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!

Two For One Special! Today Only!

I was doing my rounds today and found myself at Ashmont Station. The original platforms have been demolished and the temporary ones in place are made from two by fours, plywood, and roof tiling. Sounds safe enough to me! The platform now extends towards Codman Yard, almost into it in fact. There is also a new exit on the outbound platform to a side street where Tower Q used to stand.
Anyway, I wandered over to the faregates and asked the CSA (Customer Service Agent, the folks in the burgundy shirts) how things were going. And then the trouble started...

You see, all four of the CharlieCard Fare Vending Machines were broken! A software glitch prevented passengers from adding value to their CharlieCards. Don't have enough to get on the train? Well, you're going to have to buy a $2.00 CharlieTicket then. Or walk to the next stop, Shawmut. I'm sure their machines are working. Your choice. Naturally, the riders were less than happy about it.

Note that the "Add Value" icon is gray. Tap it, slap it, punch it; whatever you do will be in vain. It just isn't going to respond. The CSA eventually decided to let two people split the cost of a $2.00 CharlieTicket and go in together. Of course, many people were still mad about paying the extra $0.30 (and rightly so) when there was no one to go in with them. The CSA told me it had been like this since the start of service. That's about 5:00AM. He had called downtown, however it was a software problem not a mechanical problem. Thus the "Charlie Crew" could not fix it. Guess those IT guys must be pretty busy with all the computers down at Park Plaza.

So I did my part and explained to the passengers what was up and what their best option was. After that, I went onto the Mattapan Trolley to see how things were going...

I really expected to get a trolley with the wrong farebox code. For you see, off and on someone has been telling the trolley operators to program their fareboxes as Route 831. FYI, the subway and trolley lines all have route numbers like the buses (Orange Line = Route 903, Red Line = Route 931 or 933, etc.). On the Green Line and Mattapan Trolley, the routes are programed into the fareboxes so they charge the right fares and accept the correct transfers. As I was saying, misinformed operators were putting in Route 831. The problem? That is the farebox code for the C Branch of the Green Line! Thus, when you get off the Red Line at Ashmont going to Mattapan the farebox charges you extra. Dude, Cleveland Circle is no where near Ashmont! You definitely had to have left the system to get here. Many an extra $1.70 was lost in the confusion. But they got hip and started putting in Route 899, the Mattapan Trolley route number. But none of that nonsense today. The farebox had the right route number, it was just not accepting anything. No coins, no dollars, no transfers, no coconuts. Other than car 3262 (remember this car? It derailed on opening day) coming off the wire, not too bad a day. I'll have some PCC photos coming soon!

Monday, June 2, 2008

The MBTA Fire Bus

So there is this bus out at Charlestown/Bennett Garage, Flyer (no, not New Flyer, Flyer Classic) #9471. From 1982 until about 1996 it was a regular transit bus. It was then transformed into its current incarnation. It acts as a mobile recooperation center for firefighters at the scene of a major fire. It has deluxe AC and "heat reflecting shades". Pretty cool, huh?

Here are some photos I took: