Friday, December 7, 2012

Model Train set debuts at South Station

Mark Carroll (seated) and Lauren Abele
put the finishing touches on
this years train display.
Mark Carroll is not your ordinary Graphic Designer. The fifty year old freelancer who has graphic design degrees from both Bunker Hill Community College and MassART is the head designer for this year's holiday model train show at South Station.

"I sent a letter to the company that manages South Station last year saying that I could do a whole lot better than what they had been displaying" says Carroll, "Now here I am!"

During his youth Carroll spent six years working in a hobby emporium and train shop, now out of business, on Tremont Street in Downtown Boston. He says that working in that shop fostered his love for model trains. Today, in his free time, Carroll fixes and paints model trains to depict area rail roads.

The model train show at South Station has been around for many years, but this is one of the first times it is being fully redesigned. Carroll said that none of this could have happened without the help of South Stations' property manager Biederman Redevelopment Ventures (BRV). He says that both Ted Furst and Matt Coogan, both of BRV, "took a risk" on letting him design the new train display. "He (Ted) has been the best art director I have ever worked with" says Carroll, "I had a vision that was locked in my head and he helped me get it into this display."

Carroll also had a number of current and former Bunker Hill Community College (BHCC) students helping him out on this project. Most of the scenery work was designed and built by Lauren Abele and Joseph Taylor who are both in the Visual and Media Arts program at BHCC. A few international students were also kind enough to lend a hand; Kidanun Nye who is from Thailand, Jainci Liang from China, and Ilana Tal from Israel.

"I've spent the past six nights sleeping here (South Station) in the basement" says Carroll, "this project has taken a lot of time but it is truly worth it"

Funding for the display has come from sponsorships by a number of area companies. Some of this years sponsors include the Massachusetts Bay Commuter Rail (MBCR), Boston's Children's Museum, Go Charge, Girl Scouts of Eastern Massachusetts, and Durgin-Park Restaurant. Carroll says that sponsors will either get a rail car or part of the scenery painted with their logo, depending on how much money their sponsorship was for.

The display will officially be completed tomorrow and will run until January 13th. The display features   "O"gauge model trains that are painted to represent the MBTA, MBCR, and Boston and Maine Railroad. The tracks are surrounded by a 1950's village, luscious mountains, and a large harbor.

Carroll's love for design and his attention to detail really shine in his display at South Station. "I just turned 50 and I could just be sitting at home watching television, but instead I'm out here doing the best job in the world" says Carroll, "I couldn't be happier."

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

MBTA Fill-A-Bus Toy Drive

Courtesy: MBTA
Next week the MBTA, along with MassDOT, Radio 92.9, and Equity Office will be sponsoring a toy drive in front of South Station.

The goal of the drive is to fill a 40 foot MBTA bus with toys that will benefit Boston-area charities during the holiday season. These charities include the Action for Boston Community Development, Freedom House, The Yawkey Boys and Girls Club, and The Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.

They will be accepting donations of new, unwrapped toys from 8am-6pm December 10th through the 14th. 

Be sure to go out and support this great cause! 

Friday, November 30, 2012

Government Center Station to get full rebuild during 2 year closure

Courtesy: MBTA
The MBTA's Government Center station will soon get a much needed modernization. The MBTA has announced that starting in September of 2013 they will be closing the station to the riding public for a total of two years. The $90 million project is set to completely modernize the station and also rebuild parts of City Hall Plaza.

The renovation will replace the relic station entrance that looks more like a bunker than a station head house. In addition to the new head house, the Green Line and Blue Line platforms will be reconstructed, new escalators and elevators will be installed, and the stations fare collection area will be expanded. An overhaul of the stations electrical and lighting system will also take place.

Government Center station (then Scollay Square station) was opened in to Green Line customers in 1898 and Blue Line customers in 1916, it has the distinction of being the second oldest station in the MBTA's system. The station has not seen a reconstruction since it was re-named "Government Center" about 50 years ago.

Current Station entrance
Uploaded by Flickr user: Kingdafy
The project will also bring the station up to ADA compliancy. Currently Government Center station is one of six stations in the subway system that are not handicap accessible.

The 24 month closure is said to be saving the T over $16 million and shaving over a year off the construction process.

One large problem for the 21,000 commuters that use this station per day is going to be finding another station to use during the construction. Fortunately, the T will be running a special bus shuttle that will run between Government center, Haymarket, and State street stations. MBTA spokesperson, Joe Pesaturo, also said that Bowdoin station, normally closed on nights and weekends, will be open for passengers later on weeknights and on weekends. This will only be on a trial basis however. 

Courtesy: MBTA 
MBTA officials are are set to hold a public hearing about the construction project and station closure on December 12th from 5:30 - 7:00pm. The hearing will be held at 100 Cambridge street in conference rooms B, C, and D which are located on the second floor. 

Federal funding is said to offset about 80% of the costs associated with this $90 million project. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Acting General Manager Jonathan Davis’ Performance Deserves Recognition

It is an honor and pleasure to debut this wonderful editorial written by Scott Page for Boston to a T. The article truly portrays MBTA Acting General Manager Jonathan Davis in a positive and gratifying light, one which he deserved. Here is another great guest post by Scott Page! You can follow him on twitter :@ScottridestheT

Jonathan Davis’ Performance Deserves Recognition 

By: Scott Page

The position of General Manager at the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority is a seemingly endless revolving door of the politically connected who’s who, with the job being filled by six different people since the turn of the millennium. This December Beverly Scott, a highly regarded transportation executive, will take the reins at the T from Acting General Manager Jonathan Davis. Davis, the Authority’s Chief Financial Officer, took over as Acting GM in September of 2011 when then General Manager Richard Davey joined Governor Deval Patrick’s cabinet as Secretary of Transportation. 

Creative Commons License
Courtesy: MassDOT
The role of Acting GM for Jonathan Davis should have been to serve as a figure head until a permanent GM could be found.

Instead Davis immediately found himself facing a $161 million budget deficit and a growing $8.6 billion debt. Without new revenues from the State the T would be forced to, for the fourth time in twelve years, consider raising fares and cutting services.

Armed with two proposals from the Central Transportation Planning Staff, Davis turned to the riding public to seek input on the dire fiscal state at the T. Neither proposal (both of which included steep fare increases and drastic service cuts) proved to be popular with riders and resulted in packed town hall meetings all over Eastern Massachusetts.

A calm and mild mannered accountant, Davis found himself at the center of the riding public’s anger. While most public meeting attendees focused their frustration and concerns on the MBTA and the legislature, some directly attacked Mr. Davis – including one woman at a February meeting who told Davis he should “watch his back”. 

Through the two month process of public meetings Davis remained an active listener. He interacted with riders of every service the MBTA provides and never shied away from criticism. But most importantly Jonathan Davis, along with MassDOT Secretary and CEO Richard Davey, did something none of their predecessors ever did – they spoke openly and frankly with the riding public about the severe and crippling budget crisis at the T.

In addition to overseeing the 2012 budget crisis, Jonathan Davis also implemented a series of changes at the T. 

Under Davis’ leadership the MBTA finally launched long-awaited countdown clocks on its rapid transit lines, inked an imperative service-life extending overhaul contract for its most reliable light rail cars, instituted mobile ticketing on the Commuter Rail, and forced the completion of necessary infrastructure projects to better improve public safety. 

Davis also travelled to South Korea in September 2012 to get answers from Hyundai-Rotem about a long-delayed batch of Commuter Rail coaches. He placed pressure on the manufacturer to turn their promises into action, and vowed to hold Hyundai-Rotem accountable by instituting penalties for missing deadlines as stipulated in their contract.

Lastly Davis’ signature, yet least publicly known, accomplishment was his ability to win over the admiration, respect, and support of the MBTA’s staff. The frequent turn over in the General Manager’s office has created an apparent disconnect between appointed leadership at 10 Park Plaza and the day-to-day Operations staff. While many Bus Operators, Motorpersons, Inspectors, Instructors, Fuelers, Cleaners, Track Laborers, Wire Repairmen, Painters, Welders, and others build entire careers at the T, GMs change like the weather. In recent years General Managers have deepened the divide by apologizing for the way the T operates and kowtowing to the anti-MBTA-employee Boston media. Davis bucked this trend.
2012 MBTA Bus Rodeo
Photo: Scott Page

He frequently stood up for the Authority and served as a tireless advocate for workplace morale – most notably by defending the MBTA’s participation in the American Public Transportation Association’s annual bus and rail rodeo despite an investigative hack-piece by Channel 5’s Sean Kelly. Mr. Davis firmly asserted that anything the T could do to promote and reward the best-of-the-best in its Operations staff would continue at the MBTA. His pro-employee stance garnered him a standing ovation at both the bus rodeo and rail rodeo this past fall. 

While the MBTA still faces many challenges going ahead there is no doubt that Jonathan Davis went above and beyond the duties incumbent of an Acting General Manager and will surely be remembered as one of the MBTA’s strongest leaders.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Who's Who for MBTA Info on Twitter

Creative Commons License
Flickr User: net_efekt
Whether you like it or not, Twitter has become a powerhouse for down to the second information and news coverage over the past few years. From breaking news to seeing what your best friend is doing today, Twitter is now a go to spot to access news and information for millions of people across the globe.

On a local level, Twitter is how many people know whats happening around their communities, as well as how community officials keep in contact with their constituents. There are a plentiful amount of accounts here in the Boston area that are tweeting about local happenings and events as well as accounts were residents can tweet their concerns to city and government officials.

Personally, I find that there are just way to many informative accounts here in the city and sometimes it is very hard to keep track of them all. Over the next few months I will be creating guides like this to help organize the thousands of of Twitter accounts that help to keep Boston informed on a regular basis.

Here is Boston to a T's guide to MBTA information on Twitter:

The Obvious

These are the MUST follow accounts for anyone who rides the MBTA.

     - The official Twitter account of the MBTA. (If only the GM actually tweeted)

     -  The official Twitter account of the MBCR (the company which operates the Commuter Rail for the MBTA)  They regularly answer customer questions & concerns. 

     - This automated feed tweets every alert for MBTA bus, subway, rail, and water transport.

     - This feed is run and maintained by the MBTA's Bus Operations Department. They tweet alerts and information about the MBTA bus system. 

     - The official twitter account of the MBTA's Transit Police Department. Tweets include information about arrests, alerts, and other system information. 

     - The official twitter account of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation. MassDOT CEO Rich Davey also tweets from this account on a regular basis. Tweets include information about the transportation infrastructure in MA: bridges, roads, MBTA ect.

The Informers

These accounts are your source for accurate, up-to-date, informative, and historical information regarding the MBTA.

@BostonUrbEx - A.P. Blake  

@MBTAinfo - Andy Monat

@Steven_DeMeo - Steven DeMeo

@UniversalHub - Adam Gaffin 

@BJustin - Justin B. 

@scampbell857 - Scottie Campbell

@smeuse89 - Stephen M.

@ZachTuckerSM - Zach Tucker 

@NathanSpencer - Nathan Spencer 

@steveannear - Steve Annear 

@Limegroove - Michal Skrzypek

@Carmensunion589 - Official account of 589 the MBTA's Carmen's Union 

@RateTheMBTA - Letting MBTA customers share their experiences both good and bad. 

The Observers

Have something to complain about, see something out of the ordinary, or just having a bad commute? These are your sources for all things weird, funny, scary, and frustrating on the MBTA.

@TStruggles - Tweeting the everyday struggles that come with riding the T. 

@OverheardMBTA - A collection of tweets "reflecting the angst and misery of riding the MBTA." 

@PeopleOntheT - Tweeting pictures of people on the T.

@GirlOnMBTA - Hating the T everyday.

@Green_Liner - A commuter experience on the T. 

@MBTAprobs -The good, the bad, the ugly, and the truth of the MBTA.

@MBTArules - Tweeting about the definitive rules for riding the T. 

@MBTAWorkerBee- Tweets about commuting and the D-Line.

@Peopleonthebus - Happenings on the MBTA's bus system.

@MBTweetA - Tweeting the "funny, crazy, and sometimes wildly inappropriate things you see and hear on America's oldest subway."

The Parodies

Just because...

@Mr_mbTa - Who knew that Mr. T rode the T

@MBTAHULK - Hulk is ready to smash the Green Line

@BigRedMass - Tweets from the MBTA's very own cattle car.

@StrollerCat - Remember that woman with the cat in a stroller on the Red Line

@MBTADeer - Some people on twitter thought that Bambi was roaming the Red Line tunnels....and might have caused the Cambridge Blackout

We here at Boston to a T also have a Twitter account. We like to say that we Tweet about "Anything and Everything Boston" but we also tweet a lot of MBTA information too. Follow us @Boston_to_a_T

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Earl of Sandwich Opens in Boston Common

Last Monday (November 12th) the Orlando - based sandwich chain Earl of Sandwich opened up a brand new location right in the middle of Boston Common. 

The building in which the restaurant is held is actually a historical landmark. The "Pink Palace" (named for the colors of its stone) a 660-square-foot structure that was built in the 1920's, has been vacant for many years. It was also once the home to a public mens bathroom in the 1970's. Earl of Sandwich signed a 15-year lease with the City of Boston for the location and spent about $1 Million in renovations. 

Today, I had a chance to try out the new sandwich shop. I had the Italian Sandwich which had salami, capicola, roasted ham, mortadella, italian dressing, and mozzarella cheese. The order and pickup windows are located outside (which should get very interesting during the winter months.) The location also boasts tables and chairs located on a small patio in front of the restaurant (I'm guessing they are only seasonal). Overall, I had a great experience and the sandwich was wonderful.

Have you been to Earl of Sandwich yet? Let us know your thoughts on their food, service, and location by leaving a comment below.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Orient Heights Station Replacement

©2012 Boston to a T
The reconstruction and of Orient Heights station on the Blue Line is finally underway. The $51 Million project, which was passed last year, is set to turn the decaying station into a more modern and accessible station like other stations on the Blue Line.

Orient Heights station, which opened in 1952, was one of the only stations on the Blue line that had not received a modernization since it was built. Over the years the station saw so much neglect that it had the distinction of being the only MBTA station to still have a turnstile (after the implementation of the Carlie Card), a system map from 1967 (still showing the Washington St. "EL" and the "A" branch of the green line), and platforms that were being held up by 2 x 4's.

Phase 1 of the project began last spring and by september most of the station had been torn down. Currently, only the platforms and a small catwalk remain at the station while crews begin to frame out the new station’s design.

The last turnstile in the system
In addition to adding modern station features the project will also make the station fully ADA compliant. Some of the  work includes the installation of a new overhead pedestrian bridge, installation of four elevators and two escalators, new mechanical and power systems, a renovated Train Operations Building, new platforms and improvements to the bus access areas.  

In order to finish the project, the MBTA will be closing the Orient Heights station for a total of six and a half months starting on March 23rd.

During the six and a half month closure, the MBTA will also be replacing trains with buses for a total of 16 weekends between Airport and Wonderland stations.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Talbot Ave. Station opens on MBTA Fairmount Line

Talbot Ave. Station in September 2012
Wikipedia Commons
The first of four new stations on the MBTA's Fairmount line is set to open Monday, November 12th, after nearly two years of preparation and construction. The Talbot Avenue stop, which began construction in November of 2010, will include two full-length high-level platforms and will be located just north of Codman Square in Dorchester. 

The Fairmount line is the only MBTA commuter rail line to lie primarily within the city of Boston, serving the neighborhoods of Dorchester, Mattapan, and Hyde Park. Currently, there are only four stations on the line, Uphams Corner, Morton Street, Fairmount, and Readville, all of which get served every half hour during rushes and every hour during off-peak times. There is no night or weekend service on the line. 

In 2005, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts agreed to make improvements to the line, in part because of its legally binding commitment to mitigate increased air pollution from the Big Dig.

The MBTA has allocated $37 million to the project and $39 million has been allocated from the Commonwealth from the Emergency Needs Bond Bill of 2007. The total cost of the project is estimated to be about $79.4 million.

Wikipedia Commons
To date, the existing Morton St. and Uphams Corner stations have been completely rebuilt, six bridges have been either replaced or repaired, and both signaling and track work has been completed. After the Talbot Ave. station is opened Monday, three more stations will need to be opened before the line is complete. Stations are currently being constructed at New Market Square in Dorchester (planned opening June 2013), Washington Street (Four Corners/Geneva) in Dorchester (planned opening April 2013), and Blue Hill Avenue in Dorchester (planned opening sometime in 2015).

The addition of new stations and the upgrades to the existing infrastructure are projected to divert 220 trips from automobiles to transit, and increase daily weekday ridership on the line from around 2,800 to 7,300 passengers.

After the Talbot Ave. station opens on Monday it will be served by trains 28 times every weekday (14 inbound and 14 outbound). You can access the new schedule for the Fairmount Line (effective Nov. 7th) HERE.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Rotem Coaches Arrive in Boston

Courtesy: MassDOT
It took almost a year, but the four prototype Hyundai-Rotem bi-level coaches have finally arrived at the Boston Engine Terminal (BET) the MBTA's commuter rail maintenance facility. The coaches, which arrived by barge in New Bedford in January, have seen little to no use since their arrival, other than some static testing and a trip to Middleboro.

Now that they have finally made their way up to the BET, the MBTA can start their own testing process on the cars. The MBTA has said that after the coaches arrival at the BET on Wednesday, they will be inspected by Commuter Rail personnel and the testing process will begin thereafter.

The Rotem cars have come under a bit of controversy over the past few months. Setbacks by the Hyundai-Rotem company have caused the a big delay in the $190 Million order of 75 cars that the MBTA has with the company. It became such an issue that acting MBTA General Manager John Davis had to take a trip to Korea this past September to talk with executives at the company. It now looks as if everything is on track for the order and if there are no more hiccups, GM Davis says that the agency hopes to have the first of the coaches in revenue service by January of 2013. Davis also noted that the last coaches in the order should arrive in Boston by July of 2014.

One of the four prototypes being lifted off of a barge
in New Bedford MA.
Courtesy: City of New Bedford
It is rumored that these coaches will primarily serve the North Side commuter rail lines once in service. If the rumors are true, passengers on commuter rail trains leaving North Station should expect to see an increase in capacity, which will mean less over crowding during rush hours. The coaches will be fully equipped with electronic LED destination signs, pre-installed Wi-Fi (unlike the retrofitted aftermarket Wi-Fi that the MBTA installed on most of its coaches) and bathrooms.

It has also been rumored that once all of the Rotem coaches are in service the older 500 and 1500 series coaches will begin to be retired from revenue service. These coaches, which were built by Messerschmitt-Bolkow-Blohm (MBB), were put into revenue service between 1987-88. The coaches have never seen a mid life overhaul and are steadily showing signs of their age. The MBTA did institute an in house re-building program for the cars (replacing floors and seating upholstery) so they would last until all of the Rotem Coaches enter service and the Kawasaki Bi-level overhaul is finished.

The first four prototype cars were built and assembled at Hyundai-Rotem's South Korean manufacturing facility. The remaining 71 coaches of the order , however, will be built at the company's new facility in Philadelphia. 

With new equipment comes more reliable service, modern amenities, and increased capacity, in a win-win situation for both the MBTA and its passengers.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Vote for Transportation

Voters across all 50 states will head to their local precincts today and cast ballots for a wide array of candidates seeking office in municipal, county, state, and federal elections. Here at Boston to a T our main concern when endorsing candidates for office is where they stand on transportation related issues.

Below is a list of candidates we believe will best promote causes related to the continued growth and sustainability of public transit both here in the Commonwealth and across the country.


Creative Commons
Flickr User: Super Jag
Barack Obama/Joe Biden: In his first four years in office President Obama made investment in high speed rail one of his administration's domestic policy priorities. By apportioning $53 billion for infrastructure upgrades to rail in February of 2011, President Obama not only gave room for Amtrak to better move people across the country but for freight suppliers and regional rail services to operate more efficiently. Mitt Romney's consistent affirmation that he would end subsidies to Amtrak and scale down federal funding across the board (presumably decreasing necessary capital investment for regional transit agencies) leads us to believe his motto towards transit, and transit riders, would be one of you're on your own. As Governor of Massachusetts Mitt Romney oversaw the MBTA. During his administration the Authority's annual budget deficit, created by a failed forward funding plan implemented by his predecessor, increased upwards of a hundred million dollards, while its debt load ballooned to over $5 billion. Romney's inaction in regards to the MBTA's fiscal crisis ultimately led to the budget debacle that nearly crippled the Authority earlier this year. The President's leadership on transportation related issues, mixed with Mitt Romney's inability to address transportation needs, makes Boston to a T believe that four more years of an Obama administration would be beneficial to transit riders across the country.


Elizabeth Warren: The race between Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren made history as the nation's most expensive Senate race ever. The vile attacks launched by each campaign created a sharp divide over the concept of "whose side do you stand on". While Senator Brown constantly championed himself as a bi-partisan leader working to promote the well-being of all his record speaks differently. As a United States Senator he voted against three jobs bills that would have largely focused on our nation's infrastructure. These bills would have put thousands of people to work rebuilding our highways, airports, roads, bridges, and public transit facilities. On the contrary, Elizabeth Warren has made investment in infrastructure a cornerstone of her bid for Senate. Warren believes that if our nation's infrastructure is strong we can better move people, cargo, and information and thus create economic advantages to boost our competitiveness in the future. Boston to a T proudly endorses Elizabeth Warren in her bid for US Senate.

Congressional Races

Creative Commons
Office of the Governor 
Michael Capuano: Congressman Capuano has been a tireless advocate for transportation issues throughout his six terms in office. His work advocating for the Green Line extension to Somerville and an Orange Line stop at Assembly Square are exemplary of his commonsense approach to reducing automobile dependency and increasing transit use in urban areas. Congressman Capuano was also a strong proponant of a piece of legislation called the Carnahan Bill. The bill would have extended federal funding to operational costs and capital investment costs for regional transit agencies instead of just the latter. There is no stronger advocate for transit and transit riders in the US House of Representatives than Michael Capuano. Boston to a T proudly endorses him in his bid for re-election.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Winter on the Commuter Rail: How the MBCR has Prepared

©2012 Boston to a T
Commuters who regularly utilize the MBTA to get from point A to point B usually dread the winter months. Although last year was not as trying as winters past, the winter season still brings with it it fair share of obstacles. 

Two years ago the MBCR, the company which operates the Commuter Rail for the MBTA, was plagued by numerous mechanical failures, which ranged from broken air hoses, locomotive failure, signal problems, trackage issues, and many other problems, leaving commuters stranded on platforms in the cold or stuck on trains for hours. The most famous incident that occurred that year was when a train bound for Worcester had its locomotive breakdown in Newtonville  turning a regularly hour and a half ride into a four hour nightmare. 

Currently  the MBCR's largest obstacle for the winter months is keeping its fleet of aging locomotives, many of which are over 25 years old, in working order. Currently the agency has 76 active locomotives plus 1 ex-MARC unit being leased from Motive Power. During an average rush hour the MBTA needs exactly 60 locomotives to efficiently run service. 

Just like last year, when extreme and severe weather hits the area, the MBTA will be implementing an emergency snow schedule. This schedule, which will have the commuter rail running less trains on each of their lines, will help the MBCR free up space on the tracks to allow for more crews to clear snow and debris. Less traffic on the rails will help crews get tracks cleared quicker so that trains can return to full service as fast as possible. The reduction of trains will also free up locomotives to serve as rescue trains. The one leased MARC locomotive will also give the MBCR a little bit of flexibility when it comes to mechanical failures, but according to the MBCR it will only be used in extreme emergencies.

Last year the MBCR invested around $500,000 into purchasing new and used snow equipment for the winter. The MBCR purchased a high powered and self propelled jet blower. This jet blower, similar to the MBTA's "Snowzilla", uses a high powered jet engine to clear and melt snow that accumulates on rails and switches.The jet blower can exhaust a heat of over 900 degrees F and can travel at a top speed of 25 mph. In addition to the self propelled jet blower, the MBCR has also acquired a new self propelled snow auger which can remove snow on tracks at a top speed of 45mph. Two smaller non-propelled jet blowers, which can be attached to a front end loader, were also purchased, along with a number of Kubota tractors and 32 Honda Snow blowers. 

The MBCR has also invested in new protective sleeves that cover the air hoses and electrical wires that connect the locomotive to the coaches. These new sleeves will ensure that this sensitive equipment dose not receive any water damage. MBCR personnel at the Boston Engine Terminal (BET) have also designed a bag that will cover the coupler on the locomotive to protect it from snow and ice buildup. This bag will also make it easier, in the event of a mechanical failure, for a rescue train to attach to a disabled train. 

Most of you know that last winter wasn't really a winter at all so it will be interesting what this winter will be like. The MBCR firmly believes that with this new added investment , Old Man Winter is going to be getting a run for his money. Although unpredictable failures can still cause major delays, the MBCR seems very well prepared to tackle any type of failure when, and if it happens. For a commuter rail system that still uses locomotives that are way over their estimated life expectancy on a daily basis I feel that they are doing a great job. Let's just hope this winter is going to be the same as last year. 

 For more information on how the MBTA and MBCR are preparing for winter check out:

Also, if you're on Twitter, tweet your questions and concerns to @MBCR_info or @MBTAGM.

You can see photos of the new winter equipment in the slideshow below as well as on our Facebook Page!

Created with flickr slideshow.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Hurricane Sandy: What To Expect

Flickr user: Bconstant
Tens of thousands of East Coast residents are scrambling to prepare for what is said to be one of the largest Hurricanes to hit the United States in recent history. Hurricane Sandy is said to be at its strongest here in the City of Boston tomorrow afternoon. In response Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick has declared a State of Emergency.

Other cities that are in Sandy's path are also declaring states of emergency and ordering mandatory evacuations and closings. In New York 375,000 people were asked to evacuate in lower Manhattan and other parts of New York City and 30,000 people were evacuated from Atlantic City in New Jersey

Public transportation has also been suspended in a few states. In New York City the MTA will be suspending all subway, bus, Metro North Railroad, and Long Island Railroad service at 7pm tonight until 12 hours after Sandy clears (which will probably be Wednesday morning). In New Jersey, New Jersey Transit will be suspending all rail and light rail service all day tomorrow.  Amtrak will also be suspending most of its East Coast rail lines they include: ALL Acela Express, Northeast Regional, Keystone & Shuttle services, Empire service, Adirondack,Vermonter, Ethan Allen and Pennsylvanian train services are suspened along with the overnight Auto Train, Capitol Limited, Crescent, Lake Shore Limited, Palmetto and Silver Meteor trains. The WMATA in Washington D.C. as well as Pennsylvania's SEPTA, and Maryland's MARC are also suspending service.

Here in Boston, the MBTA has announced that they will be suspending all service at 2pm this afternoon. There are many different obstructions that can cause the MBTA to delay service during severe weather. Here are some problems that the T has faced in recent years.

The portable dam blocking off
the Fenway Portal
Courtesy: MassDOT

  • Flooding: Tunnels all around the MBTA system are prone to flooding when a large amount of rain falls in a short period of time. Pumps do help with this but it can not always be avoided. Large amounts of water building up on track can also cause the earth and ballast under the track to wash out causing unsafe conditions. One of the most famous incidents of flooding in the MBTA system was in 1991 when the Muddy River overflowed its banks and flooded the Fenway Portal and Kenmore station. The MBTA now has a portable dam in place at the Fenway Portal that will protect the portal and Kenmore station from flood waters. 

Washout on the Riverside Line
Courtesy: MBTA 
  • Downed Catenary Wire: The entire MBTA Green Line is electrified by overhead electrical wire. On the aboveground trolley routes it is very possible that tree limbs could fall on this wire and knock it off of its supports. Catenary repairs can sometimes be a very lengthy fix so downed wires can cause major delays. In the past, the "D" Riverside branch of the Green Line has had the most problems with downed wires. The Providence and Stoughton Commuter Rail Line could also experience delays due to downed wires. 
Tree down on the Red Line during Hurricane Irene
Courtesy: MBTA

  • Downed Trees/Limbs: Most of the lines in the MBTA system run through areas where trees hang over the tracks. In high winds, if the trees have not been cut back, large tree limbs can fall onto the tracks, trains, catenary, and third rail. Although it depends on how large they are , fallen branches and trees can cause major delays. In the past the MBTA has run special trains on all lines that have special equipment to clear large debris from the tracks. 

For up to date information on the MBTA over next few days be sure to check or follow @mbtaGM on twitter. You can also call (617)-222-3200 for more information. I will also be tweeting about the hurricane and any updates I receive follow me @Boston_to_a_t

Monday, October 22, 2012

First MBTA LRV arrives for re-build

Type-7 #3660
at the Riverside car house.
Last June, Scott Page, a Boston to a T Guest Contributor, reported that the MBTA had approved the overhaul of 86 Green Line Type-7 Light Rail Vehicles (LRVs). The vehicles are set to be overhauled by Alstom Transportation which has a facility in Hornell, New York.

Four months later, the overhaul program is finally starting to move forward.

Two weeks ago, the first of the 86 cars (LRV #3614) left the MBTA's Riverside yard on a flatbed trailer and headed up to Alstom. This first car, the "pilot car" will take a little over a year to overhaul. Pilot cars usually take the longest to overhaul due to fact that it is the first time the contractors are working on the equipment. If the contract continues on its original schedule, the pilot car should be returning to Boston by November 7th of next year. If all goes well with the pilot car, sets of cars will then be sent up to Alstom on a rotating basis.

The 86 Type-7 LRV's that are being overhauled were built by the Kinki-Sharyo company of Japan between 1986-87. They have been the true powerhouse's behind the Green Line for the past 25 years. They have averaged almost 1 Million in-service miles since they began running on the rails in Boston.

The vehicles are now showing significant signs of age however. Although these vehicles are still more reliable than their Type-8 counterparts it is time for them to get some significant upgrades.

Here is a breakdown of what kind of work will be done to the vehicles during their overhaul.

Work Done
Full replacement with upgraded design
HVAC system, Low Voltage Power Supply, Aux. Lighting, Cab Equipment, & Door Indicators  
Replacement - in-kind
Flooring, Seating, Vehicle Insulation
Vehicle Structure, Roof, Exterior Skin, Door Systems, Braking Equipment, Trucks, Propulsion, Pantograph, and Interior. 

Body damage on a Green Line Type-7 LRV
All 86 cars will come back to Boston with a brand new paint job similar to the "Olive Green" color that the T has been painting some of the LRV's in recent years.

The re-build is said to last until 2015 but some cars should be back in active service by early 2014.

This overhaul is part of a $104 Million contract that the T has with Alstom. The project is said to create around 200 new jobs for the company. Alstom will also soon be starting the overhaul of the MBTA's 74 Kawasaki bi-level coaches. No timeline has been set up for that project yet.

Friday, October 19, 2012

MBTA Countdown Pilot Picking Up Steam

Courtesy: MBTA
Have you been wondering why it has been taking the MBTA so long to roll out their countdown clock system on the entire Red, Orange, and Blue lines? 

I too was frustrated that the launch has been taking so long. That was until I got a chance to talk with the MBTA's Director of Innovation, Josh Robin.

Over the past three months, the MBTA has been rolling out countdown clocks at several stations on the Red Line. As of today the MBTA has a total of six stations online: Andrew, Park Street, Downtown Crossing, South Station, Kendall/M.I.T. and Broadway.

So far the MBTA has been unveiling the technology at a new station along the line every two weeks. Josh Robin told me that the MBTA will be putting a new station online once a week for the next three weeks. So far, he says the pilot has been "essentially flawless".

"The MBTA's number one priority for this project has been quality" says Robin, "we would love to flip the switch and launch the clocks at every station in the system today, but we want to make sure it is done right and that there are no issues"

Quality is defiantly something an agency should focus on when it comes to systems like this. New York City's MTA began launching their countdown clock system back in 2007 and they were plagued by software issues. 

San Franciscos MUNI and BART as well as New Orleans RTA, and the WMATA in Washington D.C. are among the list of other transit authorities that are continuing to add updates to their countdown clock systems.

Although the pilot has just started picking up speed, Robin tells me that the T will be moving more aggressively with the project come the end of the year. Hopefully by the new year we will see the pilot start up on the Blue and Orange lines or maybe even sooner.

MBTA riders have been sharing their thoughts about the pilot on Twitter!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Buses replace trains north of Harvard on weekends this fall

This fall the MBTA is set to close Porter, Davis, and Alewife stations on four separate weekends in order to finish necessary track and tunnel maintenance.

The T will close the three stations north of Harvard and replace train service with shuttle buses on the weekends of Nov. 17-18; Nov. 24-25; Dec. 1-2; and December 8-9.

The closures are part of a continuing multi-year project which started in November of last year. The first phase of the project caused the Red Line north of Harvard to be closed on weekends for four months. Although this time around the closures are not as extensive, the same type of work will be taking place.

 The MBTA plans on replacing corroded and damaged sections of trackage, concrete slabs, electrical wiring, and third rail as well as plugging tunnel cracks and sealing water leaks.

The Harvard to Alewife extension, which opened in 1985, has a specialized track that runs along thousands of concrete slabs instead of wooden ties. These slabs float on rubber disks, almost resembling hockey pucks, that help to cushion the trains vibrations. Over the years tunnel leaks have caused these slabs to crack and their rubber disks to corrode, which poses the risk of rail movement.

This necessary maintenance, which is set to cost around $34 Million, will be funded out of the MBTA's Capital Improvement budget. The T also received a little over $4.3 million in stimulus money to help off set the cost of the project. Here is the funding request

The reason for the closures is that the project cannot be managed solely within the 3 ½-hour window each morning when the T is closed, without disrupting service. Materials must be hauled in and out each weekend on special trucks outfitted to drive on rails, with the nearest entry point at the mouth of the tunnel near Kendall Station two miles from Harvard and nearly five miles from Alewife. 

Sunday, October 14, 2012

MBCR to hold TRAIN-Sylvania Blood Drive

For the second straight year, the Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad Company (MBCR), the company which operates the Commuter Rail for the MBTA, will be holding a halloween themed blood drive.

The drive which has been dubbed the "TRAIN-Sylvania" blood drive is going to be held at North Station on Wednesday, October 24th from 10:00am - 1:00pm.

All blood donated at the event will benefit patients at Brigham and Women's Hospital and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

The MBCR will have a Halloween themed train, located on Track 1 at North Station, for the duration of the event. They will also be handing out Halloween long-sleeve shirts to anyone who donates.

Anyone looking to donate is recommended to make an appointment for the event. To make an appointment contact Sherry Rosen of the MBCR at (617)-222-8127 or For information on eligibility to donate feel free to contact the Blood Donor Program at Partners Healthcare at (617)-632-2568 or

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

MBTA Green Line train derails at Brigham Circle

All photos courtesy of Scott Page
Human error has been detrermined to be the cause of an MBTA green line derailment at Brigham Circle.

Yesterday at around 4:00 pm, MBTA Type-7 LRV #3633 derailed at the crossover at Brigham Circle station.

#3633 struck it's sister car Type-7 LRV #3634 which was sitting on the opposite track. The trains sustained minor damage during the accident. #3633 has some minor body damage (missing panels) and also sustained damage to it's center truck and articulation. #3634 also had some minor body damage. Also during the derailment, a light pole was bent over and a catenary wire bracket was broken off the line.

Most news outlets here in Boston are reporting only one form of human error was to blame in this situation. I believe, however, that there are three different ways people are at fault.

1: The Inspector at Brigham Circle Station

     -When Green Line trains terminate at Brigham Circle (which is all weekends and sometimes during the week) the inspector at Brigham must switch over the tracks so the trains can cross over and switch back outbound and return to the central subway. Today that did not happen. The inspector at the station failed to switch the track back over and subsequently the train derailed, thankfully only causing minor damage and not many injuries. I must however give the inspector a break. An MBTA press release stated that the inspector is an 18-year veteran of the MBTA who has had no prior major incidents.

2: The operator of #3633
     -Every operator that is trained to drive a trolley on the Green Line is taught to read their rail (make sure the switch they will be passing over is in the right direction) at every crossing and switch throughout the system. This however was not done today. If the operator had been paying attention to the rail in front of them, they would have noticed that the switch was not set properly and the accident would have been prevented.

3: The Administration/Inspector
     -According to the MBTA website, the schedule for the Green Line 'E' branch on Columbus day was the same as a Saturday schedule. The only exception was that trains would terminate at Heath Street instead of Brigham Circle like a regular weekend. Today that did not happen. If 'E' line trains were terminating at Heath St. this incident would have been avoided all together. This can however be blamed on a headway adjustment, meaning that the inspector at Brigham stopped the train before Heath because there were not enough Lechmere trains in the central subway (Which is done on a regular basis during the week).

Overall, this accident was not the fault of just one person and hopefully it was a learning experience for everyone involved.

After the incident, it took MBTA personnel six hours to get the trolley back on the tracks. #3633 and #3634 were then moved to an MBTA maintenance facility for evaluation and repair.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Beverly Scott: The new MBTA GM

Courtesy: MARTA
Yesterday's announcement of a new MBTA general manager brings with it not only a new era but also many challenges.

Yesterday at a publicly held interview and meeting, state transportation officials chose Dr. Beverly Scott, previously the General Manager of Atlanta's transportation system, to be the new head of the MBTA. As stated in my previous article, Dr. Scott was one of two finalists chosen for the position, both of whom were from Atlanta's Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA).

The national search for a new general manager took a little over a year to complete. The MBTA received over 100 applications for the job and eventually narrowed it down to the two finalists this past week.

Dr. Scott has been the GM of MARTA for the past five years. Scott also held a GM position at the Transportation system of Sacramento and has also held various positions at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority of New York and Philadelphia. Dr. Scott will also be the first female GM at the MBTA, similar to the ground that she broke when she started her position in Atlanta. 

I have no doubt that having a new GM--especially one from out of state--will help to usher in a new era for the MBTA. However, I am a bit skeptical on how Dr. Scott is going to transition from running the ninth largest transportation system in the nation to running the fifth largest. 

The MBTA is a much different beast than most transportation systems in this country. We are plagued by outdated equipment, constant financial struggles and rough winters.

Here is a quick look at the differences between the MBTA and MARTA:

Daily Ridership 
About 1.3 Million
About 500,000
Modes of Transport
Bus, Light Rail, Rapid Transit, Trackless Trolley, Commuter Rail, Ferry
Rapid Transit, Bus
Financial Trouble 
$8.5 Billion
$ 1.5 Billion
Rough Winter
Oldest Equipment 
1969- 43 years old
1979- 33 years old
Newest Equipment 
2010- 1 year old
2005- 7 years old
System Milage 
1,193 Miles (total)
43 Miles
On Time Performance
Year of incorporation 
GM Salary 

As you can see, both systems are similar in a few ways but also very different. Dr. Scott headed an agency that was not only significantly smaller and in a much different climate but also one that has far less debt and financial troubles. Although Dr. Scott has over 30 years of experience in the public transportation field, I don't believe that she has ever had to deal with as many hardships as the MBTA faces.

Dr. Scott has a little over two months to prepare before she officially starts her three-year contract. During this time, I hope that she does as much research as possible on the MBTA. Here are a few key components that I hope she covers over the next three years.

  1. Keeping up and actually tweeting on the @MBTAgm Twitter account.  
  2. Continues to pursue revenue streams in advertising. Including electronic ads and station naming rights. 
  3. Explore more "Green" and sustainable practices in transportation.
  4. Pursue the possibile rehabilitation or retirement of some older rolling stock (Red/Orange) as well as examining new equipment purchases. 
  5. Work with state officials to better understand and reform the way that transportation is funded in the Commonwealth. 
According to an article published by the Saporta Report, an Atlanta area business blog, Dr. Scott stated that stabilizing the MBTA was her first goal.  “I’ve always said I’m basically pretty much of a startup, fix-up, turnaround, transition person" said Dr. Scott. The article also noted that the MBTA would be Dr. Scott's last stop on a transportation career that has lasted three decades. “This is the one where I’m going to end up,” Scott said. “This is really a tremendous opportunity. The T is absolutely just an unbelievable regional asset, one for the state as well as one for this nation.”

I truly hope that when Dr. Scott starts her new position at the T on December 15 that she is ready take on the sometimes troublesome, yet gratifying system that is the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.

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