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MBTA Commuter Appreciation Day April 24, 2015

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Or as I call it their Mea Culpa for a few months of services that were slow as shit running down a wall and at times didnt even run at all.

And what was going on – on the commute home both yesterday and today I noticed an inordinately high number of kids on the train. Not something you see all the time. Was it bring your son/daughter to work Thursday and Friday or something? I can understand why I didn’t get the memo – the fantasy of having kids is vastly overruled by the old frontal cortex that chimes in about how expensive a kid can be and all the attendant grief that ensues.

Anyhow back on topic – the Commuter Appreciation Day. The nice part was the flow at South Station. Much better when they leave the gates open. In fact that got me to thinking, where does the command for the gates to stay open come from? And it is it possible to say hack into that system from my phone and well you get the idea right?

Slightly hellish commutes and the reason for them (MBTA Commuter and Red Line) April 21, 2015

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So this evening I get to Central square and the next train isn’t for another ten minutes. What the fuck? Get to South Station with seven minutes to spare, or so I thought. The 4:08PM commuter from Boston to Wickford Junction didn’t leave until 4:23PM.

It pulled into Providence at 5:45PM. But the beautiful part – for once the RIPTA #27 bus was on schedule.

Now why does this happen, particularly to the MBTA commuter side? Its because the signalling and switching on the tracks is in serious need of replacement/improvement. Of course those objects don’t belong to the MBTA – they belong to Amtrak, the same Amtrak where Congress refuses to inject money.

Meanwhile in Japan they’re testing out a Magnetic Levitation train that does 313MPH. I would love to lobby congress to fund something like that that starts in Boston, stops at Providence, Hartford, NYC and DC. Build it right above the current track right of way. You realize – at 313MPH Boston and Providence become bedroom communities for NYC because a ride into the city is about 40 minutes at MagLev speeds.

So to start I’m tagging my federal elected congress critters on this post. Maybe, just maybe that will get their attention.

For once the MBTA was on time today March 2, 2015

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Amazing. Sometimes the planets and stars align such that the MBTA commuter rail from Boston to Providence was on time this evening.

Of course this morning it was a different story. Mechanical issues delayed the 6:33AM train until 6:55AM.

But as I said, accolades for running right on time this evening.

Today’s MBTA What the Fuck Moments February 18, 2015

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So as has been the usual the commuter from Providence to Boston has been consistently 15 to 20 minutes late coming into Boston. Granted – sometimes they left Providence late but the past two days they switched it up. The commuter was there and parked in Providence Station at 6:15AM, and departed on time at 6:33AM. But still 15 minutes late into Boston.

And then there’s the Red Line subway. I get to the platform in South Station and I note the minutes to next train aren’t decrementing as the time on the clock to the upper right. It takes approximately 11 minutes to decrement the train time by 1 minute. After 20 minutes the train shows up. It’s packed. But as we get to Kendall Station an announcement is made.

Yes, from Kendall to Alewife they decided to make the train I was on an EXPRESS train, meaning they skip Central, Harvard, Porter etc. My stop is Central. So I get off the train at Kendall and wait for the NEXT Red Line. That one delivers me to the Central stop.

I once thought that only RIPTA could be a total cluster fuck – but no the MBTA takes the cake.

RIPTA and their Clock Problem February 17, 2015

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So today – I get to Bus Stop V at 5:48PM. And the #27 bus is taking off. I give it the old open palm gesture – I know the driver could see me but he kept going.

I figured I’d wait for the 6:00PM #28 as it goes down Broadway too. But it never came. By 6:10PM I gave up and walked home.

But then it struck me – all RIPTA’s clocks are two minutes fast.

But then MBTA today was fun – the 4:08PM didn’t leave until 4:15PM because, and I kid you not, they couldn’t find the engineer.

Why do public transit systems go to shit in cold weather? February 13, 2015

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So this evening on the way back to ¬†Providence on the MBTA Commuter and announcement comes over that dispatch is ordering them to stop at Route 128 and Canton Junction. Something about that struck me as odd and I’ll explain why.

At each stop only one person got off the train. But here’s the rub – how did the dispatchers know that people go on the wrong train in the first place? Yeah – something reeks on that one. But the end result is we get into Providence at 5:50PM a full 25 minutes late. Of course the MBTA service has been shit all week. And I suspect with 12 inches of snow coming next week will be awful too.

And RIPTA true to form whenever it’s cold and snowy/rainy ¬†– RIPTA is always late. It’s funny they put up these displays on all the shelters in Kennedy Plaza but the one for the 27/28 buses isn’t switched on yet. I wonder why. And I’m pretty sure they have GPS tracking on those buses now. In fact the level of technology on a bus has gone up seriously in the past 40 years. I remember when buses had manual transmissions, no air conditioning, no electronic fare boxes, no tracking, no traffic light holding equipment, and no cameras. Now of course all of that has changed, they’re automatics now and air conditioned. But it doesn’t make up for the fact that RIPTA is consistently late.

I’d like to see about 50 Billion dollars invested in improving public transit in the northeast region. I’m pretty sure if you got the congressional delegates from New Hampshire on down through Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island you have quite a few congress critters and senators. Maybe if they put their heads together we could get first class public transit systems.

When the MBTA screws up they REALLY screw up February 3, 2015

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So ¬†yesterday getting in during the storm was just fine. Commuter was a little late pulling into Providence but got into Boston at it’s usual time. And the Red Line was running so I got into the office on time. Mind you this is DURING the storm with whiteout conditions and the like.

The trip home on the other hand – a commuter than normally gets into Providence around 5:20PM got in at 6:30PM. Not fun, the almost interminable ride home. The lesson in that – take Amtrak – they get priority on the rails. Pay the money for a business class ticket and enjoy the ride.

This morning the commuter to Boston was 10 minutes late, and we pulled into Boston 20 minutes late. This is on a fully packed train mind you. Not my idea of a fun time.

Get down to the platform for the red line and see this on the displays:

20150203_081425[1]Yeah – that’s a bad omen. All it displays is current time, no info on next train etc. Something is fucked.

20150203_082151[1]

That’s the first empty train that just stopped at the station, didn’t open the doors and continued on toward Alewife.

Clusterus Fuckus! That’s what the Red Line was today. Ominous warnings about severe service delays occasionally too. A bunch of fairly pissed off people. It was pretty interesting.

What boggles the mind is there isn’t a storm today – it’s clear and sunny. Granted it’s only 10F but these trains operate in the total range of freezing to boiling. So that can’t be it. I chalk it up to typical MBTA lead in the ass.

Snowmagedon II February 2, 2015

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Well for the second time in not so many days, I guess we got hit by the K storm. To hell with the names in fact use the phonetics. Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, Delta, Echo, Foxtrot, Golf, Hotel, India, Juliette, Kilo, Lima, Mike, November, Oscar, Papa, Quebec, Romeo, Sierra, Tango, Uniform, Victor, Whiskey, X-Ray, Yankee, Zulu.

So this storm would be Kilo, the prior Juliette. You get the idea.

Anyhow going out this morning we had maybe a couple inches of snow on the ground. Easy enough to get to the train station. Train did take off a little later than usual but got into Boston slightly earlier – yeah they boogeyed.

But this evening – the Red Line was slow as shit. Got to South Station with five minutes to run to the commuter for the trip back to Providence. And then we slogged from Boston through to Hyde Park where we sat for 30 or more minutes because the Amtrak trains get signalling priority.

What this says to me is next time I’ll wait until 4:15PM, spend anywhere from $37 to $55 for a Business Class ticket and take that back to Providence. It’s much more comfortable, smoother and faster than the MBTA commuter. And it get priority.

Coming home the train station in Providence was all plowed out, so too the new Blue Cross building and residential towers right down to Memorial Blvd. Nice! Then there was some deep snow – I find running through that easier than walking.

And wonder of wonders – RIPTA was actually running. Made it to stop Victor not a minute or two before the #27 bus pulled up. Nice!

But I’m officially at the point where I hate snow. Hate it. I want to live somewhere that there’s no fucking snow at all or that it’s so rare an inch of it will shut everything down.

RIPTA a Rant One of Many January 2, 2015

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So this evening I got to the stop for the 27/28 bus lines at 5:30PM on the dot. No 27 bus to be found. So I figured I’d wait as the 5:40PM I’d catch the 28 bus – both run down Broadway until Olneyville where they split off, the 27 towards Manton Avenue, the 28 toward Hartford Avenue.

The 28 bus as I said was supposed to be that at 5:40PM and in fact often gets in at around 5:35PM. But tonight, just because traffic was light it got in at 5:43PM. Yeah, you read that right, light traffic and the bus was late anyway. How the fuck does that happen?

Now I know RIPTA is planning to enable GPS tracking on buses but get this – they won’t put it up on the web, oh no. You’ll have to go to a kiosk in downtown Providence to see that. I’m tempted to hack it.

This is why I prefer the MBTA Subway lines. They’re pretty much on time most of the time. Oh and they do make every stop but my commute from South Station to Central Square Cambridge is at a max 13 minutes, but more frequently 10 or 11 minutes. Zip, zoom go. Well, maybe not – it’s a 4.3 mile car ride, about 3 miles train wise. Which would mean the average speed of the Red Line is 16.36MPH, or 26KPH for my metrically oriented friends. But that train seems to go a lot faster. I’ve got to turn on Google Maps someday and have it calc the true speed between two stations. Because those trains are moving at way faster than 16.36MPH/26KPH. They crank more like 35MPH to 50MPH or 56.3KPH to 80.5KPH. It’s the time at the station stops that eats it up and reduces it. But still I like it much more than a bus.

MBTA slow as shit past few days October 3, 2014

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This isn’t the MBTA or MBCR’s problem though. The issue is with Amtrak and more specifically their signalling system.

Apparently there was a failure of the switch elements near Canton Junction – at least judging by the number of Amtrak vehicles and personnel I saw this morning.

Now what I suspect caused the problem – we had three straight days of rain. Water and electronic and electric gear do not play well together.

But this told me we’ll never see true TGV or Shinkansen like speeds on the northeast corridor. The switching network is far too fragile.

Of course there are also co-workers of mine who say the tracks are too curved. But that’s the thing, the Acela trains were built with the ability to tilt into curves. ANd the power car is more than capable of speeds exceeding 200MPH. As I may have said before the power car is built by the same company that built the TGV in France, a company called Alstom.

So almost all the elements are in place for true high speed – but today I was reading that the next phase of the Japanese Shinkansen line will be a Maglev or Magnetic Levitation system. The thing about Maglev is that it has to be in a straight line, so they’re tunneling underground to build the new system. And it’s top speed will be somewhere in the 300MPH+ range. That is awesome. But we’ll never see it in the U.S. because for one, our politicians have no vision. And for two we insist that speeds below 200MPH are high speed. No they aren’t.

And the high speed – not just limited to the Acela trains. The big locomotives are more than capable of hauling ass at 150MPH themselves. It’s what you get when you hybridize a train.

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