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August 01, 2005

"Should we walk or do we have time to take the T?"

I'm far from a reflexive critic of the MBTA: it's cheap compared to other subway systems (Chicago, NYC, DC) and fairly comprehensive. But I hope this is the wake-up call they've needed: They're losing ridership in significant numbers, especially on the trains. (I wonder if Mitt's brief ride will reverse the decline...)

I'm sure we can all think of things that would improve the situation. For what it's worth here's mine:

  1. Make the Green Line go faster somehow. It really is a joke that it takes an hour to get from Brighton to downtown. The new card system will help; some stops may need to be eliminated; but right now it's a barely practical system in a barely-driveable city that really needs excellent rail. Really, we should aim for an eventual dig-and-cover of as much of the Green Line as possible... but that sounds like a pipe dream for now.
  2. Maintenance: The idea that the trains are disabled when it snows is preposterous. THIS IS BOSTON. IT SNOWS IN BOSTON. It also gets hot. Let's have trains and rails that can withstand inclement weather.
  3. They haven't seemed to figure out a system whereby trains can be allowed to go "express" to farther-off stations if they're delayed. That was typical in Chicago when I lived there: it's an old system and delays were common, but they were alleviated somewhat by trains' ability to go several stops at once if necessary.
  4. Communication: No one, but no one, can understand the squawk boxes on the platforms. They're totally useless. Replace them with extreme prejudice. Information provided to passengers needs to be pertinent, timely, and intelligible.
  5. Fix the escalators and elevators. That's a disgrace, especially to the elderly and disabled, and those with kids.
  6. More frequent bus service to some of the 'burbs (I would mention Watertown, Belmont, and Medford, only because I'm somewhat familiar with those schedules) outside of rush hour.

More suggestions here.

By the way, it's good to see Reps Walz and Sciortino get involved in this debate. There is hardly an issue that affects more people on a daily basis than this. We should aim for terrific, not barely adequate, public transportation.

Posted by Charley on the MTA at 12:12 PM in Massachusetts | Permalink


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» T ridership down from Left Center Left
Well, the news is official: T ridership is down, from over 650,000 boardings/day in 2000 to shy of 600,000 boardings/day in 2005 (Subway) or 1.2M to 1.12M (total). Since we have only the numbers to work backward to the cause, [Read More]

Tracked on Aug 2, 2005 8:34:33 PM


I think its so sad that people who use wheelchairs have such a hard time getting around in this city. The elevators that do exist in public transportation stations, are often dirty an disgusting.

Posted by: mark | Aug 1, 2005 1:02:33 PM

In case you dodn't notice, your Charlie on the MTA parody made it into the Globe:


Posted by: Ken | Aug 1, 2005 1:27:17 PM

Fixing the Quality of Service (QoS) on the subway's schedule hinges on the green line -- but not the extensions (B, C, D, E). In fact, the big problem is between Gov't Center and Copley, and to a lesser extent, Kenmore.

You see, during the rush hours, the T simply can't fit more subways into the tunnels safely. So, even if the extension trains were running faster or more frequently, there'd simply be backups.

The fix is easy, but costly: make the track between Gov't Center (or maybe even just Park) to Kenmore (or maybe even just Kenmore) 4 tracks instead of 2. Now, you can express trains on the inside track, get around disabled trains, and otherwise reduce variance.

Imagine if there was a train that simply expressed between Gov't Center/Park to Copley/Kenmore? Everybody riding from Red, Orange, or Blue could blow by half of the stops on Green, and, as a result, there'd be far less traffic underground on the Green, meaning that QoS could be improved in the extensions.

Of course, this would be a very expensive, disruptive project. But, theres no sense of trenching and burying the C along Beacon, the B along Comm Ave, etc... since a faster train there can't be used; it would just back up at St. Marys or BU East, respectively.

As far as (4) and (5), I agree completely. There's simply no excuse for repair issues. Just freaking fix them. I have spoken to a number of T employees (not management, just token takers, etc) about the escalators. Their claim is that in many cases kids press the emergency stop button for fun, and that the escalator can't be started again without a safety inspection. I don't know if that claim is true, but it is thought provoking.

Posted by: stomv | Aug 1, 2005 1:38:21 PM

^ I meant "The fix is easy, but costly: make the track between Gov't Center (or maybe even just Park) to Kenmore (or maybe even just COPLEY) 4 tracks instead of 2."

Sorry for the confusion.

Posted by: stomv | Aug 1, 2005 1:46:43 PM

damned link didn't show up.


Posted by: Ken | Aug 1, 2005 10:03:46 PM

Thanks for that, Ken. Hadn't seen it.

Posted by: Charley on the MTA | Aug 1, 2005 10:12:03 PM

Well, who decided that there needs to be an inspection before an escalator is restarted? I imagine the escalator repair crew is pretty happy with that rule. (Happy enough to push a few STOP buttons themselves...? Just a rash speculation.)

Posted by: escargot555 | Aug 1, 2005 11:09:37 PM

You're welcome.

BTW - The Mass Democratic Party is back online as of Monday with their blog at http://massdems.blogspot.com/

And my blog's online now as well:

Posted by: Ken | Aug 2, 2005 12:50:22 AM

That Globe discussion was ridiculous. I recognize that they were inviting people to offer criticism, but I do think people are unrealistic about what to expect from a mass transit system and what other cities accomplish.

4 days out of 5, the bus-and-orange-line commute gets me to and from work quickly and without much trouble.

As you diverge from destinations that are central to the city and outside of rush hour, your experience will get exponentially worse.

This is an unavoidable fact of all mass transit systems. Boston can and should do better on lots of things, but our system is not in total collapse.

Posted by: Brittain33 | Aug 2, 2005 11:56:22 AM

"4 days out of 5, the bus-and-orange-line commute gets me to and from work quickly and without much trouble."

No doubt. I think the question is that 5th day: Is it a minor inconvenience, e.g. one of the trains was a few minutes later than you wanted, or was it a total disaster -- delays of 30 minutes or more, and near-riots?

Left Center Left has some good thoughts at the trackback above. I would add that better maintenance might be a feasible but somewhat less cheap measure they could take. And it's absolutely necessary.

And I'm looking forward to the Charlie card. It'll be a major improvement.

Posted by: Charley on the MTA | Aug 2, 2005 10:07:47 PM

I'm looking forward to the Charlie card. It'll be a major improvement.

Why do you think so?

I can see that it will be a good thing for the T system in general, but I'm not sure (maybe just don't see) how it will help efficiency. In fact I'm dreading four months of Green Line hell as every person boarding inbound fiddles with putting their money in that machine.

Posted by: Chris | Aug 3, 2005 10:43:33 PM

Here is a rundown of the Charlie Card.

I'm not sure what you're thinking of... The card holds value that is deducted when you swipe it on the train. So presumably there will be no fumbling for money at all, everyone will just swipe their cards, having added value to them beforehand.

Am I wrong?

Posted by: Charley on the MTA | Aug 3, 2005 10:55:38 PM

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