Thursday, February 24, 2011

Safety First: Part Two

Apparently, Meg Reilly of ONEin3 is also concerned.  This blog entry was posted the next day addressing the stabbing on, yet again, the Red Line, and the MBTA's reaction with heightened security measures such as random bag searches. Adam Gaffin of Universal Hub also posts his two cents.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Safety First: Is the T Safe Enough?

As if poor service is not enough, it is unfortunate to hear the news of another MBTA fatal accident on February 20, 2011 in the Central Square stop, less than three months from the recent accident that occurred just this past November 30, 2010 in the Kendall Square stop. Both accidents occurred coincidentally on the Red Line.

Source: by Steve Miller, Globe Correspondent

Personally, I have always been fearful of the often crowded platforms at the major interchange of Park Street. It seems to be all too easy for some tourist, who is not aware of his or her surroundings in the midst of friends, to turn suddenly and knock a passerby off the narrow platform on to the tracks below. It's almost worth the investment in what could potentially be insurance payout money to put up barriers or guards to protect the general public, similar to what Beijing's subway and Hong Kong's MTR did by separating the platform from the tracks with glass walls to counter suicides and accidents. However, we are also talking about an automated system which aligns the subway doors perfectly as opposed to MBTA's archaic train system.


Which begs the question:  do you think the T is safe enough?

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Snowpocalypse 2011

Any Bostonian who has has been on the T in the last month can attest to how poor the MBTA service has been running lately, incredibly apparent on Twitter posts. The commuter rail, buses and subway system has been plagued by grease fires on the tracks, off schedule buses hindered by the mountains of snow on the streets, off schedule commuter rail trains due to mechanical failures coupled with inaccurate announcements on top of their usual disabled trains caused by ice and snow and the removal of both. Boston has been relentlessly hit with at least one snowstorm each week since December 26, 2010. Some have been blizzards, some storms dropping over 12" of snow on the city. There is nowhere to put the snow, and some roofs are collapsing due to the weight.

Three of the five lines, the Green, the Orange and even the Red line have been plagued by grease fires on the tracks due to debris. These fires have been regular occurrences, occurring even at the major station of Park Street. Thankfully, this particular fire happened during the lunch hour. In fact, because it happened during the lunch hour, the trains that followed one after the other helped the evening commute during rush hour. How ironic.

Source: YouTube by drdry11

Today, I was victim to the 80 bus that runs once an hour on Sunday schedule. I appeared at Lechmere Station at 12.45pm, 15 minutes earlier to not miss the bus. The bus did not appear until 1.25pm. That is a 40 minute wait. When another passenger asked the driver why he was late, he said it was due to traffic and the snow. I asked if this is affecting the whole line down the schedule and he said no. I am fortunate that today's weather is warm enough to melt the mountains but for some people, especially the elder and small children, the sub zero temperatures we were experiencing, this cannot be tolerated. It is imperative that the MBTA must do their best to stick to their schedules. On the other hand, the snow has been such a hindrance, constricting two way streets to one way, testing drivers' patience and courtesy while they let the oncoming traffic through a snow clogged road.

Other days, the buses refuse to run at all. The cold has rendered the engine's ability to turn over.  Instead of solving the problem during the low temperatures, the MBTA has just run fewer buses. More people now have to wait in the cold. More people now have to jam pack into the buses. At least now, the MBTA has decided to shovel their own bus stops, instead of contesting that it should the city's job. The passengers lose in the end.

On a lighter side note, check out the MBTA's answer to clean off the snow that the Mattapan High Speed Trolley Line.  Because the trains are not strong enough to remove the snow like the other trains, this is what they use.

Source: > by John Tlumacki, Globe Staff

Many people tell us we are lucky to have a public transportation system as far reaching as ours. However, when thousands of people depend on it each day to make it to work, meetings, appointments, and to life in general, MBTA has been a real disappointment lately. The MBTA is in danger of losing the ridership they have gained, not by better service, but by higher gas prices and a slower economy. Please contact your state representatives to let them know that cutting funds to the T is not the answer.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Where is the Bus???

The T is finally getting with the times in this electronic day and age when almost everyone is connected to the web on the go via an iPhone or an Android phone.  Thanks to GPS, the T will start posting the data to answer the age-old dilemma:  where is the bus?  And also, the train [with the exception of the Green Line, the poor stephchild of the system].

Mobile applications can be found here:

Saturday, September 11, 2010

It Ain't Easy Being Green

New news during troubled times: Banker and Tradesman just reported that new investors have stepped in to help the struggling North Point development in East Cambridge. The interested parties are HYM Investment Group, straight out of LA, Atlas Capital Group and Canyon-Johnson Urban Funds, a joint venture between Canyon Capital Realty Advisors and Magic Johnson Enterprises.

North Point is the future site of the new North Point MBTA station, which will replace the decrepit Lechmere Station as part of the master plan of the Green Line extension into Union Square and other parts of the surrounding Somerville area and Medford.  The North Point site currently is composed of two modernist, condominium buildings, Northpoint Residential, and the monstrosity that is Archstone North Point, an apartment complex with its beacon visible for miles. The land around these three buildings form an empty, desolate moat, sprinkled occasionally by newly planted landscaping.  Hopefully, both the MBTA project and the North Point development can sweeten the deal for an improved East Cambridge and the Green Line.

Source: Banker and Tradesman

This Green Line extension project has been on the boards for years. Follow Somerville's perspective here.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Support For A Better City

Greetings Members of the Board and Associates,

As many of you may know, the MBTA is proposing a significant increase in fares to raise $69 million that will help offset potential budget deficits. The proposed $69 million is in addition to the $160 million that was designated for the MBTA in the recently passed Sales Tax increase. This fare increase is a result of the MBTA shouldering a $5.2 billion debt and experiencing reductions in revenue from the state Sales Tax.

Access to affordable, timely and reliable public transportation is an issues central to A Better City’s mission. Your employees and tenants rely on transit to travel to work or conduct business during the day. Transit is also how consumers access the services your company or business provides. In addition, reliable public transportation serves as a magnet for new growth and development; access to dynamic transit options is a selling point for attracting new hires or businesses to the greater Boston area. Lastly, transit benefits the environment and provides opportunities for creating engaging urban design. If public transit is designed and funded to be a more convenient and attractive option than travel in a personal vehicle, the State can reduce traffic congestion on roads and bridges, create opportunities for local economic growth and improve regional air quality. Public transit benefits everyone, and our elected officials and the MBTA need to hear this from you.

A Better City strongly encourages the membership to get involved; share your thoughts on the proposed fare hikes and service cuts with the MBTA and your elected officials. In addition, we ask that you also share this information with your workplace community, tenants and colleagues.

The MBTA will be holding 13 public meetings (12 workshops and 1 hearing) throughout its service area in August. If you are not able to attend in person, written comments may be submitted directly to the MBTA through September 4, 2009. Written comments should be addressed as follows:

Attention: Fare Proposal Committee
Ten Park Plaza
Boston, MA 02116

Lastly, your elected officials needs to know that public transit is important to you. For your convenience, I have included the following link where you can look up your elected official’s contact information:

Please be in touch if you have further questions or comments. A Better City and associated organizations (A Better City TMA and TransitWorks) will continue to post updated information on our websites. We look forward to seeing you at the MBTA public meetings.

Best wishes,
Dorothy Fennell
Commuter Programs Manager
A Better City Transportation Management Association
Follow on Twitter:

33 Broad Street, Suite 300
Boston MA 02109
Work phone: 617-502-6251
Fax: 617-502-6236

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Customer is Always Right

The T is interested in knowing what the passengers think. They are passing out surveys at Kendall/MIT. Are they doing this anywhere else?

I urge everyone to take a survey if you see someone passing them out. It can mailed to the Central Transportation Planning Staff at a later date, postage paid.

Friday, April 10, 2009

The Credit Crunch Effect on the MBTA

Looks like commuters will be stuck between a rock and a hard place: do they purchase/lease a vehicle for transportation, or if they cannot afford it, stick with the MBTA and be home by 7pm?

What will happen to the already heavily congested highways?

It seems that this plan will hurt the people who rely on the T most.

Drastic times call for drastic measures.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Rage Against The Machine...

Now, this is rage against missing a flight.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Continental Condolences

After hearing about the Continental plane crash in Buffalo, New York, my heart goes out to the families and friends affected by it.

The plane crashed at the time my commuter flight arrived in Newark, and I was about to catch my connection to London, which was also delayed.

A day later, British Airways experienced another crash in London. The plane's landing gear failed when it arrived from Amsterdam. Fortunately, there were no fatalities.

They seemed to have followed me on my extended trip to Copenhagen.

Copenhagen Bound

My previous post discussed the unfortunate encounters with the airline industry. It was a predeliction of what could go wrong. Below is a recount of this trip. This is the second time in a row where a commuter flight has transformed my journey into a harrowing experience. The first, I will post dated December 25, 2007.

Continental Airlines Flight 1189 was originally supposed to take off at 1.45pm. I was a little nervous about the weather report of high winds and some rain and snow, despite the 50 degree weather so I checked the status of the flights. When I saw one flight cancelled and the other flights delayed, I took off for the airport early via cab. I reached the airport at 11.45am. The 12.15pm flight had been cancelled and the 1.45pm flight was delayed to 3.05pm. That was the only choice I had, and I would make my connection flight to Copenhagen that was scheduled to depart at 5.40pm.

The only issue was the plane never came. The time kept changing from 3.05pm to 5.03pm to 6.10pm, then back to 5.03pm. I changed my itinerary from flying direct to Copenhagen to the backup plan of flying to Amsterdam, then to Copenhagen. That flight was scheduled to depart at 6.50pm. However, when Flight 1189 was set to depart at 6.10pm, I decided to opt for a later flight. I changed my itinerary to flying to London, then Copenhagen.

When Flight 1189 finally arrived from Newark, it was a smaller plane. Continental Airlines had already requested volunteers to fly via Delta Shuttle to JFK instead, and offered a trip to Newark. These volunteers got to go to the New York area before our plane came. One person waiting at the ticket counter asked why Delta has not been affected by the high winds flying in to JFK, but Continental is? Flight 1189 finally took off at 6.20pm and when we arrived in Newark, it was chaos. Newark is Continental Airline's hub, and one can see delays at almost every gate due to the high winds in the Newark and New York area. The flight to London was reported to only be 8 minutes delayed, but in reality, we didn't board the plane and the plane didn't take off for at least another hour after it was scheduled.

I arrived in London at 9.45am, missing my Copenhagen leg. The irony was that I received emails and a voicemail that my flight from Newark to London was delayed, and I had a chance of missing my connection. Fortunately, Continental booked me on a flight I would definitely make it on -- another day later on Valentine's Day. Perfect. I am so happy I can count on Continental.

I approached the ticket counter to see what I could do. The person there placed me on standby on a 2pm flight. A couple hours later, I approached the ticket counter again. The 2.00pm flight was full. I was scheduled to be on standby for another flight. I almost lost it. Why is it that the people who have been screwed over by a little commuter flight that throws off their whole itinerary not given any priority? Fortunately, the not-so-friendly people of SAS managed to book me on a 5.00pm flight, arriving in Copenhagen at 8.00pm. Better than nothing, but by the time I disembark from the plane in Copenhagen, what should have been a 9 hour journey has evolved into a 28 hour long journey. Something just is not right about that.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

For The Birds...

This blog is about the MBTA. However, it seems that the decline in the quality of transportation has meandered its way to air travel. Here I sit at Logan International Airport at the mercy of winter weather, despite the 50 degree weather and the mild cloudiness in the sky. My one hour flight from Boston to Newark has been delayed by two hours. The flight prior that I was trying to catch has been cancelled. I can only pray that I make my connection flight from Newark to Copenhagen. I do not want to be spending my own hard earned money during a recession to stay at a hotel in Newark.

All of us have our own harrowing tale to tell of losing luggage, waiting at airports, spending nights at airports, not being able to get a flight to make it somewhere for an event, a funeral, a birthday, Christmas. Some of us have been upset enough to write letters and voice complaints. A couple weeks ago, the Economist published a letter from an irate passenger to Sir Richard Branson of Virgin Atlantic. Quite entertaining...and we should model our letters over this letter.

"Look Both Ways Before You Cross The Street"

As Treemont had mentioned, pedestrians do need to get their due -- the ones that cross against oncoming traffic, and just blatantly run out in the middle of the road as if a miracle will allow all the cars to stop for this just person.

I once rented a Zipcar and was driving down Beacon Street. As Zipcar drivers know, time is of the essence especially since they charge by the hour. The light had just turned green, and the traffic was a go. Out from nowhere, or rather the train tracks that the Green Line C train run along, a woman jumped out into Beacon Street from the left. She cheerfully waved her bag of Dunkin Donuts at me, who was in the fast lane on the left, and two other drivers slammed on their brakes to avoid hitting her. She proceeded to dart across the street. I wish I could say that she was a naive college student, but this woman was in her 30s, if not 40s in affluent Brookline. That is simply irresponsible behavior. Whatever happened to what your mother used to tell you: "look both ways before crossing the street?"

Friday, January 30, 2009

Red Light, Green Light

Monday morning, the pedestrian traffic light across the street from the Charles/MGH T stop went missing. Curious, as pedestrians are glancing up at the traffic light meant for the vehicles before darting across the street in the icy, cold weather. Fortunately, the pedestrian light was restored by today [Friday]. It was only missing for 5 days. Probably the result of an overzealous driver who just simply took out the light. Now if DOT would realize that *other* pedestrian lights are also needed...

Monday, August 25, 2008

Back To School

School starts next Tuesday after Labor Day. I am not looking forward to the long commute on the Green Line again.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Missed Manners

Just a few days ago, as I was walking down Cambridge Street on my way, I started to cross Cardinal Medeiros Road. I was startled when an older lady called out from her window, "I'm sorry." It took me a minute to realize what she was apologizing about, and I realized that she felt guilty of having stopped in the middle of the pedestrian crosswalk. In a city where cars repeatedly run red lights, are known for its "Massholes" and college students blindly walking out in the middle of oncoming traffic as Nicklebones has commented in a previous post, "Fighting For My Life As A Pedestrian," this was refreshing. I smiled, nodded, and cheerfully replied, "That's alright!" and went on my way. She must not have been from around here, is what I chalk up this courtesy to.

However, it is truly depressing that courtesy has fallen by the wayside in this town. Drivers honk at other drivers who have stopped for pedestrians to cross the road. One afternoon while walking across the dreaded Charles Circle crosswalks towards the Charles/MGH station [with actual real-life pedestrian crossing signals], a few pedestrians almost got ran over by not one, nor two, but three vehicles heading down Cambridge Street at warp speed and running the lights that had been red for a few seconds already. Not only did they almost cause an accident, they blatantly honked at the poor, innocent pedestrians who were completely entitled to cross the road. The nerve!

In fact, I am reminded of when I was trying to cross at Charles Circle, albeit the direction towards Longfellow that did not have a pedestrian crossing light, I was almost beared down upon by a gas-guzzling large black SUV with the driver waving his fist at me. I had realized too late that my timing was off, and the light had turned green on oncoming traffic. However, it is indeed unfortunate that there is not even a "yield" sign for this direction. I wonder if the gas-guzzling SUV driver will ever realize that there is a pedestrian right-of-way at this intersection.

I was abhorred when a friend of mine, who was in her second trimester [not anymore; she is blessed with a daughter now], described some of her experiences on the T. She and her husband are recent homeowners in the town of Lexington [bye bye, city life], and she drives in to Alewife station to commute into Cambridge every morning. Some people offer her seats on the train, but she's usually pretty happy just standing. One morning, when the car was somewhat full, she had nowhere to stand but at the door. At the next stop, before she can even step out to allow the passengers to debark off the train, one man rudely pushed her out, to the shock to other fellow passengers. Fortunately, she was ok and she justifies it to the fact that he probably did not see her as a pregnant woman, and was in a hurry. However, that kind of thing should never even happen.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Speedy McSpeedy?

The Red Line seems to be going faster than its usual 10mph speed limit over the Longfellow Bridge. Is all well?

Saturday, July 26, 2008

O Longfellow

I've been grateful that I walk to work and have stopped relying on the T for my daily commute. The state of the 100-year-old Longfellow Bridge has drastically affected the Red Line service, causing buses to shuttle between Kendall Square and Park Street Stations on the weekends and trains to run across the river from the normal 40mph to 10mph on weekdays. It is not so bad when you can board the steady stream of buses at Kendall Square, but that means that the trains running between the other stations are delayed. My friend and I got to Park Street Station at the same time as one another even though she left half an hour before I did, but she was coming from Central Square whereas I only had to board at Kendall Square.

We call it the "inchworm." On some days, I can walk almost at the same pace as the train crossing the river.

Just a couple Wednesdays ago, I noticed on my walk to work that they were shuttling between Harvard Square and Park Street. Strange, since this was on a weekday. Apparently, there was some sort of mechanical failure [in typical T fashion, they fail to report the details] and it added about an hour delay to everyone's commute around the city. The field staff normally has 6.30am meetings. One person who took one of the first commuter rail trains in at 5.30am didn't even make it on time.

This has got to stop. Normal scheduled maintenance, especially in light of the risk of Longfellow Bridge [we don't want another bridge collapse on our hands], is acceptable but when the MBTA service severely impacts the day-to-day schedules of people who are attempting to save gas, money and the environment, something must change.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Pavlov's Dogs

I walk to work now. From Cambridge, over the Longfellow Bridge, to MGH. It's a nice walk, except for the harrowing near-misses from death crossing the road outside of the Liberty Hotel. I pass by the Charles/MGH T stop, in all its curtain-walled glory and I can hear the 'ding! Attention passengers: The next train to Braintree is now arriving..."

This convenient announcement of the approaching train was not instituted until last December, when I arrived back from my annual trip to Hong Kong. It's only instituted on the Red Line as well. It has gone through some variations, like adding the "Attention passengers: The next train to Braintree is now approaching" announcement when the train is some distance off still. It is convenient, especially when you are fumbling with your wallet to add more value to your Charlie Ticket or Charlie Pass and you knew time is of the essence in order to catch this approaching train.

However, when I walk by the Charles/MGH stop in the morning, I cannot resist the urge to break into a run in order to catch this approaching train. Silly me, I'm not even waiting for the train anymore. The 'ding!' sound has the same effect on me as the bell does for Pavlov's dogs.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Safety First

Whatever happened to "Safety First?"

So devastating to hear that it took the life of Terrese Edmonds, the operator driving the D Line trolley, to force us to reassess the Green Line. Outraged Liberal calls for new safety standards.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Fighting For My Life As A Pedestrian

Since I started at this new assignment, my only experience with the T is with the Red Line when I have to go to the main office at the Seaport, meet friends or run errands over the weekend. I have been saving money because of this -- I spend less than the $59 monthly T pass each month. Things have been pretty hunky dory because of this. I usually walk to work every morning, enjoying the lovely weather (when I am not sneezing from allergies or dodging the splashes of rain from cars), and crossing the Charles River via the Longfellow Bridge from Cambridge to Massachusetts General Hospital. I have more energy in general and I get more exercise and fresh air. I have been clocking in over 10,000 steps a day on my pedometer.

Boston is a prime walking city. In fact, it probably is easier to walk or take the T to locations within the city center when you account for parking prices, parking availability, today's astronomical gas prices, pedestrians who have a tendency to not look out for traffic before crossing streets and "Masshole" driving habits. However, I fight for my life every morning and afternoon when I attempt to cross from or to the Longfellow Bridge at the Liberty Hotel.

I am not sure if this intersection has no pedestrian crossing lights due to the remnants of the Big Dig, the road being dug up a million times or just the confusing maze of roads that Boston is known for. After centuries of bad road design, Boston's Department of Transportation still has not learned good road design for idiot drivers. This intersection allows traffic coming from Cambridge Street, Charles Street and cars coming off the Longfellow Bridge from Cambridge to go to Leverett Circle (which is another nightmarish place in itself, but that's another story for city drivers), Storrow Drive West or Storrow Drive East, and vice versa. None of these roads are well signed, so there are cars weaving everywhere without signalling. By the way, there are traffic lights there too! They just flash red and yellow, with low mounted pedestrian yield and Stop signs. Now, wouldn't one think that a major intersection of this sort would have pedestrian walking signs if so many people use this historic bridge to cross between Boston and Cambridge where there is a sidewalk (oh, and which suddenly disappears at this intersection with a nice big street light impeding the way!). Naaahhh...silly thought.

I've gotten relatively better at identifying which cars are attempting to travel where. The cars coming off the off ramp from Storrow Drive are not the issue. They already slow down well enough in anticipation of the backing up of traffic going to Charles Street, or to make the right turn onto Longfellow Bridge. The problem is the traffic coming from Cambridge Street and Charles Street. These people are hitting their gas pedal to accelerate on the on ramp onto any of the Storrow Drive entrances and being already frustrated by the long red lights, they are not letting any measly pedestrians stop them from where they need to be going. It is scary because most of them do not use their signals, or even if they do, a pedestrian cannot really tell which way the vehicle is heading. I urge Boston to please, reconsider pedestrianizing this intersection.

Wish me luck out there...if you do not see another post from me within 6 months, assume the worst.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Relinquishing the T

I am transitioning to another jobsite -- one just across the river within walking distance from my home. I no longer need to depend on the schizophrenic schedule of the bus, nor the T. It's liberating, but I worry about the winter with the winds blowing over the Charles. Instead of buying my usual monthly Charlie pass at the beginning of this month, I added value instead. I want to see if I come out ahead.

Will report back later...

Monday, March 17, 2008

Evacuation Day

So, today is Evacuation Day. All schools have it off -- hence, less traffic and people on the road. It's awfully quiet out there today. It also happens to be St. Patrick's Day. Coincidence? I think not.

Thankfully, the MBTA treated it like any other business day, which it was for me. Not that I wouldn't rather spend it at home. According to Wikipedia, Evacuation Day was meant to be a Massachusetts holiday commemorating the evacuation of the area when the British troops arrived. Now, onwards to Patriot's Day, which coincidentally also happens to be the day of the Boston Marathon, which I do have off...

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Please Exit At The Rear Of The Bus

Today, the bus stopped at a stop, and a young man said very nicely "can you open the back door please?" In fact, he said it so nicely, and even though it should have been loud enough for the bus driver to hear it, he did not get his wish. As the bus rolled forward to the next stop, the young man shook his head and moved towards the front of the bus, while ringing the bell for the next stop. He was able to finally get off the bus.

So why is it that while the MBTA encourages people to exit at the rear of the bus in order for people to board the bus in the front faster to maintain schedule, bus drivers rarely ever open the back door at each stop? Is it really that much more difficult to open up the back door as well when the front door is also open?

Monday, March 10, 2008

Silence: When No News Is Not Good News

So what happened to the Red Line, that prevented me from getting my work done today? I finally asked that question. As I go online to research, there was not a SINGLE item of news on this breakdown, that potentially impacted rush hour today. I couldn't believe it.

I did find out something else that was funny though. And very probable. Check it out:
Jesus: Why your bus or train never came - the MBTA secretly canceled it to save money

The Red Line Is Down

I must have pissed off the public transportation gods today. Everything has been going well. I stick to the Cambridge area only these days; when I take the 69 bus in the morning, I can usually see one coming just down the street, and maybe one that has just left down the other end of the street. And coming home, I have been able to time it right on the schedule, maybe with one exception [which took 45 minutes to get home, but that is another story, and really due to my own stupidity].

Today, I needed to run an errand for work. I left work early so that I can get to Government Center area to pick up some contract documents at the local American Institute of Architects branch. I arrived at Harvard Square Red Line Station just in time for the inbound train to pull in. I'm telling you, my luck has been awesome lately -- I really can't complain. Until now. The train sat, and despite repeated apologies and explanations of a broken down train in front of us from the train conductor, it wasn't going anywhere. Eventually, everyone had to clear off the train. Buses were supposed to arrive to take us to Park Street Station, but I have learned my lesson in the past that when T officials say that they are "on their way," it takes a little longer than one would think. Government bureaucracy effect on time, I guess. I booked it to the arriving 68 bus to Kendall Square Station via Broadway -- I wasn't taking any chances that the shuttle bus was truly "on its way." I arrive at Kendall to find a madhouse. Another T official says that there should be a train "on its way." Forget it...I was on the clock, but running this errand for work is really not worth this much effort. The usually efficient Red Line is even breaking down more often than it used to. It wasn't meant to be today, and after over an hour of waiting for the Red Line, I am home early.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Platforms of JFK/UMass

The Red Line T stop at JFK/UMass is bizarre. Being that it is where the Red Line splits into two different lines, the Ashmont and the Braintree line, in the south, it has four different platforms, plus additional rails adjacent for the commuter rail to run through. Two of the platforms go inbound and other two head outbound to Ashmont and Braintree respectively. When commuters need to take a train inbound, they need to wait at the top of the platforms within the station and head towards the flashing white light that indicates which track the train will arrive at. Thankfully, the lights usually allow enough time for us to wander downstairs to the appropriate platform...but how bizarre. Couldn't they have improved upon this somehow?

I now catch a ride with my classmate from Boston College to the JFK/UMass station, and take the Red Line to Kendall Square. Somehow, riding in a car via 93 South then taking a train on the Red Line is faster than taking any of the Green Line trains then transferring to Park Street to get to Kendall Square. It takes an hour and 45 minutes for me to go this route, whereas if I board the train at JFK/UMass, it takes only an hour and 10 minutes. What a difference this circuitous route can make.

Ironically, today's Computer and Information Systems lecture discussed reengineering of processes within a company, using or not using IT. The T would be the perfect example of something that could use reengineering. Implementation would be was just a thought...

Monday, February 11, 2008

"Strict Machine"

So what do people think of the new Charlie card system? A step in the right direction?

I think so.

But it takes so long for a person to feed the machine cash when one boards the bus. Not fun in this nasty winter weather. These machines need to operate a wee bit faster...

Someone else discovered that one can avoid paying for the bus when one pays with cash, so the buses "stay on schedule."
Beating The System

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Taken For Granted?

Lately, the 69 bus has not been following a schedule in the morning, it seems. According to the schedule, a bus would leave the terminus at 7.29am and at 7.41am. Being just a couple stops away from the terminus, the bus usually arrives a minute later. I have been running late for work lately, and I arrived at the bus stop at 7.39, just in time for the bus to be pulling up to the curb. Ok, so it's running a couple minutes early. What confounded me was that we would pass another bus a couple stops later, and I know that there shouldn't be a bus right before ours!

So, I have concluded that it really didn't matter what time I left in the morning...a bus would come eventually.

Today, our construction manager left Boston to return to his home base, San Diego, California. He couldn't wait to get out of here, thanks to our lovely winter weather. However, when asked what he would miss the most out of his stay here in Boston, he surprised us all by saying that it would be our public transportation system, the T! Everyone started grumbling about how they couldn't stand using it, but Bob replied that there was no such thing in San Diego. I guess we do take for granted that we have this public service. Thinking about this a bit more: he only takes the Red Line from Kendall to Harvard every morning. The Red Line is the most efficient and thankfully, the only one he has exposure to.

However, he was headed to his next job out in Singapore. I told him, "wait until you get a taste of that Asian efficiency..."

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


Nothing has been going right since my return to the United States! How frustrating. Not to mention that I missed the bus this morning...went right by me as I was at the end of the block. And the next one does not arrive until a half hour later. A wretched half hour! I decided to walk in the other direction to the Red Line instead. Luckily I did have that secondary mode of transportation to get me to work. Imagine all the others who don't.

How frustrating.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Public Transportation in Hong Kong

I am on vacation for the longest amount of time ever: two and a half weeks. I return to Hong Kong annually to visit my parents, who have been residing in this Asian metropolis for the past 17 years. It is the natural efficiency of Hong Kong which I benchmark American standards to.

For transportation, it does not fail. Having traveled throughout Europe, I have not encountered a more efficient system, mostly due to the small size of the city it serves, and being a former British colony, it has learned from previous mistakes from the London tube. With the high density of its population on limited land as a resource, it makes sense to not own a car here, and hence of the high ridership volume. Even the subway cars are efficient: one can move from one of the train to the other, and seats are located to the sides of the cars only to allow for maximum standing room. One can travel within the city in half an hour, and from one end of the city to another in a couple hours via public transport. Because of the fast paced society, one never waits longer than 10 minutes for a bus, or 5 minutes for a train.

Transportation in Hong Kong consists of the MTR, an acronym standing for Mass Transit Railway [original, huh?] and the KCR, standing for the Kowloon-Canton Railway. Simply put, the MTR is the equivalent of the T system and the KCR is the equivalent of the commuter rail system. Double decker buses, minibuses [and maxicabs, the same bus shape but serving different areas] and taxicabs supplement this incredible transportation system. Unlike the T, payment is made on a per-trip basis for distance traveled, using the Octopus Card, proximity stored value cards with dollars purchased at convenience stores around the city and at subway stations. These dollars can be used on any form of public transportation, with the exception of taxicabs, and can also be used at convenience stores and restaurants.

Since I have left Hong Kong 13 years ago, improvements have been continually made on the transportation systems. The lines are no longer the same. Glazing has been installed at all platforms to prevent people from falling onto the tracks. Ticker screens have been installed to show how long the wait is for the next train. Everything is automated via computer, including the stop announcements in Cantonese, Mandarin and English. The ride is so smooth -- I recall going out with a friend, and she was finishing off her mascara during the subway ride.

More information can be found here:
Mass Transit Railway
Kowloon-Canton Railway
Complete Map of the MTR-KCR System
Kowloon Motor Bus
Octopus Card

I love the public transportation system of Hong Kong!


It's been a while now since I have posted to this site. Since the last post, a few changes in my life have occurred. The biggest change that affects my interaction with the MBTA is I no longer live on the Green Line in Allston. I have managed to scrounge up enough cash in this ridiculously expensive city to purchase a condo of my own in East Cambridge this past summer, in close and equidistant proximity of the Lechmere station on the Green Line and Kendall station on the efficient Red Line, and along a few bus routes.

Because of the change in location of my residence, I have been relegated to what I am convinced is the most efficient form of transport in this city: the bus. I take the 69 bus route on a daily basis up Cambridge Street to the Harvard Square area, where my current project is. I expect this commute to last until March, when I will be transferred to a different jobsite. The 69 bus runs on a schedule for the most part, with a few omissions here and there [maddening when I am on time for an early bus in the winter and it never arrives], since it is a few stops away from the terminus. However, the bus runs only every 20 minutes during peak hours, and the peak hours are well after 7.00am. Since I start work early, I can never get there on time, unlike when I used to take the 66 bus route from Allston into Harvard Square.

I still am attending school on a part time basis. Moving to East Cambridge has horrendously lengthened my commute from Boston College. Thank you to my wonderful classmates who drive me part of the way or all the way home on those nights. Taking the B line along the Green Line at 9.30pm when my classes let out, then transferring to the Red Line for a couple stops and walking home takes about an hour and 45 minutes. Unfortunately, the B line does not ride all the way to Lechmere; since construction and talk of extending the Green Line to Medford has started, only the E train goes to Lechmere.

The North Point master plan indicates that the historic Lechmere station [which the department store, Lechmere, which is no longer in business, is named after] will be demolished and relocated to the renamed North Point station where the high-rises are being constructed adjacent to Museum Towers. The Green Line will be extended to include several more stops, including Union Square in Somerville, and Medford. Information can be found here:

Executive Office of Transportation
Green Line Extension
North Point Master Plan

Very ambitious...but let's get the Green Line working efficiently enough to serve these additional stations first.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas Pilgrimage Home

I had checked and my flight was on time. I arrived at the airport to find Continental airline's computers and telephones down. Their flight for 11.45am was cancelled. If I had arrived a little earlier [and not battled the kitty litter], I would have been able to take the 9.30am flight to Newark. Instead they booked me on Delta Airlines to 11.30am to LaGuardia and i was supposed to cab it to Newark with a voucher. After standing in line at the Delta counter only to be turned away, I had come back to Continental's counter 3 more times. Eventually they issued me a paper ticket and walked me over to Delta's counter. I don't know this person's name but she had the far left side of the counter during this time. She has been very helpful.

I made the shuttle with no time to spare. When I arrived at LaGuardia, they had already lost my suitcase, even though I checked in at the Delta desk. It probably never made it to the airplane, since I had to run for it. I had to take time out to report it to the baggage claim.

Then I took a cab to another terminal to the Continental desk at LaGuardia to get the cab voucher. I had to argue with the representative since they would not give me a voucher if the flight was cancelled due to weather -- but the reason for the cancellation never made it into the system since the computers were down in Boston. They issued me a voucher anyway, and checked me in as well. Victoire was her first name.

However, when I was in the cab, I noticed that the name on the boarding pass was wrong. When I finally arrived at newark, I had to check at the desk again to fix the name. They told me that my flight was cancelled! I was freaking out. They apparently had cancelled my whole trip in the ticket-issuing fiasco back in Boston to get me on the Delta flight. They had rebooked me for my trip to Hong Kong for the 26th. By some miracle, they were able to get me in one of the last seats on the plane. The person who did not give up was Wendy Moreno and her supervisor Jimmy Anton. I had to, once again, run for the plane. They were boarding by the time I got there. I arrived and reported my lost baggage to the very efficient and customer service-oriented folks in Hong Kong. They couriered the suitcase a few days later to my parents' home. It's great to see my parents on Christmas Day. I almost didn't make it.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Buses...Where Would We Be Without Them?

Several weeks ago when it took me over two hours to get from Allston Village to Central Square in Cambridge because the MBTA was running shuttle buses on the Green Line at Kenmore *and* on the Red Line at Park Street and Charles, I learned that the bus could be the more efficient way to travel around this city. However, I'm questioning this new theory as well, considering I just waited 45 minutes for a bus to come at Harvard Square today. All the buses, on both legs of my trip, were bunched up due to traffic. Is there any way to alleviate this logistical nightmare of traffic, such as that created by the Harvard/Yale football game today? Maybe it's just poor judgement on my part to think that I can accomplish my errands today. Sigh.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The Students Are Back

Ever since September 1st came around, chaos has ensued both underground and on the train tracks. Trains are backed up. Delayed. Stopping for absolutely no reason underground between stations, encouraging claustrophobia and frustration. Now, why can't the MBTA plan for that and at least run more trains? Even the efficient Red Line has been affected.

The relief is that the Red Sox aren't going to the playoffs. I am a terrible Red Sox fan. And I call myself a Bostonian??? I am depressed, yet relieved that I won't have to fight the traffic on the Green Line. I keep the game schedule pinned up at my desk to not only keep track of who they are playing at any given moment in time, but also to plan the commute each day. So sue me.

On another note...

I am behind in reading the Improper Bostonian. August 30th's issue has a small snippet on the South Station entrances, designed by Boston's famed architects, Machado + Silvetti. Being a registered architect myself, I was surprised by the signature structures. Why aren't they more sleek? They look like ill-formed stalagmites growing from the ground. I am a modernist and I applaud and encourage modern architecture and design all over Boston, but who else shares my view on these "gems?"