal.com/

Nobody at the MBTA listened because the Washington Square T stop was buried under two inches of ice. Nobody on my walk to the train listened as I nearly fell on a patch of smooth glare ice. I was stuck behind a kid walking to school who ...
pasquinade - http://pasquinader.blogspot.com/index.html

My Very Own Free, Plastic CharlieCard
we have added a true Boston layer on this process. We have the nation's oldest subway (sure looks and acts like it too), and we have made using it as convoluted as possible. Tags: massmarrier, Massachusetts, Boston, MBTA, CharlieCard.
Marry in Massachusetts - http://massmarrier.blogspot.com/index.html

To the MBTA.com! Sure enough, Swampscott is the third busiest station on the ... Granted it is a distant third, Salem and Beverly are the 2nd and 5th busiest commuter rail stations in the entire MBTA commuter rail system. ...
Landed in Swampscott - http://landedinswampscott.blogspot.com/index.html

Latest MBTA statistics indicate that since 1997, daily ridership has fallen by 5000, ... This loss of public transit ridership has a negative impact both on the health of Jamaica Plain residents and on the health of MBTA revenues. ...
The Arborway Committee Blog - http://arborwaycommittee.blogspot.com/index.html

You can add the MBTA messing up in a storm to death and taxes as the only sure things in life. Trying to get down the staircase on the inbound side at Kenmore proved a challenge with about 30 people trying to cram in. ...
Massachusetts Liberal - http://baystateliberal.blogspot.com/index.html

Transit Camp Goes Global
14 Feb 2007 by Mark Kuznicki Charlie on the MBTA wants to bring the Transit Camp event format to Boston: An open invitation to Dan Grabauskas. Will was saying that Vancouver’s interested as well. Toronto Transit Camp is designed to propagate just as BarCamp did. ...Remarkk! - http://remarkk.com

And if the pass had in fact "not worked," why was the reader recognizing the thing as an MBTA pass at all? Maybe it's because my card holder is just fine, and your Charlie Crud is screwed up.
One Smoot Short of a Bridge - http://1smootshort.blogspot.com/index.html

A comprehensive list of how to locate and glimpse abandoned stations and tunnels of the MBTA helpfully broken out by T line.Metaboston - http://metaboston.typepad.com/metaboston/

Two stops later, MBTA police came onto the train and made sure she was okay. When she said she was fine, the T police told the conductor to warn people it was slippery on all the platforms and on the train. ...
tellhimfred.com - http://tellhimfred.com

Universal Hub, Charlie on the MBTA and, of course, Bad Transit are filled (pretty much daily) with complaints from T riders about poor service and surly employees. Do you read these posts? How often? And what do you do about them? ...
Universal Hub - http://www.universalhub.com

Charlie's Mailbag - February 15th - where is the salt? and T refund change?

from the mailbag at charlieonthembta@gmail.com

Heidi says things were a little slippery at Chestnut Hill this morning



Hi,

Just an FYI - there was no sand or salt anywhere at this stop. There
was some in the parking lot and a tiny amount on the stairs. Nothing on
the area where you cross the tracks or on the platform.

Thank You,
Heidi
Sue also reported the same thing at Newton Centre this morning saying the platform was like a skating rink and even sent pics. There is no excuse for this since it was going to be obvious that everything froze over last night.

Adam writes about "T supplementary refund letters"

Dear CharlieontheMBTA,

The Boston Globe recently printed an article about MBTA riders being
shortchanged on refunds that were for delays before the fare increase but
issued after the fare increase. I was one such patron, who had a 1-hour
delay on the D branch of the Green Line inbound at around 2pm on New Year's
Eve due to the tremendous number of people boarding unfamiliar with the
cash-only (machines not active yet) new fareboxes on the train.

Last week I received a letter that containined two $1.25 stored value
CharlieTickets. The letter was pretty much the same as the old letters I
used to receive when I received tokens in the mail. Nevermind that I have a
Zone4 Commuter Rail Pass so tokens and CharlieTickets are of little use to
me, especially since the letters said that "Stored Value
CharlieTicket/Tokens are not redeemable for cash."

Today I received a letter that said the following:

"

Recently you received a complementary [sic] stored value CharlieTicket in
the amount of $2.50 for submitting your "On-time Service Guarantee Claim" on
January 1, 2007 [sic] the MBTA Board of director's [sic] voted to accept a
proposed fare increase, [sic] this increased the round trip subway ride from
$2.50 to $4.00 on a stored value ticket.

Consequently we are supplementing your original $2.50 refund with an
additional complimentary stored value Charlie Ticket [sic] for $1.50. You
may use these tickets for travel on the MBTA service. Stored value refund
CharlieTickets are redeemable at the Downtown Crossing Customer Service
Office with the presentation of this letter and a valid photo ID during
regular business hours. You will be asked to sign the letter below and
deliver this letter at that time [sic]

We apologize for any inconvenience and frustration you may have experienced.
We are committed to customer service excellence and to the delivery of
quality public transportation. You are a valued customer and your continued
patronage is greatly appreciated.

"

In a major departure from previous "complimentary round-trip fares" I am
actually receiving a refund here. This is done commonly on the commuter
rail, but I have never seen it before for the subway/bus guarantee claims. I
wonder if this is a new development with all claims, exclusive to this
mess-up here, or something in place for passholders who make claims (as
opposed to cash-payers who could actually derive some benefit from a
non-redeemable stored-value ticket).

The ticket looks the same as the others used to, but as opposed to the other
two, which I moved onto a CharlieCard during my last trip through DTX, these
I'll be redeeming.


Best,
Adam in Natick
Just a thought I have on the refund procedure. Would the T consider sending TOKENS as refunds since they are still worth $1.25 in the fareboxes and fare vending machines? I think that would solve a lot of the problems as you could use the token along with an existing CharlieTicket.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

An open invitation to Dan Grabauskas

The mailbag at charlieonthembta@gmail.com planted the seed

from Nancy


I love your blog and I think you do a great job of maintaining a fair and objective forum. Given that you are probably the most "fair and balanced" critic (and believe me I mean no slight by that) I would think that the customer service people over at the MBTA might be inclined to take note. Your site is not a hate site although we MBTA users often hate what we have to deal with in order to get to and from work everyday.

Do you get any sense that they follow or care about what's discussed on your site? It just astounds me that Dan G. is constantly spewing PR when I think most people would respect him if he admitted that there were problems to deal with such as those documented on your site. We get the sense that he's insulated himself from criticism (a predictible defence mechanism).

Does Dan G. dimiss your blog as gliby as he does the rest of us?

Nancy
and then came this comment to the blog


Paul Levy said...
Charlie,May I suggest an experiment? Why don't you make a post explicitly asking any T executives, managers, or workers to let you know (1) if they read your blog, and how often, and (2) what they do with the information they learn from it?I am curious. Aren't you?
Yes I am curious and last night I stumbled across something that that was done in Toronto last week that would be perfect for Boston.

From the Toronto Star

These ideas emerged during last Sunday's Transit Camp, a day of out-of-the-tunnel thinking on how to improve the Toronto Transit Commission, specifically, its clunky website, its shelters, its subway cars and the way it communicates with its riders.

The 100 or so campers were young, in their 20s and early 30s, mostly people who work in the communications and tech industries and university students, all madly in love with transit. The TTC is symbolic of their relationship with the city – but more about that later.

They wore toques and scarves, and some stayed in their parkas because the ballroom at the Gladstone Hotel on Queen St. W. was frigid. Peering over their shoulders, watching as the younger people moved images around on their white Mac laptops, were the 50-somethings, the people who run the TTC, listening and learning. And politicians were hovering, too. Adam Giambrone, the TTC Chair, spent the day there. Vice-chair Joe Mihevc was also present.

Gary Webster, 55, interim general manager of the TTC, took notes. "Several years ago this is not a group I would likely spend time with on a Sunday," said Webster. "But if we don't show up we send them a message we don't care ... we have to think of it more from their point of view than we usually do."

Many saw this as an important turning point, if not a history-making event: here were the TTC brass and politicians listening to their riders, the people who use the beleaguered system, and young people at that.

Webster came away with at least one idea he'll consider: maps for each streetcar line showing where it intersects with other routes, so passengers on the Dundas car, for example, know where they can get onto the Yonge subway.

"The TTC is, for once, turning to its users," said Bob Brent, former chief marketing officer for the system. Traditionally when the TTC consults, it calls the meeting, usually to tell riders about a route change. "It's an organization that has tended to be xenophobic and claustrophobic."

Brent, 56, started the TTC's first website in 1997. "And it hasn't changed in 10 years."
This became a major news story in Toronto

CityNews – coverage on TransitCamp
World Changing – Unconferences and the Toronto Transit Camp
BoingBoing’s “an unconvention to improve The Better Way”:
NowToronto – Camp out with TTC Geeks
Toronto Star – Minding the gaps on the The Better Way
Toronto Transit’s Toronto Transit Camp wrap-up
Treehugger.com – Taking back the city: Toronto Transit Camp
BlogTO.com – Toronto Transit Camp betters the Better Way

The camp laid out ground rules

What is Toronto Transit Camp?
Come ready to share, contribute and collaborate! Transit Camp is inspired by BarCamp. Bar Camp events are powered by participation. The event will be well-documented in the form of blog posts, wiki content, photos, and video for everyone who is unable to attend. (Please use the tag: transitcamp.) If you would like to be part of the event, please keep in mind that we are limited to 100 people and so everyone there must be interested and involved.


Bar Camp: A BarCamp is an ad-hoc gathering born from the desire for people to share and learn in an open environment. It is an intense event with discussions, demos, and interaction from participants.
We will hold simultaneous small-group sessions on a self-organized basis around topics of interest to the community: redesigning the TTC's website, creating and selling user-generated media and articles (music, buttons, t-shirts), photography, illustration and music inspired by the TTC.


This celebration and workshop-oriented event is intended to inspire a fresh approach at the TTC in how it serves users and engages with community in order to achieve its organizational goals.
See the tentative (and evolving!) schedule to understand the format.

What This is Not!
Toronto Transit Camp is not a complaints department, it is a solution playground.
We will not be changing bus schedules, talking about stop locations, complaining about creaky infrastructure or otherwise telling the TTC how to do its core business. The organizers respect that there are many hard-working, dedicated and experienced professionals in the TTC who have been able to accomplish remarkable things for this city's transit infrastructure over the years under very difficult resource constraints.

Bar Camp Principles Apply:
We are equal individuals in an open community.
Leadership can emerge from anywhere.
We are all participants. More on that here.

A complete overview can be found at http://transitcamp.org/about


Toronto perhaps has the most similar transit system in North America to ours in Boston. The officials of the Toronto Transit Commission accepted the invitation of the Toronto blogging community. I feel we should do the same.

I ask MBTA General Manager Dan Grabauskas to consider doing a similar event here in Boston.

If you agree I will contact the Toronto people and your staff for help in setting this up. It is pointless to procede any further with this idea without a response from the T. I would ask that you would contact transit officials in the City of Toronto to find out what the experience was like for them.

The only thing I ask from you is a response of some kind.

Thank you for your consideration.

To our readers - how do you feel about this idea? Would you like to take part?
Please let us know.

T is having some problems Wednesday afternoon

Mac Daniel is reporting delays on the Blue and Green Line (Boston College line)

I have tried to get updates at www.mbta.com and the site is not loading as of 3:45 PM

and the Fung Wah has another accident at the Allston tolls

I would like to know if others are having problems with accessing the T website

METRO: MBTA launches new customer service department

This is very encouraging news from the T
From Christina Wallace in the February 14th Boston Metro

In an effort to appease cranky riders and streamline the complaint process, the MBTA this month will open a centralized customer service department that will include bilingual employees, more manpower and speedier response times, according to T officials.

The initiative has been in the works for the past several months and training for the new department began this week, according to Carla Howze, director of the new customer support department, during a recent presentation to the MBTA Board of Directors.

“The myriad customer service functions will be located within one office, rather than spread across multiple offices and buildings across the city,” Howze said. “Responses to customer concerns will be timely, accurate and consistent.”

Before this initiative, customer concerns were bounced to different areas of the T, causing at times frustration among riders who never received a response or received different answers from different departments.

“It has led to some confusion and certainly some aggravation on the part of some of our customers,” said MBTA General Manager Dan Grabauskas. “They sometimes felt they were being thrown from department to department, or in some cases not given the right answer.”

This new department will change that, he said.

The T will continue the long-standing “Write to the Top,” complaint system but, according to Grabauskas, customers will get a better, more timely response.

“We are still going to have ‘Write to the Top,’ but we never really followed it as closely as we should have to make sure concerns were answered,” he said. “We want to make sure that a person who writes or calls in gets the right information and in a timely fashion, and that they get it once.”

This sounds very promising and a candid admission the previous system was not working.

Chicago transit had a brutal Tuesday



Chicago had their first snow of the season on Tuesday and they did not have a good transit day...

The Pink Line ( yes Pink Line) derailed during the morning rush hour
Pink Line service has been restored in both directions between the 54th/Cermak and Pulaski stations. All trains are moving. Service had been interrupted earlier due to an equipment problem.

Thank you for your patience as we worked to correct this problem.
Meanwhile the Blue Line that connects the Loop with O'Hare Field gets hit with this
Due to track work on the Blue Line between Division/Milwaukee and Grand/Milwaukee, a slow zone has been added in both directions through which trains must operate at 6 miles per hour. Please allow for extra travel time.
and then during the evening rush hour
Normal service has now resumed on the Yellow Line. However, we are currently working to restore normal service intervals.

Red Line and Purple Line trains are moving but are currently experiencing service delays. Please allow additional travel time.
buses were not doing any better
Due to the inclement weather, Lake Shore Drive is temporarily closed in both directions between 57th Street and Roosevelt Road. The following buses are being temporarily rerouted:

#6 Jackson Park Express – via Michigan, Cermak, King Drive, 35th Street, Cottage Grove, 47th Street, and Lake Park over the regular route.

#14 Jeffrey Express -- via Michigan, Cermak, King Drive, 35th Street, Cottage Grove, 47th Street, Lake Park, Stony Island, 67th Street, and Jeffery Blvd. over the regular route.

Please allow extra travel time. Due to drifting snow at 54th/Shore Drive, eastbound #171 U. of Chicago/Hyde Park buses are temporarily rerouted via 55th, Hyde Park, 53rd and Cornell back to 55th.
Their Commuter Rail COMPLETLY collapsed
Union Pacific/West Line - Train Annulled
Union Pacific/West Line Train #71, departing Ogilvie Transportation Center at 10:40 p.m., arriving Elburn at 12:06 a.m., has been annulled due to weather related problem out of downtown Chicago.

ROCK ISLAND TRAIN DELAYS
ROCK ISLAND DISTRICT TRAINS TRAVELING INBOUND TO CHICAGO LASALLE STREET STATION AND OUTBOUND TRAINS TRAVELING TO JOLIET MAY BE OPERATING 20-75 MINUTES LATE DUE TO EARLIER SWITCH PROBLEMS AT GRESHAM AND SEVERE WEATHER.

NORTH CENTRAL SERVICE
NORTH CENTRAL SERVICE TRAIN #121 SCHEDULED TO ARRIVE ANTIOCH AT 10:04P.M. IS OPERATING APPROXIMATELY 20 MINUTES BEHIND SCHEDULE DUE TO SWITCH PROBLEMS AND SEVERE WEATHER.

METRA UNION PACIFIC WEST LINE
METRA UNION PACIFIC WEST LINE TRAIN #66 SCHEDULED TO ARRIVE AT OGILVIE TRANSPORTATION CENTER AT 9:46P.M. IS OPERATING 20-25 MINUTES BEHIND SCHEDULE DUE TO SWITCH PROBLEMS AND SEVERE WEATHER.

METRA UNION PACIFIC WEST LINE TRAIN #67 SCHEDULED TO ARRIVE AT ELBURN AT 10:06P.M. IS OPERATING APPROXIMATELY 20-25 MINUTES BEHIND SCHEDULE DUE TO SWITCH PROBLEMS AND SEVERE WEATHER.

METRA UNION PACIFIC NORTHWEST LINE UPDATED 9:40P.M.
METRA UNION PACIFIC NORTHWEST LINE TRAIN #659 SCHEDULED TO ARRIVE HARVARD AT 10:20P.M. IS OPERATING APPROXIMATELY 15-20 MINUTES BEHIND SCHEDULE DUE TO EARLIER SWITCH PROBLEMS AND SEVERE WEATHER.

METRA UNION PACIFIC NORTHWEST LINE TRAIN #662 SCHEDULED TO ARRIVE AT OGILVIE TRANSPORTATION CENTER AT 10:23P.M. IS OPERATING APPROXIMATELY 40 MINUTES BEHIND SCHEDULE DUE TO EARLIER SWITCH PROBLEMS AND SEVERE WEATHER. THIS TRAIN WILL RUN EXPRESS
FROM THE CRYSTAL LAKE STATION TO CHICAGO.


So you must be thinking how much snow did they get??? 8.1 inches

Here is hoping we handle our first storm better than Chicago did on Tuesday

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

E - ARBORWAY The fight continues

photo NETransit
The last train to Arborway

The last train to Arborway left Park St on December 28, 1985. The City of Boston and the MBTA wanted to do construction on Huntington Avenue which would require the line to be closed for up to 2 years. In an essay published in 1996 Scott Moore details what happened and why the trolley service didn't return in 1987 as promised.

In 1990 the Commonwealth promised to restore the E line to Arborway as part of the 'Big Dig' to to offset the air pollution and other environmental impact of the downtown project. The project was stalled for 16 years and was finally killed in December by the Romney administration. On Tuesday (Feb 13, 2007) The Arborway Committee sued the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to restore the E-branch of the Green Line to Forest Hills-Arborway.

Click here to view press release below as .pdf
Click here to view text of complaint as .pdf

Ridership figures cited by The Arborway Commitee indicate that residents of Jamaica Plain have rejected the bus service the T has provided as a replacement.
From a transit perspective, the current #39 bus service, which was substituted for the Green Line in 1986, has experienced significant erosion in ridership. Latest MBTA statistics indicate that since 1997, daily ridership has fallen by 5000, from approximately 19,000 a day to 14,000. Since the inception of the substitute service in 1986, the #39 bus has lost 50% of its ridership.

John Kyper, Transportation Chair of the Massachusetts Sierra Club, said, "The remarkable fact is that while #39 ridership has fallen precipitously, during the same period combined Orange Line daily ridership at Jamaica Plain's four stations has remained flat at approximately 23,000.

The residents of Jamaica Plain have been fighting the T and the Commonwealth now for over 20 years to restore service. Promises were made 17 years ago and contracts signed. I wish The Arborway Committee the best in this court fight. Of course if they should be victorious in the courts the project will cost the state far more than $58 million that was originally estimated. I would love to know who approved the paving over of the tracks on Centre Street that will make it that much harder to restore service.

How do you feel about the restoration of service to Arborway-Forest Hills? Please leave a comment or send an email to charlieonthembta@gmail.com

Discarded CharlieTickets will find a good home tomorrow

For those of you following the saga of my discarded CharlieTicket project:

Yesterday, I brought 50 CharlieTickets worth $67.85 to the Charlie office in Downtown Crossing station. In return, I got a CharlieCard with all of that value on it -- but it took 45 minutes for them to do it. I then added 15 cents to it so that it has an even number of subway rides (40).

Tomorrow morning, I'll donate this card to the Somerville Homeless Coalition. They have assured me that they will find a client who can use the card.

Below the break: A guide to finding discarded CharlieTickets with value.

- If the ticket says "ADULT Stored Value" in big letters, it was bought in 2006 or even 2005, before the fare increase. These very likely have value remaining. For instance, if someone bought a $5 ticket and took three $1.25 subway rides last year, the ticket still has $1.25 on it. If he took one $1.25 ride last year and one $2.00 ride this year, it still has $1.75 on it.

- If the ticket's initial value was $5, it is likely to still have $1 on it, after being used for two $2 subway rides. Unfortunately, the fare machines make it very easy to buy a $5 ticket.

- If the ticket was bought with an initial value less than $2, or for a strange amount like $3.40, the buyer probably didn't understand the fare system properly and left some or all of the value unused.

- If the initial value was exactly $2, it isn't worth looking at because it was probably used for a single subway ride.

Charlie's Mailbag - February 13th ( a full mailbag )

Charlie has been a little slow answering the mail the past few days ( foolish thing like work gets in the way) but will try and get caught up here. Chances are if you have a question somebody reading has the answer or can point you in the right direction. The mailbag can be reached at charlieonthembta@gmail.com


Two quick notes. Readers have mentioned how much this miss the train announcer at South Station ( AUBBBBBBURNDALE) and truth be known he misses doing it. He is an Amtrak employee and still does the Amtrak announcements. When MBCR took over the Commuter Rail, Amtrak no longer would provide the station announcements for local service. The same thing is true in Manhattan at Penn Station where Amtrak does the announcements for NJ Transit but not for the LIRR.


Also if anyone is interested in contributing to the blog please email me. All you need is a google account (gmail or blogger) and we can go from there. The more eyes out there the better.


Joel gives us a North Station update

Joel from HubArts.com here -- A followup on North Station with two
developments.

One is, they still haven't solved the train-information situation. The
giant screen still shows a Garden animation or a Charlie Card ad, but
not the platform and train numbers. And the only TVs that do show them
are outside the new waiting room. This how long after the "grand
opening?" Sheesh.

Secondly, it appears they are building some sort of connection between
the east doors of the North Station lobby and the entrance to the subway
station. A large metal pipe frame has been built that is shaped like
walls and a roof. Looks like it will be finished just in time for spring,
too.
I was over at North Station Monday for the Beanpot and noticed the same thing so I asked about it. The MBCR employee who handles the train announcements and runs the B&W video boards said "Don't blame us, it is the Bruins problem." He said the board has never been operational but at least the clock works.

I didn't notice the new construction between the subway and the train station but this is a good sign. The T couldn't build a direct connection into the rail station as the Bruins couldn't make up their mind where it would finally be located. Still everyone will agree that the larger waiting area is a 1000% improvement over the past 12 years.

Andrew is considering getting earplugs

What is it with Green Line drivers using the trains horns on passengers waiting at stops? I realize the need for safety, but isn't that what the bell's for? Twice now I've been in a crowd of people waiting for B Line service and had the driver make liberal use of the airhorn. Isn't that supposed to be reserved for telling Massholes to get their cars out of the way of the tracks? Someones gonna go deaf or something - sheesh!
Oh, and the latest instance of this was this morning, when an inbound train simply bypassed a crowd of shivering commuters at Packard's Corner - only to have the next train not arrive till 7 minutes later. Seven minutes may not seem like a lot, but we're talking 20ยบ and windy here!
Andrew I couldn't agree more with you. The past few months there are T operators who just love to blow that horn including one that uses the airhorn coming into Copley. I assume the T has a policy on horn use but I don't know the particulars.

One thing I have wondered about myself is why the T shuts off the headlights of trains coming into a station. I know trains in New York, Chicago, Montreal and San Francisco keep the headlights on at all time. I would think turning them on and off constantly would cause them to have a shorter life span. I would also thing having the headlights on would improve safety as passengers would be more aware a train is pulling into the station. Anybody have a clue on why the T does this as they seem to be one of the few systems that does this.

Devin is curious about a T "school bus"
Hey Charlie,

This morning around 715 I was waiting for the #93 bus on Bunker Hill Street
in Charlestown. A bus approached our stop, with 9208 Powderhouse something
on the info strip on the front of the bus, and stopped. We went to get on,
but were told it was a school bus.

Do you have any idea what that's about? I'd love to find out.

Thanks,

Devin
The T does contract with some cities and towns for "school buses" and this sounds like one of those cases. There are a number of route numbers that the T maintains that are not public schedules.

Joshua wonders about the faregates at South Station
Love the blog - I am a recently new commuter, since I have recently taken a job in downtown Boston. I take the purple line in every day from Framingham all the way to South Station. When I get to South Station, I transfer to the red line to go to Park Street. I noticed today that at the fare collectors in South Station, they do not say which machines take both the charlie card and the charlie ticket. Since I have a monthly pass for the Commuter rail, I obviously have a ticket. I had to go through 4 machines before I found one that took the card. I remember reading on your site that they were doing this in Porter Square, but I thought up their they were putting up signs.

This is causing unneeded backup. I do not understand why they just would not accept both at all of them. Any thoughts on this matter?

Keep up the good work on the site.
This has been happening at North Station and Porter as well. Honestly I don't know if this is a case of the fare gates being out of order or if the T is really installing CharlieCard only gates. Certainly a CharlieCard only gate has merit but it shouldn't be implemented until the Commuter Rail is converted to Charlie 'sometime' in 2007. The conductors I have talked to say they have heard nothing as of yet except there are concerns about the battery life of the validators the conductors will use. Please let us know what the situation is out there and I will try and find out what I can.

Lee sent this observation in a week ago and I completely overlooked it


So, I spotted an interesting thing today. After arriving at Reservoir, heading outbound, at about 3:05 this afternoon, I heard a familiar, yet unusual whine coming from the other direction. I paused for a moment, and did a take, then a double take. Lo-and-behold, it was a Breda Type-8 train heading inbound on the D-Branch. Now, the train said either "No Service" or "Test Train," so it wasn't in revenue service, but I was very, very surprised to see a Type-8 on the D-Branch. Does anyone know if this was a new delivery perhaps, maybe going to the Reservoir yard? Or was it maybe some sort of test? I know that the heavy rail work this Summer on the D-Branch is partially so that the Breda cars can run on it without (hopefully) derailing.

Anyway, interesting sight I thought I'd pass along.
I suspect they were just testing the car or perhaps moving it from Riverside to another location. My understanding is the Bredas can use the D line tracks but are restricted to 25 MPH which is why they are not used in revenue service on the D until the tracks are fixed. We have readers that monitor train movements closely and perhaps they know more.

G10musica took issue with something I wrote about CSA's being replaced



where did u get that info from?? HIGHLY UNLIKELY!!!!
What I said was that in a few weeks the CSA's on the D Line would no longer be there. They were only put in place during the transition phase and many of the workers are retired T workers who were called back. Nobody is losing their jobs.

Kelly has a bad Commuter Rail experience on Monday morning


feel like it’s almost pointless to write this tale, because nothing will change. This morning, the Framingham/Worcester line trains were delayed…first 5 minutes, then 8 minutes, then 30 minutes (according to the board at Ashland.) My 7:37 train was more like 40 minutes late while we were standing outside in the cold morning (albeit, not as cold as it could have been, but still.) We got onto a single-level, small train with no announcement as to what stops it would be making (by this time, 3 loads of people were waiting and we had no idea what train that was supposed to be.) We all crowded in. This train proceeded to make 5 more stops where it was physically impossible for anyone to enter because it was so packed before the (oh-so-informative announcer) made one (one!) very garbled call that this train was “running express to Back Bay.” OK. We finally make it to South Station, more than an hour late, without an apology or explanation. Par for the course, I suppose. I wonder if they will send me my refund in Charlie tickets that I can’t use?

I can’t wait for this evening’s commute!

Kelly
The Framingham/Worcester line probably has more complaints than any other CR route. The T is really at the mercy of CSX Railroad on that line and if the T misses the slot it is assigned CSX will throw a freight train on it. Amtrak has the same problem with the eastbound Lake Shore Limited that is always 2-4 hours late coming from Chicago. The word is the T is close to buying those tracks and that 'should' help but the T has lost many commuters on that line. The Framingham/Worcester line dropped from 9990 inbound passengers a day in 2003 to 8248 a year ago and I suspect the chronic delays are the reason.

Monday, February 12, 2007

UPDATE: This angry T rider has clout

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

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

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

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

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

"I can't do that."

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

"I am not allowed to do that."

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

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

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

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

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

---

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


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

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

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Back to the Future on T bus #502



Teddy blogs about being advanced in time by the T to the year 2026
After a mad sprint over the Charles River Bridge and across Nonantum Road, I made it onto the 502 bus just before it was time for it to pull away from the Bus Stop. Little did I know that by catching that bus I was going to be traveling nineteen years into the future as the display on the front of the bus promptly informed me that the year was 2026. I am happy to report that in the year 2026 the Moonites have yet to destroy Boston.
meanwhile "Single Girl in the City" had a Charlie like experience where she couldn't get off of her train
I'm not sure what angers me more. The fact that the train so arbitrarily decided not to stop at my stop, or the fact that "driver" of the second car made no attempt to apologize or offer explanation. Instead, we were told "Ain't my problem, I'm not the one drivin' the train."


Tonight I was on a #66 bus that blew through Coolidge Corner without stopping because the driver said "I'm running late, there is another bus behind me." When I got off just before Harvard Square I grabbed a coffee at Dunkin Donuts on JFK St and watched to see how soon the next bus would arrive. It was 24 minutes.

The reality of the T's on-time guarantee policy

In the Sunday Globe Mac Daniel writes about "David" who received refunds for poor service on the #502 bus.
David, who rides the 502 express bus from Watertown to Copley, received refunds for two buses that failed to show last year.

He said he not only didn't receive enough money, he was given four Charlie Tickets, each with a value of $1.25, and found he couldn't combine them when taking his next trip.

When the fare box rejected his second ticket, the driver said he'd have to pay the difference in cash.
This afternoon I received an email at charlieonthembta@gmail.com from "David" who is actually Daniel......
MBTA Mac can't even keep his names straight. I was the sender of the
letter.... But the point of the complaint was more than the useless
tickets.

Issue 1. The fare of an Inner Express on a Charlie Ticket (which is
what they issue refunds with) is $3.50. Not $1.25, and not $2.50. I
expect to receive a total refund of $7 instead of $5.

Issue 2. There are NO fare vending machines anywhere in Watertown.
Redeeming these worthless cards into something useful requires someone
to take a trip to a location where there is a vending machine.

The on time guarantee makes no mention anywhere of guaranteeing me a
cash value of any type. It simply and directly states they guarantee
me a valid complimentary fare. Which they basically disregard. How
is a non-valid stack of Charlie Tickets a complimentary fare?

I really question what Mac's job is over at the Globe. I think a fax
machine would be able to quite handily do his job as all I saw in
today's article was more quotations from the mismanaged MBTA. Quite
honestly, it's far far FAR slower for these fare boxes to accept coins
or cash. Many drivers tell cash paying riders to forget about it
after the first bill it rejects.

I'm not holding my breath for a "letter" from the MBTA but should it
miraculously arrive, I'll let you know.
On the T website the wording is quite clear
T riders expect timely service and we promise to meet your expectations. If your service is delayed more than 30 minutes, we'll give you a complimentary fare.
The T then tells you how to "activate" your claim and then warn you about making a false claim

False claims for reimbursement are a crime under the Massachusetts General Law and the Federal Mail Statute. Please read the applicable laws below. False claims will be investigated and prosecuted by the MBTA. The MBTA reserves the right to deny any claim.
M.G.L Chapter 266, Section 30. Larceny; general provisions and penalties
18 USC 1341. Chapter 63. Federal Mail Fraud Statute

Then you wait for the T to resolve the problem.

Mac Daniel talked to the T and this is what he wrote on Sunday

T officials pledge to right the wrong.

The last batch of refunds were for December delays when it cost $1.25 to ride the subway and 90 cents for the bus.

But T officials forgot about the fare increase, as well as the Customer Bill of Rights, which states riders who are delayed are entitled to a free ride, not just a refund of their fare.

"We will make good on the free-ride guarantee," John McLaughlin, the T's director of systemwide modernization, said in an e - mail.

Late last week, T officials planned to send letters to the 220 people affected by the supplementary tickets to make up the fare difference.

As for David's inability to use multiple CharlieTickets on the Watertown express bus, those are the rules, says the T. The new system does not allow multiple CharlieTickets to be used on buses, which the T says slow s loading times.
Note to the T: inserting cash into the fareboxes will take even longer as any rider will testify.

Also give the number of passengers that use the Watertown Yard to begin their commute every morning it would seem to be a prime candidate for a fare vending machine.

We would like to hear from other passengers about their "On-time Service Guarantee" experiences.

RED LINE DIVERSIONS February 17-19

They were passing out flyers on the Red Line this afternoon.

I went to link the info from the T website and it isn't there.

Start of service SATURDAY February 17th through the end of service MONDAY February 19th...

SOUTH SHORE BRANCH bus shuttle between BROADWAY and JFK-UMASS

DORCHESTER BRANCH bus shuttle between BROADWAY and ASHMONT


Bus service will be available at Broadway, Andrew, JFK-UMass, Savin Hill, Fields Corner, Shawmut and Ashmont.

Normal service will resume Tuesday, February 20th