Saturday, January 21, 2012

Back To Business

And so I unceremoniously return to the internet. Various side projects, research work, and adventures have kept me from updating this as often as I would have liked. At any rate, enough of my life story... This afternoon I was rambling around town and wound up in Dudley Square. I got a few photos of the dual-modes subbing on the 749's ("SL5") and 751's ("SL4"). To my surprise I also spotted 1018 on the road with them:

Usually during snowy and very rainy weather Neoplan AN460's (such as 1018) are taken off the road and the DMA's and C40's sub-in to meet the schedule. Why the substitutions? Well - as the below photo taken last winter shows - let's just say that the Neoplan artics don't do so well in slick conditions.

My guess is that a combination of the SL Waterfront services getting first dibs on the dual-modes and a shortage of C40's (6001 is at Everett for repairs and several others are out for other maintenance, leaving only about five of the sixteen buses in that fleet in service), 1018 was put on to avoid any impact on service. Thankfully, I spotted it again later in the day non-jackknifed.

Speaking of maintenance, during the blog's hiatus I paid a visit to the Everett Shops and got to see first-hand the NABI mid-life overhauls. About 175 of the 299 NABI's are being overhauled in-house at Everett, while the remainder are out in Michigan. A handful of buses are withdrawn from service at any given time and completed buses can be identified by their new bike racks.

While at Everett I also went out back to the RTS graveyard, which is home to some other seldom seen equipment as well:

Scrap-list RTS buses parked out back

The craptastic Orion hybrid buses which averaged
about 60 miles between failures

Type 8 shell slowly being cannibalized for spare parts

Neoplan AN460 #1000 -- used for maintenance training

Orion #5001 and the "magnetic induction" bus

An engine-less bus

Other than that I went up to the Seashore Trolley Museum's annual transit day; have taken up the "hobby" of riding the T before 5:00 AM; spent some time working on a book(let) about Boston's horsecars; and recently went to several of the MBTA fare increase/service cuts public meetings. But more on that stuff later.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Spoiler Alert!

Damn, has it really been nearly two ratings since my last post!? Don't worry, the blog hasn't been discontinued yet (though the same can't be said for a certain Cabot bus route). Between searching for a condo, going to a friend's wedding in Vermont, and various side projects; I just haven't been able to give the old blog as much attention as I would like. I wonder how the guy at Universal Hub does it. Robots? Interns? Anyway, I have still been checking up on the goings on at the T. In addition, I have been reading and researching quite a bit about Boston's horse railroads and the early days of local public transit in the area. More on all that stuff later. Right now, I am off to Logan to catch a flight to the midwest, but before I go, I wanted to share some news.

The Summer 2010 Rating will enter effect this coming Saturday (June 26) and will end on Friday, September 3. Keep your eyes out for the blue schedule cards, which have a new look to them (you'll never guess what's on the covers). Here is a sneak preview of some of the changes:

All Routes - As is the case every summer, all supplemental school-day only trips will be put on hiatus until the fall. For the most part, this only covers the morning rush hour and early afternoon parts of the schedule; refer to individual schedule cards for details.

Ride Supplemental Route 9702 while you still can!

Route 08 - The 1:00a ("last train") weekday trips from Kenmore & UMass Boston have been discontinued due to low ridership.

Route 25 - Shall join Routes 06, 173, 246, 437, 743, and all the rest in Discontinued Routes Land. I made several attempts to ride and photograph the route, but the trips I picked were no-shows. Now where will Cabot get its extra buses during the morning rush hour?

Route 28 - Before you all start blaming the 04 or 191, it is because of the 28 that the 25 (created to supplement Warren Street bus service in the mornings) is being discontinued. All Route 28 service (except the 3:20a, 3:59a, and 4:20a trips from Mattapan) has been moved from Cabot to Southampton. And you know what that means... 60' buses providing all service! And they'll be hybrids too! The same number of trips shall be provided, but with the larger buses running, there will be more capacity. It is because of these extra seats that the 25 met its untimely end.

This sight will become a thing of the past.

And on the north side...

Route 73 - Due to roadwork in Belmont, the 73 will briefly switch over to diesel bus operation. Somerville will provide the buses. Things should be back to normal by the fall. Routes 71 and 77-4 will be slightly affected by this as well; check with the pullouts supervisor for details.

Route 114 - Route 114-0 (Maverick - Bellingham Square) will be changing its name (who's it trying to hide from?) to Route 116-7. The sign code has been changed accordingly, so look before boarding. It would be a shame to be heading to Revere and end up on a short turn. The Route 114-1 (Maverick - Mystic Mall), however, will keep on being the 114-1. With this change, the 114 will essentially become a midday only route. See the 114/116/117 schedule card for details.

And on the rails...

Route 903 - Better known to the riding public as the Orange Line, all service will switch over to Single Person Train Operation (SPTO). After 109 years, the Orange Line will no longer have door guards/conductors. Thank you all for your many years of hard work! Also, headways have been improved early mornings and late nights to every 10 minutes. If detailed Orange Line schedule cards were still printed, I'd advise you to refer to it for details. Sadly, this isn't the 1980s.

There are, of course, many more changes as part of the summer schedule changes. Visit the T website in the coming week for more details.

Farewell for now.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

New Variations & Derailments, Oh My!

Goodness! My last post was back in late October? The ol' blog was starting to collect some dust. Well, I'm back from my little hiatus...and what a time to be back. Where to begin?

Let's start with the Red Line. 1521 had mechanical problems Monday morning, but thankfully I was traveling in the opposite direction. But the Red Line was not going to let me get away that easily. Tuesday afternoon I was heading to Park Street to meet a friend for coffee. She had sent me a text telling me that she was stuck at Ashmont and would be late because "of something going on at Alewife". Hmm, I thought, must be signal trouble or problems with the crossover. But no, the "something going on at Alewife" was a derailment. Despite being informed that service was delayed due to a "disabled train" and shuttle buses would be operating between Harvard and Alewife, I had a gut feeling it was derailment. As a general rule of thumb, rail service is rarely bustitued due to just a disabled train. Service would be delayed, but still running. MBTA doublespeak, don't you just love it? Seeing as the news would eventually reach the media, why not be honest from the start? By the way, my friend and I met up at Park Street 35 minutes after the appointed time.

Shuttle Route 612 (or is it 613 that covers that part of the Red Line, I can't remember) kept things running, somewhat. Watching the coverage on Channel 7 that night I spotted a few NABI's that were drafted for the shuttle; meaning that Route 01 and 66 riders lost a few of their buses during the rush hour. Ouch. I could only imagine the scenes along Mass and Harvard Avenues. Thankfully, no one was hurt on the train and service was (sorta) up and running by the AM rush Wednesday.

But on to happier things...

So what will Plans and Schedules, er, I mean Santa bring us this Christmas? The Winter 2010 Rating enters effect this coming Saturday and with it will come plenty of stocking stuffers, among them:

The holidays came a little early for the residents of John Eliot Square this year. As a partial replacement for the 28, new variations of the 44 and 45 were created to add extra service in the area. It seems the 14 and 41 alone were not working for them. The new service began operation shortly after the Cabot "B" Pick, which made possible a series of improvements to the key bus routes at that garage. Routes 44-3 and 45-3 serve John Eliot Square weeknights after 8pm and all day weekends. The change will officially be announced on the upcoming schedules.

Residents of Granada Highlands will also get a new variant, Route 430-2, which will add two new round trips weeknights when the 411 is not operating. See the schedule card or the MBTA website for details.

But of course, the first package I am going to unwrap is the 111-2.

A new year, a new sign code, a new variation.

The 111 shall see sweeping improvements all across the board. In addition to extra vehicles at crucial times of the day, a new variation has been created. Route 111-2, Haymarket Station-Cary Square, will operate during the PM peak to supplement the regular 111-5 (Woodlawn) service. Headways and trip times have been adjusted to improve coordination between the two routes, so I encourage any of you 111 riders out there to pick up a new schedule card or visit the website. Midday and weekend service will also see some headway improvements, plus runtimes being adjusted to improve reliability. Like the 111-6 (Parkway/McDonald's) supplemental trips during the AM Peak, Route 111-2 (a.k.a. "Route 111C") will focus on the busiest part of the route and better meet the demand.

Visit the T website for more info on these and other changes.

On a final note, No Free Transfer will be changing its format slightly. Don't worry, I won't start writing posts in Nahuatl. Instead I will be writing more article-like posts, sorta like a newspaper column. But I will keep the quirky anecdotes and occasional rants. With that, happy holidays and see you all next year.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Route 751 (The "SL4")

Because we all know that the real SL4 would have been the "stillborn" Silver Line Waterfront branch from South Station to Andrew Station via D Street, I shall hereafter refer to the new SL4 service as either the Silver Line Connector or by its route number, Route 751 .

And speaking of the 751...

For the first time since the days of the Atlantic Avenue Elevated riders once again have a one-seat ride from Dudley Station to South Station. The bus stop is even located near where the old elevated station used to be. While it may take a little longer than it used to, at least there aren't any pesky hairpin turns to worry about. (Rounding the curve from Harrison Avenue to Beach Street, one often felt you would fall right off the elevated structure.) I was able to make it out to the ribbon cutting ceremony on the 13th. Special guests included Mayor Menino, Secretary Aloisi, and several state legislators. See below for some photos I snapped.

While most Silver Line riders are still getting used to the new service, it appears to have been received well. Trunk headways along Washington Street have seen a slight improvement, albeit with bunching during the rush hours, and the four extra buses along the corridor during the peak are surely welcomed. With the buzz still in the air, many riders are asking where does it go, how often does it operate, and what's the transfer policy for passengers going to/from the Connector and Waterfront services. All of your questions can be answered by talking to a Silver Line operator and/or picking up the new Silver Line schedule card (featuring all services).

But what about ridership? Namely, how much will develop? Most longtime Route 749 riders are content (so to speak) with their Dudley Square-Temple Place service. Will any of them be siphoned onto the 751? Some of my personal observations show midday ridership to be rather light, with only 3-10 people boarding at South Station with me during these hours. Perhaps in time a ridership base will grow. If off-peak ridership continues to be light, Southampton will hopefully switch over to the forty-footers during these times.

Well, the 751 certainly beats that $2,000,000,000+ tunnel that would have wormed its way through Chinatown. All that's left to do is lay the track, put up the catenary, and convert it all to light rail!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Comings & Goings

I find it ironic that at one time Boston's transit system won the A. N. Brady Safety Medal so often that it was asked to stop competing in order to give other cities a shot at winning. Now, hardly a week seems to go by without something going wrong.

The Brady Medal was awarded for "the best work done during the year by an electric street railway [subway trains counted too!] in America in accident prevention and industrial hygiene." The way things have been going lately, it looks like the T is out of the running.

The Commuter Rail fender bender was somewhat minor. Thank goodness there were no serious injuries. The Red and Orange Line meltdowns, on the other hand, nearly paralyzed downtown transit. The Red Line was shutdown between Harvard and JFK/UMass as fire crews tackled an electrical fire. I am a bit foggy on the electrical layout, but track-wise there are crossovers at Kendall and Broadway that could have made the isolated area much smaller. Overkill? Maybe. My thanks to anyone in the Power Department for any clarification. At least Orange Line service bounced back relatively quickly.

With all this transit mayhem, who knows what will happen next? Aliens stealing all the NABI's at Arborway? I could only imagine what the T Riders Union would have to say about that.

On a personal front, I've been getting a mixed bag. Monday morning found me on car #01746. There is nothing special about the car - it is just like the other 57 1700-series Red Line cars - except for one thing: it smelled of urine and death. Well, maybe not "death" per se, but the stench could have reasonably led to it. The floors of the car also looked suspiciously wet. #01746 is now on my "Do Not Ride" list.

I was also gleefully entertained by a senile old man on the 08. As he railed against the dangers of smoking and relived his days as a former boxer (he constantly reminded us of that fact), he would take a break and begin yelling at this one woman in the back of the bus. No clear reason, he just wanted to shout obscenities at her. The rest of us found it all to be pretty funny.

Later on I spotted the elusive 275 at JFK/UMass. Here's the picture I snapped:

Now I just need that shot of the 274 at Moon Island.

Well, enough of my ramblings. I'll have more notes from the underground later...

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Back On Track

After a much needed vacation I'm back in town. Getting away for a few (very long) weekends has refreshed me. I was actually worried about taking a vacation in late August, as I would miss the MBTA fare increase workshops and hearing. Governor Patrick, however, helped to straighten out my schedule. Thanks, governor! I enjoyed being able to get up to Maine for a bit and need not worry about missing out on the fare increase public discussions. I owe you one.

Well, let's see what happens in November.

You may have read in the paper recently about the MBTA extending the hours that the Student Pass is valid. Young people who work late, have afterschool activities, etc., are now able to use their passes until 11:00pm. I want to congratulate the youth activists that worked hard to accomplish something that many naysayers said was impossible (or impractical, if not downright pointless). Great job! Keep up the fight!

Image Courtesy of Celebrate Boston

Yet not everyone is excited about the news. Many detractors have criticized the decision. had some of the best feedback. Here was my favorite:

"Great, now there are three more hours in a day for me to get stabbed on the MBTA."

Ah, of course! Because every young person's mission is to rob, incite fear in, and terrorize their fellow commuters. Shame to see someone generalize (*cough*stereotype*cough*) like that. There are some young criminals out there, unfortunately, but not every kid wearing a hoodie is out to get you. I admit, some of those goth kids kinda creep me out. Still if you are going to criticize, let it be constructive.

Other than that, I visited the new Ashmont Station busway. Even spotted a New Flyer C40 (#6001) in regular colors. Supposedly, said the inspector, it is now doing Cabot work.

Friday, July 31, 2009

In My Travels...

Over the past week or two I've come across some interesting things in my travels. A recent ride on RTS #0010 revealed that not only has the axle-grinding problem (which produces a foul odor in the rear of the bus) not been fixed, but part of the steering column housing has disappeared as well! The speedometer also did not seem to work; it stated that we were traveling across the Tobin Bridge at zero miles per hour. The sooner that bus is sent to Everett to be scrapped, the better!

It seems that the Silver Line Washington Street extension to South Station is a step closer to becoming a reality. At least four of the Neoplan AN460's (i.e. the buses used on the Route 39 and SL Washington) have been repainted from the general MBTA paint scheme into Silver Line colors. I spotted 1030 broken down at Newton Street several days ago:

Sorry for the terrible photo.

Now with these four buses having been repainted (1018, 1019, and 1020 are the others), it seems only natural that bus assignments out of Southampton Garage would change. There are 44 sixty-foot buses in the MBTA fleet; all assigned to Southampton. With fewer "normal colored" buses available, all Route 32 trips have been dropped from the garage. Arborway will now provide all the equipment for this route. Southampton had formerly offered five articulated buses for rush hour service on the line.

No more 60' buses for rush hour service? Crowding will surely worsen on the high ridership Hyde Park route! To offset this, two or three Arborway buses have been added to the line for increased capacity. The improved rush hour headway is now every 3-4 mins. I plan to take a ride and see how things are going.

At least the Forest Hills inspector will no longer have to deal with this:

Occasionally, Southampton would send out one of their 40' New Flyer C40s instead of a sixty-footer. Very helpful!

The MBTA fare increase/service cuts workshops are coming up next week (August 10th-27th). I have yet to see tangible booklets detailing the particulars being distributed, but at least a few people managed to get their hands on them:

Found on the floor of an Orange Line train laid up at Oak Grove

I plan on attending several workshops and the final hearing at the State Transportation Building. Visit the MBTA website for workshop dates and locations. Ten points if you can find where to click on the homepage in five minutes or less.

As a final note, I snapped these two pics:

Notice anything unusual?