Thursday, March 29, 2012

MBTA Fares to be Increased by 23%

©2012 Boston to a T
Riders would pay about 23% more for their commute under a new proposal unveiled today by the MBTA.
This is the third and final proposal unveiled by MBTA officials that will help deter the T's projected $180 Million budget shortfall next fiscal year. This final scenario will be submitted for approval by the MBTA Board of Directors on April 4th and the new changes will go into effect on July 1st.
This plan was created after MBTA officials spent months traveling around the state asking customers their thoughts on T cuts and fare increases at a series of public meetings. "We’ve spent the last two months out at 30 hearings listening to customers, and our proposal I think reflects what we’ve heard from our customers," said MassDOT Secretary Richard Davey,  “Overwhelmingly, we heard from folks that they were opposed to cuts in service."
This final proposal is much less drastic than the two scenarios that proceeded it. Under the new plan fares would be increased about 23% on the subway and bus system. A one way subway fare with a Charlie Card will hit a high of $2.00 and a one way bus fare with a Charlie Card will rise to $1.50. Also, a monthly link pass will be hiked up from $59 to $70. 
The controversial service reductions that were laid out in the first two proposals are much less severe in this new scenario. 
Under the plan the T will only eliminate four of its over 200 bus routes and reduce trips on 14 other routes. Weekend commuter rail service on the Greenbush, Plymouth/Kingston, and Needham lines will also be discontinued.  Weekend green line E branch trollies will be stopping short of Heath and terminating at Brigham Circle station, allowing riders to reach the Longwood Medical Area and the MFA.
The the T's ferry service, which would have seen a huge reduction in service, will only see increased fares and the elimination of the Quincy ferry on weekends. Ferry fares will be raised about 35 percent
Along with the cuts in service and fare increases the MBTA has also found other sources of revenue to close their budget gap. They will be transferring $51 Million from the states Motor Vehicle Inspection Trust Fund (which is reserved for projects that will help improve air quality), $5 Million from the states snow and ice removal surplus, and $5 Million from leasing the North Station Garage. 
According to MassDOT Secretary Richard Davey, although this proposal will help the MBTA close their projected budget shortfall for next year, it is only a temporary band aid and the agency is likely to be in the same position next year.  

You can check out a full set of documents on the new proposal HERE
You can also see Richard Davey' and Jonathan Davis' letter to their customers HERE

Monday, March 26, 2012

Guest Post: The End of an Era on the MBTA

Here is a guest post by fellow transit enthusiast Scott Page. This is a follow up to his last post Farewell From the Fifth Car which was about the conversation of the MBTA Red Line to One Person Train Operation. You can follow Scott on Twitter : (@ScottPage10690).

The last MBTA Rapid Transit train to run with an on board Train Attendant pulled into Ashmont Station around 12:21AM on Saturday March 24th. As the doors opened, and the pre-recorded voice of Frank Oglesby Jr. belted out “The destination of this train is Alewife”, the small group of passengers on the platform made their way onto the train. With no recognition or celebration from the MBTA this historic final trip would quietly bring an end to a one hundred and ten year old Boston transit tradition. 
            At 12:36AM the Inspector at Ashmont triggered the starter bell – officially telling the Motorperson and Train Attendant to begin their trip. 
As the Train Attendant began to close the doors the Inspector approached her with a laugh and a smile and said “That’s it. You’re going down in history. You’re my last Train Attendant ever”. He laughed again and sincerely said “Good luck with your re-assignment”. The Attendant then closed the doors on the last two cars and poked her head out the window to watch the platform as the train lurched forward embarking on its trip to North Cambridge.
For me, the final Two Person Train Operation trip had a special meaning. 
As an independent transit advocate, who strongly opposes the MBTA’s plan to convert its Rapid Transit lines to One Person Train Operation (OPTO), the last train acted as the culmination of a freelance project that I started over a year ago. 
The project began with an eight page essay to MBTA and MassDOT leaders. It then expanded to an in depth photo history, mini-documentary, and a series of articles – each of which argued against this regressive change to the T’s daily operations and explained the importance of a second operator in regards to passenger safety and efficient service.
While working on the various pieces of this project I was able to meet and talk with a number of Train Attendants, Motorpersons, and Inspectors – all of whom echoed the same refrain: OPTO is a bad idea.
At the public meeting held at 10 Park Plaza in June of 2011 regarding the conversion a rider asked “What do the Operators think about this transition?” The answer from T executives: “We don’t know. We never asked”.
This lack of consideration for the opinions of the operations staff was repeated in a recent Boston Metro article in which an MBTA spokesperson brushed off concerns over OPTO by saying single person operation is something members of the Boston Carmen’s Union (Amalgamated Transit Union Local 589) “has never embraced”. 
But in my experience talking to the men and women of the Red Line – the people who actually run the trains day in and day out – the idea that any anti-OPTO sentiment is simply Union solidarity and couldn’t be further from the truth. 
The people I spoke with weren’t simply Union members who disliked a change that they saw as weakening the power of their Union, but rather dedicated hard working men and women who wanted to have a voice in their workplace. They each spoke of specific examples in which they assisted a passenger, troubleshot a mechanical difficulty, or kept order on board during an abnormal situation. 
As the last Two Person Train Operation train made its way northbound I appreciated the time I had spent over the past year getting to intimately know the Red Line, it’s staff, and it’s operations. While I knew OPTO would begin in the morning I felt as if I had made a stand for an operative style I believed in and for one night I got to celebrate the success of a one hundred and ten year old Boston transit tradition.
When the train entered Park Street Station the Train Attendant pushed the button on the crackling intercom of car 01811 – “Entering Park Street, change for the Green Line, doors will open on both sides. For elevator service please exit to the left”. As fellow transit enthusiast Dan Lampariello and I exited the train it closed its doors behind us and oh-so-gracefully the tradition of Two Person Train Operation rolled silently into the night. 

Friday, March 23, 2012

The New MBTA Wickford Junction Station

Rail travel in the Ocean State is about to get a little more robust. 

March 7th marked the start of the testing phase for the Wickford Junction Station. MBTA #1127 was the first train to roll into the new station and test the brand new tracks!

The station and adjacent shopping plaza, located in North Kingstown RI, have been about 30 years in the making. Bob Cioe and his family bought the land for the shopping plaza in 1982 and had always hoped to see rail travel come back to the area, now they are finally seeing their dreams come true.

Other than the shopping plaza, which boasts a Walmart as it's anchor store, the land is also home to a 1,100 car parking facility that looks more like an 1800's mill building than a parking structure. Don't let it fool you though, the new garage has energy efficient lights, heated and air-conditioned bathrooms, charging stations for electric cars and a coffee shop for commuters! 

 North Kingstown resident Ryan Salio says she is very excited for the new stop. "Getting to Providence, Warwick, and South Attleboro can be a hassle. It's nice to finally have an option on this side of the state (RI). I will make traveling to Boston exponentially easier." 

Construction for station itself broke ground in August of 2010 and was funded partially by the 2005 Transportation Bill, $12,269,449 came from the Transportation and Housing & Urban Development appropriations bill, and the state of Rhode spent $3.2 million to purchase 350,000 square feet of land for the station and parking garage. 

Connecting the station to the North East Corridor
Public Domain Wickipedia Commons 

The MBTA has 11 stops (Monday - Friday) scheduled for the new Wickford Junction station. There will be five morning trains, two afternoon trains, and four evening trains. The last train to leave the station each night would be at 8:15 p.m and arrive at South Station at 9:55 p.m. Travel time to Providence will be 25 minutes and travel time to Boston will be approximately 1 hour and 40 minutes. 

The station will be located in the MBTA fare zone 9 on the Providence/Stoughton line which will cost $9 one way to Boston. If commuters are only going as far as Providence, however, their round trip ticket will only cost $5 plus a $4 fee at the parking garage. 

The MBTA announced that the stations tentative opening date will be on Monday April 23rd, one month from today. The station will be last piece of the $336 Million project to extend commuter rail in the state of Rhode Island. 

For more information check out the Wickford Junction Facebook Page

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Dracut Scholarship Telethon!

Today marked the start of the Dracut Scholarship Foundation's annual telethon! The telethon, which has been broadcast live over the the airways in Dracut for 29 years, raises money for scholarships that are handed out to high school seniors. Last year, the foundation raised $120,000 and gave out $112,000 in scholarships!

Hundreds of performers, volunteers, organizers, sponsors, viewers and bidders are again set to participate in the telethon, which will be televised nightly, from 6:30-9:30 p.m., tomorrow through Friday!

This will be my seventh year working on the telethon and I am VERY excited!

Over the years the Dracut Scholarship Foundation has given out over $1 Million in scholarships and this year hopes to raise $100,000 through the telethon!

The show is divided into three studios; Studio A: Auction and promotional boards where hosts talk about items up for bid! Studio B: This is the high schools auditorium where we have large dance and music groups perform throughout the nights, and Studio C: the high schools music room where we have small musical performers and game shows.

Some of the game shows taking place over the next few nights are, “Are You Smarter Than a Dracut High Senior,” “Cash Cab” with Dracut trivia, and the “Dracut’s Diced” cooking competition featuring local chefs. A new “Soup-off” Contest has also been added to the entertainment lineup. Contestants will be competing to produce the best soup and chowder in a blind taste test.

There will be a large amount of performers from local school bands, choruses, and solo performers. We will also see the return of area dancers from Lisa Pilato Dance Academy, 5-6-7-8 Dance Studio, and Guiding Light Dance Studio. You can also expect to see performances by gymnast and karate troupes! 

Select solo performances from Dracut Highs Spring Musical, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying  will also be performed! 

Between the contests and performers, the 29th Annual Dracut Scholarship Foundation Telethon is sure to be a hit.

As a Dracut High School graduate, scholarship recipient, and overall townie the telethon is an event I look forward to every year! I have been involved in many different aspects of the Telethon over the past seven years, from performing and answering phones, but for the past three years I have been the shows head audio engineer! 

Overall, the Dracut Scholarship Foundations Telethon is a true hit in the town of Dracut truly helps to  bring the people of this small north shore farming town close together! 

Below you will find a live stream for the Telethon! You can watch it right here starting at 6:30pm for the next three nights. If you are interested in donating to the foundation visit their website at or call to place a bid on an item by calling (978)-957-1500! 

I will be live tweeting from my audio board tomorrow though Friday so make sure you follow me on Twitter @Boston_to_a_T! 

If you get a chance to watch the show I would love to hear what you think so please leave a comment below!! 

Watch live streaming video from dsfteletthonlive at

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Cheers to One Year

A year ago today we started Boston to a T! Over the past year we have truly come a very long way.

First, we would truly like to thank you for reading and following Boston to a T. If you read us on a daily basis, follow us on Twitter, or just accidentally stumbled upon the page we thank you for supporting us over the past year!

Aaron and I started Boston to a T last March when we were freshman. We wanted to launch a blog that showcased what it was like for college students to live in the heart of this wonderful city, but overall it turned into a site that highlighted "Anything and Everything Boston!" Oh yeah, and if you had not noticed, it also kind of turned into a small obsession with the MBTA.We made it our mission to inform the people of  Boston, and its outlying suburbs, about the happenings around the city and information about the MBTA.

For me writing this blog has not only helped me strive to become a better journalist, but has also instilled in me a love for urban development and planning, hospitality, and of course transportation.

Over the past 365 days Boston to a T has truly become something that is way beyond our wildest dreams. Sitting in our dorm room  last year we would have never thought that we would be named one of the best Boston Blogs to follow on Twitter by Bostinno or be featured on the cover of the Boston Metro!

Since last March we have published over 80 different posts with topics ranging from who is the actual voice of the MBTA (which has become our most popular article), to how Assembly Row is going to be Boston's "Next great neighborhood." We took numerous "Field Trips" to different cities including San Francisco and New York City, which will hopefully become yearly experiences. We started a Twitter account which now has almost 700 followers.We have been able to meet and speak with the General Manager of the MBTA Jonathan Davis, MassDOT Secretary Richard Davey, MBCR General Manager Hugh Kiley and many other notable members of the Boston community.

Overall, we have truly hit a milestone here at Boston to a T and we look forward to sharing even more information with you!

Things to look forward to:

Along with the start of a new year comes new features and upgrades!

If you noticed, there is a new poll located on the sidebar that asks you to help us choose our new logo! Please help by voting for your favorite one. The most popular choice will be made Boston to a T's new logo by mid April! 

Also, by this summer we will be transferring Boston to a T off of our Blogger platform  so we can  launch our own website! Right now we have a sneak preview which you can check out at

As we move forward with Boston to a T we will also be looking for even more ways to help bring information to Boston residents and commuters alike. We are committed to using this blog and other social media platforms to put pressure on the MBTA and other Boston organization to be more transparent.

Happy Commuting, Happy Reading, and of course THANK YOU for supporting Boston to a T!

- Dan Lampariello & Aaron Lumnah 

This is Boston. This is your city. 
Just go out and explore!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Guest Post: Farewell From The Fifth Car

Here is our second guest post! This article is written by Scott Page, a 21 year old Bunker Hill Community College student and MBTA historian! You can follow Scott on Twitter (@ScottPage10690)!

MBTA to end 110 year old tradition of 
Two Person Train Operation

Shortly after 12:30am every night the last Red Line train of the day closes its doors and departs Ashmont Station in Dorchester embarking on a thirty-seven minute voyage to Alewife Station in North Cambridge. This typically mundane trip is often the last source of transportation for evening-shift workers, late night partiers, and the occasional drunk. But on the wee morning hours of Saturday March 24th, 2012 the 12:30am train will receive the historic distinction of being the last MBTA Rapid Transit train to run with an on board Train Attendant – thus unceremoniously bringing an end to a one hundred and ten year old Boston transit tradition. 
An MBTA Train Attendant cycles the doors 
at Wollaston Station on the Red Line. 
Currently the MBTA operates each Red Line train with a two person crew. The practice, known in the transit industry as Two Person Train Operation, involves a Motorperson in the first car, who is responsible for operating the train and overseeing safety along the right-of-way; and a Train Attendant in the fifth car, who cycles the doors at stations, announces stops, and oversees the safety of passengers both on the train and on the platform. 
The practice stems from the early days of subway and elevated operations when train doors literally needed to be cranked open by Attendants standing between each car. Modern technology now allows for doors to be controlled from a central point which, here in Boston, is controlled by the Train Attendant in the 5th car. 
The MBTA claims that eliminating Train Attendants from the Red Line and transferring all duties to the Motorperson, a practice known as One Person Train Operation, will enable the Red Line to operate more trains during off-peak hours and save money that the cash-strapped transit authority can reinvest into the line. If this proposal sounds familiar, that’s because it is. 
In June of 2010 the MBTA removed the second operator from all Orange Line trains in a similar cost savings effort. The T reassured riders that there would be no change in service and safety, but just six months after its transition the Orange Line suffered its worst performing winter in the last quarter century. Massive delays snarled the line leaving passengers out in the cold. While delays were not the direct result of One Person Train Operation the overwhelming response from riders was that additional uniformed personnel was needed to relay pertinent information.
To ensure passenger safety on the Red Line under One Person Train Operation the MBTA has installed a series of mirrors and closed-circuit television monitors at each station to show the Motorperson the entire platform. These devices will be most useful at stations with curved platforms where the Motorperson cannot see the entire train by line-of-sight alone. Train Attendants, for the record, have no obstructed views of the doorways at any point in the system.
But with recent breakdowns and service disruptions still on many riders’ minds some aren’t so sure that having one crew member on board is a good idea. 
“Having one operator being responsible for hundreds of riders’ safety is quite daunting” said Jessica Baldeck, a frequent Red Line commuter and UMass Boston student. “I can’t think of any other situation where one person is solely in charge of handling hundreds of people - especially during an emergency.”
“Personally it makes me feel safer knowing there is someone on board whose sole job is to make sure everyone is riding safely” added Jessica Griffiths Sheldon, who occasionally takes the T into the city.
Train Attendants serve as a passenger liaison from the 5th car.
The MBTA cites that OPTO is becoming the industry standard for subway operations around the globe along with the conversion of the Blue Line in 1996 and the Orange Line in 2010 as the reason for converting the Red Line. Former MBTA General Manager, and current Secretary of Transportation Richard Davey said “We remain focused on identifying cost savings measures that helps us operate more efficiently.  The expansion of Single Person Train Operation… allows us to contain costs while maintaining quality service.”
Critics of OPTO note that Chicago’s CTA, which converted in 2001, has had several attempts by city Aldermen to bring back second operators after doorway safety incidents and crime rose on ‘El’ trains.
The MBTA, which is now engaged in an ongoing public debate over whether or not to raise fares and cut services, originally planned the conversion of the Red Line for September of 2011. The transition was pushed back to March of 2012 after various groups raised concerns over everything from doorway safety to on board crime. The T has used the additional seven months to give all Red Line Motorpersons additional training on proper doorway safety standards and evacuation protocols. 

The ring of the starter bell at 12:30am on March 24th will signal the end of an era in Boston transit. While most riders won’t notice the changes on an average trip, it’s imperative to remember the work done by Train Attendants in their one hundred and ten years of service. They’ve acted as visible representatives of the Authority – answering questions for tourists, giving directions to riders, and aiding in breakdowns and evacuations. But most importantly they’ve protected their riders from threats to safety – like the Orange Line Train Attendant who stepped in and prevented a hate crime in March of 2010 by sheltering the victim in his cab until police arrived. After Boston removes it’s Train Attendants from service this March only New York’s MTA, Toronto’s TTC, and the Port Authority Trans-Hudson railroad of New York and New Jersey will utilize Two Person Train Operation.
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