Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Science Park Station Closed for Six Months During Rehabilitation

Science Park and Lechmere Station on the Green Line will be closed for six months, until December, while the MBTA works on badly needed renovations to rehabilitate the Science Park station. If you've ever ridden through this station, it was probably easy to see that the rehab will be well worth it. Once completed, it will be fully accessible for all riders and will be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. 

Construction began on April 30th and will continue throughout the summer and fall. Improvements will include two new elevators, widened station platforms, replaced platform canopy roofs, and reconstructed stairways. In addition, upgrades to lighting, telecommunications, electrical, fire protection, fire alarm, signage systems, and station landscaping will also be made. 

To make up for the suspended service, the MBTA is now running shuttle buses between North Station and Lechmere, also making stops at the Museum of Science and the Amy Lowell House. During peak hours and special events at the TD Garden, these shuttles will depart every four minutes, on off-peak hours, every ten minutes, and every twelve to fifteen minutes during night hours. 

So why bother closing the station for such a long time? The MBTA cites many reasons: One of the biggest is that it should significantly decrease the time needed for construction—by as much as six months. Much like the proposed Government Center renovation . Other reasons include increased safety for pedestrians and riders, cost reductions by eliminating the need for unnecessary power shutdowns and safety support, and a reduction in nighttime noise because the construction can be carried out during the day time.

For more info, visit the MBTA's Project Page.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

MBTA: Time to sell some merch!

Well its been a long time in the making and a long time since my last post about the subject but it is finally here!!!

That right! The MBTA has finally launched their online merchandise/gift shop!! I know it's kind of corny but I really am excited about this one. And no its not just because I want a T map shower curtain!!

The T started planing for the launch of this website early this year as a way for them to gain a bit of money to try and lower their debt (which is $8 Billion and swiftly rising). The website will be featuring your regular gift store items like mugs, coasters, and magnets with stylish MBTA designs. It will also feature graphic t shirts and sweatshirts, jewelry (some are made out of old MBTA tokens), books and DVDs on MBTA history, and posters. I think my favorite part of the website, other than the shower curtain, will be the antique memorabilia and the reproduction memorabilia. They're actually going to sell authentic maps and signs that have been taken out of stations and cars during renovations or retirements. Now, for a huge chunk of change, you can own an actual piece of T history! Believe me if I wasn't a "poor college student" (as my mom likes to put it) I would be buying a lot of the stuff on this site! Right now the T is running the beta version of the site and they will be officially launching it on June 1st!

So if you want to go buy yourself a pair of MBTA jeans (yes they do have them), or you just want to browse around some cool merch than visit www.mbtagifts.com and help relieve a small percentage of your favorite transit company's debt!!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Assembly Row to be Boston's "next great neighborhood"

Assembly Row, Somerville's newest neighborhood, promises to be the largest neighborhood development since the creation of the Back Bay in the 19th century and will offer more river frontage than Beacon Hill, more green space than South Boston, and will be larger than the North End. When completed, the development will include 1.75 million square feet of office space, 2,100 residential units, a new shopping plaza featuring an IKEA, a new main street with countless spaces for restaurants and small retail shops, a new 200 room hotel, a 60,000 square foot movie complex, a renewed waterfront along the Mystic River, and a new MBTA Orange Line station. The mixed-use, smart growth project is being undertaken by Federal Realty Investment Trust, based out of Maryland. The company is already established in the region, owning many large properties throughout the greater Boston area.

The site, located only 2 miles from downtown Boston, is easily accessible from I-93 and Route 28. It sits on 66.5 acres of land, right near the bank of the Mystic River. When completed, the development is expected to draw in $15 million in tax revenue for the city of Somerville, not to mention the more than 19,000 permanent jobs it will create. 

Originally the site of a shopping mall built in 1980, it eventually lost a great amount of business and fell into disrepair until it eventually closed down. Planning began in 2005 when Federal Realty bought the initial property for the project. 

The state has invested heavily into the construction of the neighborhood, giving it a large amount of government funding. In July of 2009, governor Deval Patrick announced a state and federal partnership with the Somerville Assembly Square Project, promising $65 million in state bond and federal stimulus money$50 million coming from the Massachusetts Infrastructure Investment Incentive program (I-Cubed), and $15 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. 

In addition, Assembly Square has already drawn in big-name companies to open shop. The already finished Assembly Marketplace contains an AC Moore, a Bed Bath & Beyond, a Christmas Tree Shoppe, a Kmart, a Sports Authority, a Staples, and a TJMaxx.

An integral part of the success of this project will be the new MBTA Orange Line station. The station will be located between the already existing Sullivan Square and Wellington stops and will be the first new station on the Orange Line since the opening of the Southwest Corridor in 1987. The structure will be designed to be green and eco-friendly, heavily relying on glass and metal. 

Federal Realty recently announced that the MBTA has submitted a notice to bidders for the construction of the station. Once a bidder is chosen, construction is set to begin this Fall, and the station could potentially be open by 2014.

Be sure to check out the images the MBTA provides of the new station here and here.

For more information on Assembly Row, visit their website.

Haverhill railroad bridge won't get repairs it needs

The city of Haverhill, the MBTA, Amtrak, and PanAm Railways are all going to have to wait a little longer for the bridge that runs over the Merrimack River and connects downtown Haverhill to Bradford to be replaced. The bridge, which is currently 92 years old, is in DIRE need of repairs!

The Downeaster crossing the bridge 
Currently, the bridge sees a plentiful amount of train travel each day. The bridge serves the MBTA's Haverhill Commuter Rail Line which runs 26 times a day (13 inbound, 13 outbound). Amtrak's "Train to Maine" or the Downeaster, which makes five round trip journeys each day travels over the bridge as well. The bridge also sees regular freight rail service from PanAm Railways.

In early March the City of Haverhill applied for a portion of the $2.5 Billon federal high-speed rail funding that Florida governor Rick Scott turned down in February. The city applied for a $110 million portion of the funding in order for them to fully demolish and replace the bridge. Early this month though, the city, to their disappointment, found out their application for the $110 million was rejected. Instead of receiving the full amount to rebuild the bridge, the city acquired only $20.8 Million in funding. This money will be used to build a second set of trackage that will run the 10.4 miles between Andover and Wilmington. It will be designed to help speed up travel and eliminate the bottle neck on the Haverhill commuter rail line and also the Downeaster line.

The bridge is so rickety and in need of repairs that some city officials greatly believe that the bridge is unsafe and very likely to collapse. Councilor William Macek said "Vibrations or something else is eventually going to take it down.......There's probably nothing in our area that's more in need of repairs. It's obviously very unsafe." Another reason why there is fear in the minds of many of the counselors is because the bridge is very similar in design to the bridge that collapsed in Minneapolis in 2007 which killed 13 people and left dozens injured. 

At the present time the MBTA,which owns the tracks, has put in place numerous restrictions for travel over the bridge. Commuter Rail trains and Amtrak Downeaster trains are limited to 15 mph while crossing the bridge but two trains can cross the bridge at the same time. PanAm Railways freight trains are limited to 5 mph while crossing the bridge and only one train can cross at a time. 

According to MBTA General Manager Richard Davey the bridge is safe for train travel at this time. Davey was quoted as saying; "I can tell you unequivocally that we would not be running train service over that bridge if there were any questions about its safety". The bridge was last inspected in March and the engineering firm that is helping to plan for the bridges eventual replacement has been reviewing the bridge on a monthly basis. In 2008 the MBTA did some repair work on the bridge. They replaced the entire deck which included 1,600 bridge timbers, installing railings and walkways, and also laying about 8,000 feet of track. These were not meant as long term repairs, though. 

William Macek
Haverhill officials are wondering if the elected congressional delegation did enough to acquire the money. They want to invite a few officials (Niki Tsongas) down to Haverhill to tour the span and see how serious the situation really is. Councilor William Macek stated that he and his fellow counselors have a duty to speak out about the situation before there is a disaster. 

Until full funding can be found for the project Rich Davey said that the MBTA will be making as many interim repairs as they can to the bridge in order for it to stay safe for rail travel. Those of you who ride the Haverhill line or the Downeaster, keep for fingers crossed that the money comes soon!

Source: Eagletribune.com

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Breaking News! T ripped off by "Ghost Passes"

Thanks to my friend Teagan Rae, I was introduced to some very interesting  news!

My Charlie Card and
an old Charlie Ticket
This afternoon Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley released a statement stating that an employee of Cubic Transportation Systems Inc. of Beverly, the company that handles all of the phone and online orders for the MBTA pass system, has been manufacturing and selling fake subway, bus, and commuter rail passes since early 2007. She also said that the employee, who was identified as  Andres Malik Townes of Revere, sold these passes online at craigslist.com and in person for discounted prices. 

So far the MBTA has estimated that they have lost over $2 million in revenue since 2007 and all together the 20,000 passes produced were worth over $5 Million. Also according to Coakley it is considered to be the largest scheme of its type. 

These "fake" passes are being called "Ghost Passes" because of how they functioned at T fare collection machines.  They looked authentic because they were and they functioned perfectly on the fare machines, but they were just not registered in the system and were not actually paid for. 

Today, GM Rich Davey also announced that the MBTA will be terminating their contract with Cubic Transportation. He said the T will be taking over full control of manufacturing the passes. The T is also going to be demanding that Cubic Transportation reimburse the T for the millions that they lost. 

The scheme was uncovered by an MBCR conductor on the Providence/Stoughton line in early March when he noticed a slight discoloration in a pass that was handed to him. The pass was then handed over to Transit Police who discovered that the pass worked fine, but was never registered or paid for. The funny thing was, though, was that the pass was slightly discolored because it had gone through the wash! 

Source: Boston.com

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

YAY HISTORY: The E Branch to Arborway

So I'm guessing many of you are probably thinking right now, "Those maps really weren't lying... the T did actually go there!".

So yes, the E branch did, at one time, terminate at Arborway/ Forest Hills station. Just as a quick note, to experience this line first hand Aaron and I, on our last night of our freshman year, took the Orange Line to Forest Hills and walked the now defunct street car line all the way to Heath Street (where the E branch currently terminates).

A map at Park Street Showing
the suspended service
Now onto the history! Streetcar service began on the Arborway line in the early 19th century. Jamaica Plain was one of the first suburban regions in America that had streetcar service to a major downtown. The line which ran along South Huntington, Centre St. and South St. was an integral part of Boston's streetcar network for about a century.

On December 27, 1985 the MBTA "temporarily" suspended E branch service in order to execute two construction projects along Huntington Ave. In one project, the City of Boston rebuilt part of Huntington Ave east of Brigham Circle, where the LRV's run on the street with the cars. The second project was to rebuild the portal (where the street cars enter the subway) to allow for the then new and heavier Type 7 LRV's to run on the E branch.  While the branch was suspended its service was picked up by a bus line that went from Copley Square to Forest Hills.

An old catenary pole on South St.
In 1986 service was restored to the inner part of the line but terminated at Brigham Circle. Then three years later streetcar service was restored but only to the current terminus of Heath Street. This section is the only remaining section of street-running tracks in regular use by the MBTA. The section of the line from Heath St. to Arborway, to this day, has yet to be restored. 

The paved over tracks leaving going
Inbound from Arborway
Today, in effect, the MBTA has phased out the Arborway Line between Heath St. and Forest Hill's. Although it is still officially "temporarily" suspended, the perception that the line has forever closed has gradually strengthened. There was some hope for the defunct line during the Big Dig, but, like many things that were linked to the  Big Dig, nothing ever came of it. The T was supposed to restore service to this section in order to comply with the Clean Air Act which is required by the Environmental Protection Agency. They were to eliminate the #39 bus and restore electric streetcar service. This has still yet to happen! 

Although the presence of the old catenary poles shows that the line did once exist, today, it is really hard to picture LRV's rolling down South and Centre Streets. As Aaron and I walked through this very cultural and tight knit section of Jamaica Plain, it seems that this neighborhood is still thriving even though there is only a bus serving the area. I do know for a fact though that if streetcar service was restored to this area it would be thriving even more! The culture of this area is unbelievable and should be seen by everyone, but is hard for people to find because it is only accessible by bus. 

Well folks thats this months history lesson! I really hope you enjoyed it and I hope you go out to JP and experience the great restaurants and stores! Check out Ten Tables and The Real Deal Deli! 

If you have any suggestions for next month leave a comment!

Monday, May 16, 2011

The MBTA is rolling out some new maps....FINALLY!

A map at Chinatown Station 
So as I have noted in some of my previous posts many of MBTA's maps are a little out of date. The Orange line has had the most neglect when it has come to their maps. Most of the maps at the stations were installed during the Orange Line redevelopment in the 1980's! They all show the E branch of the Green Line still going to Forest Hills, they all still say New England Medical Center instead of Tufts, and they don't show the Silver Line or the new commuter rail lines. They are just terribly out of date!

New map at Back Bay
Finally though, the T is spending a little money to help their passengers figure out how to get around the system. The new maps are amazing! They show every commuter rail line with every one of their stops and they also show the new phase of the Silver Line! Aaron and I were walking through Back Bay station the other day and saw some workers putting them up.

I really hope I see more of these maps popping up in other parts of the system!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

DANGER Third Rail!

Third rail on the Red Line
I have always been interested by electricity. My father is an electrician by trade and has always tried to teach me everything he knows. I have become very interested in the electrified third rail of the subway. Most subway systems in the world use an electrified third rail to power their trains. I wondered how it actually powered the train sets and if it was really as dangerous as people have made it out to be.

The MBTA does not use a protective covering
 like most Transit Systems 
First, I found out how it actually powered the cars. The third rail in the MBTA system is a steel conductor rail that provides 600v D.C. power to the subway cars on the Orange, Red, and Blue lines. The electricity that is constantly flowing through this steel rail is then picked up by the trains as they drive past. Each train in the system is equipped with two steel shoes that jut out from each set of wheels. The shoes glide along the top of the rail and collect electricity as the train rolls forward. Other transit authorities in the U.S have converted their third rail systems to allow for pick up by having the shoe glide underneath which would allow for covering of the top of the rail which could prevent electrocution.

Now onto the actual danger of the third rail! The third rail is advertised to passengers as an extremely dangerous thing. They basically say if you touch it you will be electrocuted. This is not entirely true though.  In order for electricity to flow through your body you must first be grounded. This means that one of your limbs needs to be touching the electrical conductor while the other is touching a neutral object or the ground in order for the electricity to flow.

Let's take a hypothetical situation here and say a person has just fell onto the tracks at Park Street. They are wearing rubber soled shoes, which act as an insulator, and are about to use the third rail to boost them self up to the platform. They proceed to jump and make it so both feet are on the third rail at the same time. They proceed to the platform unharmed. Now, if the person were to put one foot on the third rail and one on the ground below they would have been electrocuted. This is also why pigeons, rats, and other small animals can run freely along these tracks without harm.

So contrary to what you may have believed, touching the third rail does not result in an automatic death sentence. With that being said, the third rail is something NO ONE should mess around with. High voltage electricity of any kind can be very lethal.

Third rail demonstration image courtesy of HowStuffWorks.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Boston Public Food Market

Seattle has one. So do Philadelphia and Cleveland. So why don't we? I'm talking about a public food market and Boston is one of the few major cities in the country not to have one. It could really do the city, and the state, some good though.

"It's a missing piece of the city's fabric. The products we have to sell in Massachusetts are second to none, and we have an opportunity to create what should be one of the great public markets of North America," Don Weist, president of the Boston Public Market Association told The Boston Globe in a February, 2009 article.

Imagine a central place under one roof where you can buy fruits and veggies, meats, cheeses, baked goods, sweets, and so much more, all grown or produced locally from small farmers. Currently, there are a few smaller-scale open air farmer's markets like the ones operating in City Hall Plaza and Dewey Square, but there are none to be found in one large building, like the one I previously described.

Proposed building to house the market
The Boston Public Market Association is here to change that though, with the ambition to create a public market in a centralized building, serving vendors and consumers year round.  Plans are already underway to convert the building above the Haymarket T station, known as parcel 7, part of it a parking garage and part of it vacant retail space, into a fully functionable market, complete with 50-75 plumbed, electrified, and metered vendor stalls. The location, with over 30,000 square feet, is located near the Rose Kennedy Greenway, right next to the existing Haymarket, lays in between the Financial District and North Station, and is right on the Green and Orange Lines, making it the ideal location to put such a facility. Construction is set to begin in the third quarter of 2011 and the targeted opening date is July 1, 2012.

The Boston Public Market Association, who will be in charge of the operation of the market is a nonprofit 501(c) (3) organization. The venture is being publicly and privately funded, with the Patrick administration pledging to spend up to $10 million to support the renovations for the project. Once completed, the market is expected to bring in about $30 million in sales annually, directly benefiting the farmers selling their products there. These sales will not only affect the city of Boston, but will be dispersed throughout the state, as the farmers, who will come from all over Massachusetts, will be able to invest in new infrastructure to improve efficiency and crop yield, making this a valuable public investment. 

The city has not had a public market since the original one, which operated for 200 years until it fell into severe disrepair, closed in the 1950s. It was originally established in the 1740s with the building of Fanueil Hall and Quincy Market, where produce sellers have historically gathered since the 1830s. This area has long been considered Boston's food selling center.

So how will this be different from Haymarket? Contrary to what many might think, Haymarket does not actually sell fresh, local produce. These vendors buy their goods from wholesale markets (basically the older produce that grocery stores try to get rid of to make way for new shipments) in Chelsea on Thursday and Friday nights, and then resell it at deeply discounted prices. This means that in almost all cases, the produce here is just ripe or overripe, and is transported from all over the country. In addition, Haymarket is only open on Fridays and Saturdays, from dawn to dusk, while the public market will be open every day throughout the week. The Boston Public Market Association does not foresee these two entities competing and in fact sees the presence of each complementing each other.

As we approach the third quarter of 2011, keep your eyes peeled to make sure you catch the beginnings of construction on parcel 7. 

For more information, check out the Boston Public Market Association's website.

Rally on Boston Common

So even though it's been a week since the death of Osama bin Laden and it's old news by now, I thought I would share some photos of the rally on Boston Common celebrating it that took place on the morning of May 2nd. (Last week was finals week, so I was really busy, but I'm finally home now!)

Dan and I were out on a walk with our friend Trevor on Sunday night/Monday morning. At 1am when we were on our way back home, walking up Tremont Street coming from the South End, we saw a ton of college students (I'm guessing mostly from BU and Emerson) all marching towards the Common, so we decided to tag along with them. We followed them through the Public Garden and into the Common, where everyone gathered around the bandstand and started celebrating and chanting. Cheers such as "Yes we did!" and "Fuck Osama!" along with the national anthem were all sung throughout the night. 

Police kept a close eye on the crowd and were stationed along the edges of the park to make sure the crowd didn't get too out of hand, which it fortunately didn't. The rally was actually pretty short overall, only lasting about an hour and a half. We arrived with the crowd at around 1am and everyone dispersed at about 2:30am. 

So that's my firsthand account of that interesting night. Check out some of the photos I took of the crowd.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Richard Davey: The man who gets things done!

Davey with one of the Bi-level prototypes 
Many of you have heard me praise the work of the MBTA General Manager Richard Davey throughout many of my posts. I feel that this man is the reason why the MBTA has come so very far in the last year. As GM he as implemented such things as new commuter rail locomotives and real time phone applications, installed security cameras on buses,  re-introduced three train Green Line trollies,  much, much more!

I was also pleased to read about another phenomenal thing Davey did recently on Tyler Trahan's blog i Ride the T. This was about how Davey took time out of his own vacation to South Korea in order to visit and inspect the manufacturing plant that will be making the four prototypes of the 75 bi-level coaches that we have on order. He also did it all on his own expense. This truly shows that he is a genuine and noble person and that he really cares about the future of the MBTA!

I was also glad to find that someone else respects Davey as much as I do. This past week on WCVB's Style Boston, Davey was honored as the week's Power Player. Click here to see the video!
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