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

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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.

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