Monday, July 30, 2012

Guest Post: Automatic Stop Announcements, Tracking, & More On The Green Line

Green Line Trolley at BU Central 
     “Entering: Park Street. Change here for the red and orange lines. Doors will open on both sides.” We’ve all heard Frank Oglesby’s mellifluous voice bellowed throughout the interiors of countless green line trolleys. But how does Frank know when to speak up? Or, for the matter, what to say? Surely he can’t just be guessing; he’s far too accurate for that to be the case. So how does he do it? It all has to do with something called Automatic Station Identification or ASI for short. Here’s how it works:
Located approximately 50 meters apart, the green line (similar to the red and blue) has “tags” imbedded in the tracks before, after, and at each station. By themselves, these tags do nothing; they merely have a unique number programmed into them, but require no battery or external power source. Each green line trolley, however, is equipped with a device that actively “reads” the tracks in search of these tags using microwave radio frequencies. When a trolley passes over a tag, the tag number is then communicated to the onboard message system and matched with the appropriate audio and visual messages. At that point, our good friend Frank announces that we are indeed entering Park Street and that one can transfer to the red and orange lines here after exiting the train from either side. With each announcement, the displays also change to reflect what is being said.
While this type of system does work (usually), the one used by the green line is quite dated and therefore its capabilities are rather limited. For example, at the start of each trip the operator must manually enter the trolley’s destination. This not only ensures that the proper audio and visual messages are being communicated to the passengers, but also ensures that the proper track configuration is being used in the tunnels for that specific trip. What’s that mean? It means that, utilizing a system called Automatic Vehicle Identification (AVI), the tracks will automatically align to get your D line trolley to Riverside—not Boston College, Cleveland Circle, or Heath Street—and so on.
Green Line tracks at Chestnut Hill
Another, more major limitation of this system is the fact that most of the information communicated between the track equipment and trolleys is not currently capable of being transmitted back to the MBTA’s Control Center, located at 45 High Street in Boston. This means that not even the T has a good idea of exactly where the next outbound B line (or any) trolley is and when it will be arriving. The only information automatically communicated back to the Control Center is when a trolley has just passed through one of a handful of junctions located throughout the underground portion of the green line. This, however, does not specify the destination of the trolley but merely which direction it is headed (inbound or outbound) giving the MBTA only a very vague idea of where its trolleys are at any given time. Because of this, riders won’t be seeing tracking available on the green line until the MBTA has come up with a way to locate the trolleys themselves.
Aside from its limitations though, the current system does help the MBTA fulfill its federally-mandated ADA requirement for consistent stop announcements and lets commuters and tourists alike know exactly where they’re headed. Here’s to Mr. Oglesby continuing to help passengers find their way for many more years to come.

Learn more about Michal in our new Guest Contributors section!

Pictures copyright © 2012 Michal Skrzypek

Monday, July 9, 2012

Red Line Weekend Diversion

©2012 Boston to a T
Starting this upcoming weekend, July 14th & 15th, the MBTA will be replacing Red Line trains between JFK/UMass and Ashmont station for 4 consecutive weekends.

What you need to know:

  • The diversion will run all day on both Saturday and Sunday during the following weekends
      • July 14-15
      • July 21-22
      • August 4-5
      • August 11-12
  • The buses will make all station stops between JFK/UMass and Ashmont station. 
  • The Braintree branch will NOT be affected and will run as scheduled.

The Diversion is being put in place so the MBTA can perform necessary maintenance on the Ashmont branch. The work will include track and tie repair/replacement, signal work, station repair, and third rail repair/replacement.  

For more information and down to the second alerts and advisories for all MBTA lines please visit

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Orange Line Evening Diversion

Starting tomorrow, July 8th, the MBTA will be replacing Orange Line trains between Sullivan Square and Oak Grove with shuttle busses.

What you need to know:
  • The diversion will run from July 8th through December 28th, Sunday through Thursday starting at 9:00pm and continuing till the end of service.
  • The busses will make stops at all stations between Oak Grove and Sullivan Square. 
This diversion is being put in place to allow MBTA crews to perform upgrades to trackage, signaling, and power work for the Orange Line Assembly Square project. 

Friday, July 6, 2012

MBTA set to overhaul bi-levels

©2012 Boston to a T
Last January the MBTA announced that they would be receiving bids for the midlife overhaul of 74 of their Kawasaki bi-level coaches. After recieving and reviewing the bids, it looks like the MBTA will finally be moving forward with the overhaul process.

On July 11th the MBTA board will vote on whether to award the the $114 Million project to Alstom Transportation out of Hornell New York. For those of you who read our last guest post written by Scott Page this is the same company that will be overhauling the MBTA's 86 Type 7 LRV's. 

First MBTA Bi-level coach
debuting at South Station in 1990
The 74 coaches that are being overhauled are numbers 700-749, 1700-1709, and 1711-1724. The contract will also include an option to overhaul an additional 32 cars including numbers 750-781 and the damaged 1710.

The contract for the coaches will last between two or three years. The overhaul work includes replacing and reconditioning the coaches trucks, couplers, HVAC systems, electrical systems, batteries and battery chargers, some interior fixtures and safety-emergency equipment. The MBTA has yet to release which coaches will be sent out to New York first. 

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