Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The 195 Says Goodbye

After over twenty years, Route 195 is being discontinued. Chances are you have never heard of the 195. Many operators (including ones from its own garage!) have not either. The route makes one inbound trip from the Shattuck Shelter (on the edge of Franklin Park) to Park Street Station each day at 8:05AM. I plan to ride the final trip this week and will have some photos.

The Winter 2009 Rating

The MBTA will issue new schedules this coming Saturday (December 27). Be sure to pick up the green ones from the station or your driver. See the MBTA website for details.

Failure, Thy Name Is Route 111

Snow & Ice: 100 Points
Route 111: -50 Points

After the series of storms that hit the region this past weekend, I would expect surface transit to be a little slow. Maybe even some moderate delays (10-15 minutes). But the 111 seems to have had some trouble bouncing back.

It all began Monday morning. The AM Peak had just ended and I had a few errands to do. During the AM Base, there are about five buses on the line. Whenever I catch the 111 at this time, I can count on having ample seating to choose from. Today was a little different...

0732 arrived at my stop, packed to the gills. I managed to squeeze on and find a spot near the driver. He informed me that some buses had been pulled off the line and/or broke down. He was really feeling the crunch. En route to Boston, we were drop-off only. Well, we tried to be at least. At Fourth Street, the driver announced that he had room for only one more person.

Naturally, seven people attempted to board.

We made it into Haymarket at last. The TransitMaster was running so late that it reset itself. They tend to do that, it seems, when they are running over 35 minutes late.

0732 was forced to deadhead back to Woodlawn. The driver wanted to make sure that there was at least one bus in Chelsea.

The PM Peak, frankly, was not much better:

The Lynn operators had to exit the station carefully,
lest they strike someone waiting for the 111 in the busway.

The berth at Haymarket was overflowing with people. Perhaps 50-75 cold souls waited for the 111. The bus on the right was a 111, but was pulling back to Charlestown Garage. Several more followed suit, much to the dismay of the waiting passengers. Fed up, they "surrounded" a bus (0686 I believe) about to pullback, with hopes of forcing the driver to do another trip. Two more buses were roped in as well.

The Angry Masses. Oh the humanity!

The bus in the above photograph held off on opening its doors. A second bus pulled in behind it and felt the brunt of the crowd. That driver had to kick several people off, just so passengers were not pressed against the windshield. I boarded 0686 (Central made the operator do some overtime), which was not too crowded (about twenty passengers). When I reached my stop, the TransitMaster proudly proclaimed that the bus was 22 minutes behind schedule. A mere 22 minutes!

I believe I will be taking the Commuter Rail into town from now on. Those locomotives seem able to power through just about anything.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Lights Out!

It appears that the MBTA forgot to pay the electric bill! For at least part of the morning commute, the lights were out at Arlington and Copley (I also heard rumors of Hynes and Boylston going dark as well). A series of underground fires in Downtown Boston forced the power to be shut off for a few hours. Inspectors, CSA's, and other MBTA personnel stood guard with flashlights. Waiting passengers were told to board whatever train came into the station and change at another stop.

Here are some photos I snapped:

Copley Station

Arlington Station

Arlington Station

*Note: Photographs taken with normal settings. It actually was that dark!

Lost RTS

UPDATE 11/25: It appears that this RTS along with many others from Albany Street now reside at Charlestown/Bennett Garage. Albany Street is now all Neoplan AN440's.

I spotted this gem this morning at Haymarket Station today:

Any idea why an Albany Garage bus would be doing trips on the 111?

Transit Photography

I have now created a Flickr account. All of my transit photos will be displayed here:

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Home Movies: The Boeing-Vertol LRV Trip

Going Around The Loop At Government Center

Coming Out The Other Side

Tunnel Between Government Center and Park Street

Sorry that they are a bit short and have no sound.

I have purchased a new camera, so stay tuned for some better quality videos!

Triple Threat

This caught my interest yesterday afternoon during the PM rush.

My guess, the next Route 01 bus to Harvard came along about 20 minutes later.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

An Accident

So on my way home last night, my bus got into a little accident with a van. We had left Haymarket Station and were traveling down North Washington Street when a van started to
drift towards us. You see, the fellow driving the van was attempting to change lanes and did not bother to acknowledge the existence of the bus quickly approaching him on the right side. Our driver sensed what was probably going to happen next and hit the brakes. But it was too late.

The end result:

I have edited out the operator for the sake of their privacy.

None of the passengers were hurt, just a little shaken up. The accident happened in the middle of the street and thus we were unable to alight from the bus. The van was pinned against the bus and unable to move. I spotted its driver flipping through some papers. He hardly seemed phased by it. The operator notified Central Dispatch and the authorities soon came.

Had this been, say a Neoplan AN440, I might have blamed the accident on the power steering going out, but this was a New Flyer. Plus, I was riding up front and saw the jerk in the van cut in front of us. Damn him! RTS 213 came along and took our passengers (I stayed behind to give a witness statement). I grabbed a Neoplan heading my way and related my story the driver and a few curious passengers.

Morals of the story kids:

- Never cut off a bus

- Always wear you seatbelt

- Don't expect the same brake performance out of a NABI

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Silver Line Has Lost Its Luster

The Silver Line has been getting me down lately.

Last week, dual-mode 1131 (used on the Silver Line Waterfront services) broke down in the Ted Williams Tunnel resulting in a horrendous traffic jam. The delays were so bad that it took about 47 minutes to get from the toll plazas at Logan Airport to South Station. Of course, this unfortunate delay caused me to be late to a meeting. I now add 1131 to the list of buses I vow never ride on again (this list includes 1026, 0216, 0264, and many more).

Adding to my BRT frustrations, it appears that the MBTA will move ahead with the Silver Line Phase III project. Why not? It is only projected to cost around $1,000,000,000 (don't be surprised if the price tag starts to skyrocket). The T could easily pull together that cash. Yeah, with a debt of about $8,000,000,000 it might not be the best idea to pursue a major (and largely unwanted and unpopular) capital project like this. People are already noting the parallels Phase III has with the Big Dig. Sadly, the MBTA has a legal mandate to do it as part of the Big Dig remediation.

Hopefully, if this thing starts to become a reality, the MBTA does not pick Betchel/Parsons Brinckerhoff as the contractor.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

School Trips On Route 171!?

Recently, I was looking at a CT3/171 schedule card from Winter Rating 2003. I have a pretty extensive archive of throwback schedules going back decades by the way. Anyway, so up in the corner I spot the 171 schedule information and get this! There are two school trips (i.e. trips added for the convenience of student riders) listed at 6:45AM from Dudley Station and 2:40PM from Airport Station.

Wait a minute, school trips on the 171? What's going on here?

The 171 operates two very early morning trips from Dudley Station to Logan Airport. Departing at 3:50AM and 4:20AM, few people know about its existence. The 171 provides transportation to and from Logan for employees whose shifts start/end before regular MBTA service hours. So what use would this route be for kids going to school?

I was stumped, so I consulted the wise Jonathan Belcher...

As it turns out, there was actually a group of students who took the CT3 (when it operated between Andrew Station and Logan Airport) from South Boston to a school in East Boston near Airport Station. Once that segment of the line was discontinued and replaced by the 171, the T figured that there might still be a demand. Thus, they created the school trips. As it turns out, not a single kid used the trips. They decided to take the Blue Line instead. These trips lasted only one rating (about three months). Oh well, it was worth a shot.

Also, I have finally taken a ride on the six-car Blue Line trains! The ride is much more comfortable, no more being stuffed into the cars during rush hour. Good job, Dan! Much appreciated!

Finally, it appears that I can upload videos to this blog. So expect some Boeing-Vertol LRV home movies soon!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Back From Vacation!

Hello, Chaps!

I am back from my summer holiday and am now getting back into the swing of things.

The MBTA has now released its 2008 Service Plan, which analyzes bus, subway, (and for the first time ever!) ferry service. Using existing resources, the Plan seeks to improve service and cut out waste. Sounds like a good idea to me! I have had a copy for at least two months prior to it being released to the public, but like a good novel, I didn't want to spoil the plot for you all. If you would like to download a copy for your reading pleasure, head here:


And be sure to attend some of the public workshops for the Service Plan in your area!

If you happen to be on the Blue Line next week, say around 5PM, you might see one of three six-car Blue Line trains that will be rolling out this coming Monday (September 15th). To accommodate increased capacity, the T has added these trains during the so called "peak of the peak", then the strain is particularly great. For anyone who was hoping to see a six-car consist of Hawker-Siddeley's, sorry, only the 700's will be trainlined this way. Don't worry, the six car trains will still serve Bowdoin Station, but you might have to change cars. It is impossible to extend the platform there without destroying the station and that section of tunnel. Now why didn't Ed Dana plan ahead for this?

About twenty buses equipped with Automated Passenger Counters (APC's) have been transferred from Charlestown/Bennett Garage to Cabot. These buses are equipped with sensors near the front and rear doors that count how many people board and alight. This data can be broken down by route, trip, and even bus stop. This is certainly a great piece of technology for the T, as now they are able to obtain more timely and accurate ridership counts. The buses (0735, 0737-0740, 0742-0745, and 0747-0753) are New Flyer D40's just like the buses they swapped with Charlestown. These buses, like the others, also feature security cameras. It seems that because of this, they are only being pulled out on the Route 23 (there is a bit of a backstory here, I'll explain later). However, I have seen them on other Cabot routes: 0752 and 0753 on the 16, 0745 on the 09, etc. Hopefully, when I ask for some ridership summary reports (yes, I plan to read some of them), I'll get a little variety. Maybe some 04's or possibly some data from the Route 9701? I'll keep my fingers crossed.

Stay tuned for more,

The Lone Rider

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Out And About

Carrie Dubose, the longtime superintendent at Cabot Garage, has moved on to Charlestown. The new guy, to the best of my knowledge, is a fellow by the name of John Houghton. Hope he knows what he's gotten into. Cabot can be a difficult garage to manage. I'll have to stop by and introduce myself.

So yesterday I decided to do my bit to help out the economy. Taking advantage of the tax holiday, I went to several booksellers (I picked up an 1869 translation of the odes of Horace...for only $9.50!), and spotted some interesting things in my travels. On the Blue Line I discovered that the new cars display "GOVERNMENT C" for Government Center. Why not program them to say "GOV'T CENTER". That's fewer letters and is easier for the riders to understand. Oh well, the electronic PA still insisted that trains were operating to Bowdoin even though it was the weekend. On the Wonderland side, I had the warm company of about 100 people waiting for the train. Soon a train pulled into the station, showing off the impressive horns the 700's have, then stopped. We eagerly went up to the doors to board...and the train left. You know, if you're heading back to the yard, displaying "out of service" (and maybe turning out your lights too) would've been nice. Oh yes, and on its way out, I spotted a poor woman and her baby on board. She must have boarded the train on its way to Bowdoin and had gotten stuck on board. Thankfully, I notified the motorman of the next train to call ahead and make sure the mother and child were taken care of.

Now get this, on weekends the Silver Line Washington Street supposedly only runs 40' buses (the 6000's). This helps with fuel economy and better meets ridership demand (correct me if I'm wrong). So what was 1013 (a 60' bus) doing out on the street yesterday?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Some Updates...

Earlier this week, the T finally lifted its 10 mph speed restriction on the Longfellow Bridge. Guess that means I can't challenge Red Line drivers to race across the bridge anymore. Service on the Mattapan Line was suspended for a few hours yesterday morning. The "grease" they smear on the rails to cut down on screeching (particularly at Ashmont) was apparently on a little too thick. Talk about a slippery slope. Or I guess, "slippery viaduct". Passengers were told to take Route 27 to/from Mattapan and Ashmont. Oh wait, that bus runs only every 35 minutes! Thankfully, Arborway sent over a few extra buses to help out. Service was back up and running before long. 3234 has been chugging along for about a week or so. No major problems reported so far. The second AC PCC to enter service (3230 was the first), it is planned to have all the Mattapan cars retrofitted by October. 3265 is up next for installation.

Note the AC unit on the roof.

PCC 3260 is slated to be moved over to Riverside after an encounter with a stray tree branch left it with some major damage to its frame:

Nothing major on the Orange Line. I've noticed a few more repainted cars lately. Lookin' spiffy!

Word has it that starting this fall, six-car trains will start operating on the Blue Line during rush hours. While it will not be every train (3 or 4 out of thirteen), it should certainly help with crowding. And of course, move to the first four cars to get off at Bowdoin! Unlike the other stations, Bowdoin cannot have its platforms extended. So two cars will be out in the tunnel.

Fifty of the 600-Series cars planned to be scrapped over the next several months. 20 cars will be kept to supplement the growing 700-Series fleet). Hopefully, Seashore (Trolley Museum) up in Maine will get a pair for their collection.

New Flyer D40s have made their debut on the North Shore! Up in Central Square, Lynn, Dan Grabauskas and company had a little debut ceremony. Lynn Garage will receive 70 new buses, Quincy Garage gets 65, and Cabot Garage 20. Any Neoplans from Lynn and Quincy will be shifted back to Fellsway, Charlestown, and Albany.

Oh, and one last thing...

I was watching Channel 7 tonight and there was a story about the cameras on MBTA buses. I couldn't help but chuckle at the fact that they showed mostly NABI's (only four out of 299 NABI buses have cameras) and even a few RTS buses on the CT1! Chances are, you'll never see a security camera system on an RTS as they are slowly being phased out (only a handful are expected to remain in service until 2012). At least they had a clip of a New Flyer D40 on the 74...

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Happy Birthday!

Today the MBTA turns 44! In honor of this momentous event, I have put together a timeline of some of the major events in the MBTA's history. For a more detailed history of the MBTA, check out Jonathan Belcher's Changes to Transit Service in the MBTA district 1964-2008

August 3, 1964 - The MBTA succeeds the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA). Unlike the MTA, which only served 14 cities and towns, the new MBTA has an expanded service area of 78 cities and towns. However, many would not receive direct MBTA service for several years.

August 26, 1965 - The MBTA gives the rapid transit lines their colors:

The Cambridge-Dorchester Tunnel Line becomes the Red Line after the school color (crimson) of Harvard University. At the time, the Red Line only operated between Harvard and Ashmont.

Photograph Courtesy of The Joe Testagrose Collection

However, the cars being used at the time (the 1400's Series) had been purchased with state money, and as a token of thanks, were painted in the state colors. Clearly this could lead to some confusion...

Photograph Courtesy of The Joe Testagrose Collection

The Main Line Elevated becomes the Orange Line. Washington Street in the South End and Roxbury, over which the el ran for most of its route, was once called Orange Street.

Photograph Courtesy of The Joe Testagrose Collection

The several streetcar lines that fed into the Central Subway and Park Street were called the Green Line, as many of them ran parallel to some portion of Boston's Emerald Necklace park system. However, many of the PCC streetcars would remain in their MTA orange paint schemes for years, with a few even being retired in that color.

Photograph Courtesy of The Joe Testagrose Collection

And finally, the East Boston Tunnel Line became the Blue Line, as it ran under Boston Harbor and along the ocean.

Photograph Courtesy of The Joe Testagrose Collect
Note: The trains in this photo (dated 1972) first entered service in 1924
when the East Boston Tunnel was converted from streetcar to subway operation.
The original 1924 fleet would remain in service until 1979/1980 when they were
replaced by the current 0600-Series Hawker -Siddley fleet. With the exception of
the Mattapan PCC's, no other MBTA vehicle would surpass their 56 year service life.

1966 - The MBTA begins to renumber its bus routes. By 1969, the current numbering system would be in place. Some examples were:

Route 31A became Route 24 (Mattapan - Wakefield Avenue)

Route 47 became Route 01 (Dudley - Harvard)

Route 77 became Route 69 (Harvard - Lechmere)

1966 - The MBTA purchases its first buses. All of the buses in the MBTA fleet up to that time had been inherited from the MTA (with a few leftover from BERy days!). These buses, 1966/1967 GMC "New Looks" or "Fishbowls" as they were sometimes called, would remain in service for decades. In fact, in the early 1990's there were still a few in service.

March 30, 1968 - The MBTA absorbs the Eastern Massachusetts Street Railway. The merger resulted in the MBTA taking over and operating bus routes on the South Shore (now the 200-series routes), North Shore (now the 400-series routes), Route 616 (now known as Route 34E), Melrose area routes (now the 130-series routes), as well as buses in Lowell (until 1975), Lawrence (only for several months), and Brockton (until 1969).

June 21, 1969 - The MBTA discontinues service on the "A" branch of the Green Line to Watertown via Allston, Brighton, and Newton Corner. Service was only "temporarily suspended" due to a streetcar shortage, however it has never resumed. Route 57 replaced streetcar service along the line.

September 1, 1971 - The South Shore Extension of the Red Line opens. Service is extended to Quincy Center via North Quincy Station and Wollaston Station. Ashmont and Quincy trains would diverge at Andrew Station. It would not be until 1988, when an additional platform was built, that South Shore trains would serve JFK/UMass Station.

July 5, 1972 - The MBTA absorbs the Middlesex and Boston Street Railway. New routes added into the MBTA system included bus routes in Newton, Waltham, Needham, Arlington, Lexington, Belmont, Bedford, and for a brief time Framingham, Wayland, and Wellesley. Several routes were discontinued over years (i.e. the Framingham/Wayland/Wellesley routes), however many of the former M & B routes remain as today's Routes 52, 59, 62, 67, 70A, 76, and 553-558.

April 4, 1975 - Service on the Charlestown Elevated is discontinued. The Charlestown El is replaced with increased Route 92 service, and the Orange Line is relocated to the Haymarket North Extension. Stations closed on the Charlestown El were: Everett, Sullivan Square (old station), Thompson Square, City Square, and North Station (old El stop).

Photographs Courtesy of The Joe Testagrose Collection

December 27, 1976 - The MBTA takes over the commuter rail system. Formerly, the Boston & Maine Railroad and Penn Central provided commuter rail service in the Greater Boston area. Purple had been chosen to represent the commuter rail system in 1974.

December 30, 1976 - First first LRV's (or Light Rail Vehicles) enter service on the Green Line. Built by Boeing-Vertol (yes, the airplane company), they were the first brand new cars purchased for the Green Line since the Picture Window PCC's in 1951.

March 22, 1980 - Red Line service is extended to Braintree Station. Quincy Adams Station would open in 1983 due to construction delays.

December 1980 - The MBTA closed for one day due to lack of funds. As part of the fallout from this event, many services (largely bus) are cutback or discontinued completely wholesale.

January 31, 1981 - The original Harvard Station (remnants still visible today) was closed in preparation for the Northwest Extension to Alewife. Several temporary stations (Harvard/Holyoke, Harvard/Brattle) would serve the area until the new station was completed.

1983 Through 1985 - The Northwest Extension of the Red Line opened. First the new Harvard Station in 1983, Porter and Davis in 1984, and finally Alewife in 1985.

1985 - The RTS makes its debut in Boston. The first MBTA bus to use electronic destination signs (instead of hand-cranked rollsigns), they would eventually become the only type of bus in the MBTA's fleet until 1999, when the first New Flyer C40's (initially bought for the Silver Line) entered service.

December 28, 1985 - The E Arborway Branch of the Green Line is temporarily suspended and replaced by Route 39 service. No Green Line service operated between Copley and Arborway. In preparation for the introduction of the LRV's, the Northeastern Incline was rebuilt to allow for the increase weight. The E Line was the last branch of the Green Line to still use PCC streetcars, some dating as far back as 1941. In 1986 service resumed on this branch only to Brigham Circle. Service was initially provided with Boeing LRV's, but by 1987 all service now used Type 7's. Service would return only as far as Heath Street on November 4, 1989. To this day, Jamaica Plain remains without Green Line service. Trolley poles, sections of track, and even a full Green Line stop at Forest Hills are all that remain. Bustitution had claimed its last victim in Boston.

May 4, 1987 - The Washington Street Elevated is closed and subsequently demolished after 86 years of service. The Orange Line was rerouted to the Southwest Corridor (originally planned to be a highway extension). Elevated stations closed were: Dover, Northampton, Dudley, Egleston, Green Street (old station), and the original (constructed 1909) Forest Hills Station. The historic Dudley Station is then converted into a bus terminal, with several original pieces of architecture incorporated into it. As was the case with the Charlestown El, service was replaced with increased bus service on Route 49. For 15 years, Route 49 service linked Dudley Station with Downtown Boston (Route 42 was extended from Egleston to Forest Hills and provided service from there to Dudley Station). However, Route 49 could not compare to the El's 8 minute trip from Dudley to Downtown Boston. The only stations remaining from the original Orange Line are Haymarket, State, Downtown Crossing, and Chinatown.*

Photograph Courtesy of The Joe Testagrose Collection

*Even these stations are not really the "original stops". The Washington Street Tunnel opened in 1908. For the first seven years of service (1901-1908) Main Line Elevated trains operated through the Tremont Street Subway. So the actual original stops are Government Center, Park Street, and Boylston. Streetcar service had been reconfigured during this time to allow for subway train operation.

Fall 1995 - The Crosstown Buses make their debut. Unlike other bus routes, they make limited stops (making the trip between major points faster). Also, for a little extra fare, passengers could transfer to the subway system.

1999 - The first Type 8 Green Line cars arrive in Boston. Plagued with a variety of problems including poor brakes, misaligned wheels, and wobbling axles (not to mention several derailments), the full fleet does not enter service until 2007/2008. In fact, the entire order was not carried out as the MBTA was unsatisfied with the manufacturer (Breda of Italy) and only accepted 85 (later 95) of the 100 cars.

1999 - The state's "Forward Funding" program expands the MBTA's revenue base and service area (now 175 cities and towns). In the additional communities, the MBTA is not responsible for providing local service.

2002 - The Silver Line Washington Street opens up, much to the dismay and ridicule of riders who were expected light rail rapid transit instead of "bus rapid transit".

2003 - The first CNG buses, purchased by the MBTA amid mounting community pressure to do away with the diesel fume spewing RTS, enter service. They were also some of the first low floor buses in the T's fleet. They are only assigned to Cabot and Arborway Garages (which host routes that primarily serve Boston). This soon leads the T to purchase cleaner buses, many with Emissions Control Technology (ECD), for its fleet. The era of the RTS was drawing to a close. By 2005, almost all RTS buses built before 1989 (8400's thru 8900's) had been retired. All remaining 1994/1995 RTS buses had particulate filters added to reduce emissions. Now, even these buses are slowly being phased out.

1989 RTS Bus.


2004 - The Silver Line Waterfront opens. Service initially operates with Neoplan trackless trolleys on a South Station - Silver Line Way shuttle. Soon service expands to three distinct services; SL1 to Logan Airport, SL2 to Boston Marine Industrial Park, and the SL3 to City Point (slated to be discontinued due to low ridership). Unlike the Silver Line Washington Street, Waterfront service features a tunnel, partially grade separated right of way, three underground stations, and straight electric propulsion for part of its route (using dual-mode articulated buses built by Neoplan). Not bad for $601,000,000.

December 2006 - Charlie comes to Boston. The MBTA replaces its decades old system of tokens and turnstiles with the CharlieCard and Automated Fare Collection (AFC). The change over comes just before the 2007 MBTA fare increases. Rather than paying for each trip in cash, the CharlieCard (and to a lesser extent the CharlieTicket) allow riders to store multiple fares and even passes on an electronic smart card. New faregates at subway stations also help to crackdown on fare evaders (though the "backpack trick" and other ways to cheat the system soon are developed).

The new AFC and CharlieCard system did away with tokens as well as paper transfers like these.
I had always had the odd fortune of coming across books of bus transfers, sometimes in the most unlikely places.
I have found books of transfers in the middle of the street, in a park, on a subway seat, even just laying on the ground!
Nothing like a day of free bus rides!

The MBTA has had its ups and downs over the past 44 years, but overall has made a great deal of progress in that time. After all, Boston is a city of many transit firsts. But what does the future hold? Currently, the MBTA is on unsteady financial ground with a debt (interest included) of about $8,000,000,000. This has sadly been a trend for Boston's past transit systems. The Boston Elevated Railway was bought and taken over the the Metropolitan Transit Authority in 1947 as the BERy was falling "deep into the red". But the MTA would only last 17 years before it too succumbed to its financial woes and was replaced by the MBTA. At times, the MBTA has flirted with financial ruin, only to come away with a few wounds. There is still hope for the T, however. Plans (dating back some 63 years) for the Green Line extension to Medford are coming closer to fruition. New technologies such as GPS, CAD/AVL, and AVI are helping the T to improve its services. So who knows where the T will be in fifty years. Will the system grow into a shining example of transit at its best? Or will it fall to its troubles, perhaps rising again out of the ashes like the phoenix?

I guess time will tell...

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Are You Being Served: The Urban Ring

Finally! Sorry for the delays, let's just say I've been experiencing some "technical difficulties" lately. I've also tweaked the format of the series a bit, as well as the names of each post. Hope you enjoy!

- The Lone Rider

So there has been a lot of buzz lately around the Urban Ring project. The tentative plan for it (including proposed routings, etc.) has been somewhat finalized. However, there is still some room for tweaking. Several community meetings held in Chelsea, Roxbury, Cambridge, and The Fenway gave residents (and possible future riders) a chance to learn more about the project, raise their concerns, and chip in some suggestions. Some chaps I know over at Alternatives For Community and Environment (ACE) stopped by the Roxbury meeting. Check out their blog to see what they think about the Urban Ring:

So what is the Urban Ring, that experiment in rapid transit that has everyone talking? The Urban Ring is a proposed bus rapid transit system that would connect the outlying "spokes" of the current rapid transit system. Using a combination of private rights of way, dedicated bus lanes, and a massive $1,000,000,000+ tunnel under the Longwood Medical Area, commuters would no longer have to go into the downtown core to transfer between lines.

Or take often congested and slow buses across town...

*cough*Route 01*cough*Route 66*

Sorry, I think I may be coming down with something.

Trip times between major points such as Dudley Square and Cambridge, would drop drastically. As I said before, places that currently require passengers to take local buses (or if you belong to MASCO, a private shuttle) to get to and fro. Each stop would be a little mini-station, similar to the ones on the Silver Line Washington Street. Hopefully, they will be better designed. The Urban Ring would also have key features such as priority signaling, CAD/AVL (like that found on the current bus fleet) and much more state-of-the-art technology to ensure maximum efficiency and performance. And of course no new BRT line would be complete without a fleet of state of the art buses. Hopefully New Flyer Industries, my favorite bus manufacturer, will get the bid. It is projected to attract up to 175,000 passengers per day.

According to one of the slides from the Roxbury meeting (you may view a PDF of each of the meeting presentations on the official Urban Ring website, www.theurbanring.com) another goal of the Urban Ring is to bring "new rapid transit for environmental justice communities". That's sounds fantastic! Apparently, included in their definition of an environmental justice community are places such as The Fenway and Admiral's Hill in Chelsea. Those places seem kinda upscale to me, not really areas that jump out at you as "EJ". Check out their handy-dandy map outlining which areas are "EJ" and which ones aren't here, on page five. Just in case you're curious, Everett Shops and Briggs Field also count as EJ areas. Really? You mean the place where they store retired RTS buses before they are scrapped and the MIT sports field in Cambridge? Reminds me of how in the MBTA 2005 Title VI report several parks and even a pond were shown to be "Minority Transportation Access Zones", a rough equivalent to the Urban Ring's "EJ communities." Do they really count fish as minorities? Seems kinda insulting...

MASCO will certainly be happy: no more shuttles! The Urban Ring will pretty much do the job for them. Think of the money they'll save.

My enthusiasm, however, is somewhat curbed...

I'm all for a new transit line. Hopefully, it will draw people away from their cars and onto public transit. But the Urban Ring is going to be Bus Rapid Transit (or as some mocking call it, "Barely Rapid Transit"). Since the Silver Line debuted in 2002, I've wary of the whole concept. I'm still not entirely sold on the idea of a bus being considered rapid transit. I won't get into the particulars right now, that'll be the next post! When I first heard about the project several years ago, heavy rail rapid transit (i.e. a subway) was being considered as one of the options. Of course that never came to be. Would've been nice though.

It is the fact that Roxbury and Dorchester are almost all but skimmed over that really troubles me. Proposed stations in these areas include Ruggles, Melnea Cass Boulevard, Dudley Square, Newmarket (1010 Mass Ave.), Edward Everett Square, and UMass Boston. If you look at their Environmental Justice map (EJ areas are colored red), a large swath of communities are overlooked. True, the ring is focused on the "urban core", but while you're at it maybe build a new light rail line or two in Roxbury? The Urban Ring could be like one of those hippie bracelets that has strings of beads hanging from it. Only, those strings would be light rail lines feeding into the Urban Ring. All of this investment, about $2.2 billion dollars, but some people are still being left out. So once again, some riders will just be left waiting at the bus stop.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Are You Being Served?

Greetings, dear readers.

I am launching a series of articles called Are You Being Served? They shall have the overarching theme of looking at environmental justice and transit equity issues, and of course what would be best for the daily riders and the MBTA itself. I will attempt to be as fair and unbiased as possible. But of course, this is a blog after all! Thus I will be interjecting my educated opinion, but not in the Fox News-y kinda way.

It shall be divided into four parts:

Part 1 - The Urban Ring: Boston's Transit Solution or Nightmare?

Part 2 - The Silver Line: Sterling or Tarnished?

Part 3 - The MBTA Bus System (Sorry, no witty subtitle...yet!)

Part 4 - Light Rail On Hyde Park Ave: My Vision For Boston's Transit Future

Sorry for the cheesy names I gave some of them. I just couldn't help it.

So as I embark on this project I hope to open your eyes to some of the issues raised, invite you to share your opinions and of course criticism, and basically give you something to think about.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

A Series of Unfortunate Events

This morning a woman was struck by an Oak Grove-bound Orange Line train. The incident happened at Sullivan Station. Rumors are abounding that it was an apparent suicide, but I will wait for the official investigation to come to a close. She was the third person to be struck by an MBTA train this week. Earlier this week a math teacher was hit by a Fitchburg Commuter Rail train near Concord. The MBTA said that he was trespassing on the right of way. Similarly, a teenage boy was also hit by a Commuter Rail train near Bellevue Station on the Needham Line. Authorities say he and a friend (whom was not injured) were walking along the tracks. My condolences go out to all of their friends and family.

But in the last two cases, one has to wonder. Why were they on the tracks? Don't people realize that walking on the tracks is a terrible idea? Well, not everyone has common sense. Maybe people will learn someday.

Please do not walk on or near railroad/subway tracks at any time. That shortcut could very well cut your life short.

So There Was This Neoplan AN440...

Alas, it has been about two weeks since my last post. Sorry to keep any of you regular readers waiting. So what's been going on? Well, on the 111 things are as usual. Last Tuesday (Bunker Hill Day) I had the good fortune to see all thirteen buses that were operating on the 111 during the PM rush hour. This of course happened in the timespan of about twenty minutes. Speaking of the 111, this morning I spotted bus #0518 heading inbound. What's so remarkable about that? Well, Neoplans are a rare sight on the 111.

For those who don't know, this is a Neoplan.

But that isn't why I was so shocked to see it. 0518 is a Fellsway Garage bus. The 111 is a Charlestown Garage route. Granted, Charlestown does cover Fellsway routes weeknights and weekends, but to flip things around like that? Bizarre. Then again, I have seen many a Cabot bus doing Arborway work.
Note the untiled platform. Summer rehab work at
Wonderland, Revere Beach, Beachmont, and Wood Island Stations
will soon correct problems such as this.

In rapid transit news, the Blue Line will soon become the "New Line" once several station renovation projects are completed by summer's end. Sorry for the corny rhyme. Taking place at Wonderland, Revere Beach, Beachmont, and Wood Island Stations, the work will primarily focus on redoing the platforms. Additional work such as putting up new signage and painting will also be done.

I have also seen some of Quincy's brand new New Flyer D40's. I still have not ridden one yet, but I plan to soon.
Our old pals, Type 3 snowplow #5164 and PCC wire car #3332, have now been incorporated into the collection of retired transit vehicles at the Seashore Trolley Museum in Maine. 3332 was the last double-ended ex-Dallas PCC (try saying that three times fast) still on T property. It spent its last years as a support vehicle on the Mattapan High Speed Line. 5164 (and I don't think any other T vehicle has accomplished this feat) put in 100 years of service for the MBTA, MTA, and BERy (Boston Elevated Railway). 5164 originally entered service as a passenger streetcar in 1907. Twenty years later, it was converted to a snow plow (with many of its Type 3 brethren). Unlike now, back then many cities and towns did not plow their main streets as they often had a streetcar line running down the middle of them. BERy (along with the Eastern Mass. Street Railway in the suburbs) took on the responsibility of clearing away the snow for auto (and of course streetcar!) traffic. Good luck at your new home!

Also, keep your eyes peeled for the 2008 MBTA Service Plan, coming to a community outreach meeting near you! The biennial assessment of the T's bus and subway service it sure to be chock full of good stuff (unless you take the 743, but then again who does?).

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Heat Stroke

Well it was another fun day on the 111's. Four RTS buses died during the height of rush hour!
One bus broke down three separate times and was sent back out onto the street after it was patched up each time. We can't let too many buses fall off the line, now can we?

The heat must have finally gotten to 0258, even though it was doing a trip on the 111 the bus thought for sure it was an 89. The TransitMaster, no matter what the driver did, stubbornly spat out "Route 89 CLARENDON HILL". I later spotted 0258 heading inbound at Woodlawn saying "11 CITY POINT VIA BAYVIEW". Doesn't the 11 run in South Boston, not Chelsea? Yeah, a missing "1" can make a big difference.

0582 (a Neoplan from Lynn Garage operating on the 426) was showing off how tough it was at Haymarket Station. While waiting to leave the station, the engine was going full throttle. The bus of course was not going anywhere. Just burning fuel. Talk about being in a race to go nowhere. The transmissions on the Neoplans also have a mean downshift, which it why they are some of the noisiest buses in the fleet.

0240, still on the front line for the 111's, had no AC. Well, at least none you could really feel. The boys over at the garage told him to "keep his windows open". Guess that's what they had to do before buses had AC.

All I can say is that my bus, 0736, was working fine. Perfect AC! And no crowds! The only problem was that I kept getting a "hot engine" light. It just wouldn't go away. Well, the engine didn't catch fire so I suppose it resolved itself.

After we crossed the Tobin Bridge RTS 0392 greeted us with its lights out, engine dead, and hazard lights flashing. The operator, who is about eight months pregnant, was sitting with an inspector in his van trying to beat the heat. At least she didn't go into labor...

Also, a Red Line train with bad brakes lost control today. No injuries, nothing major. But with four safety supervisors at the helm, how could you have gone wrong?

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

PCC Photos

More to come soon!