Tuesday, October 26, 2010

An Open Letter to T GM Richard Davey

I have been riding the T since it was known as the MTA of Charlie fame.

Lately I have not been driving as much and riding the T more and I have some observations of where the MBTA is today.


When I first started riding what is now known as the Red Line it ran only from Harvard to Ashmont. Four car trains were seen in rush-hour but otherwise they often ran TWO car trains and the equipment dated back to 1912. Those cars were not replaced until 1963 with the so called blue birds.

The Orange Line was the elevated and they replaced the older cars around 1958 (some 1920's trains made it to the late 70's) but it also ran two-car trains in non peak times.

The Blue Line also had trains dating back to the 1920's and many trains ended at Orient Heights.

It is amazing to see what the system has become.

The Green Line was always the workhorse and until 1969 also had the WATERTOWN line ( today the 57 bus) But it was never as crowded as it is today at almost all hours.

I do believe one flaw in the way the Green Line has changed is that the lines have never been adjusted for changes in passenger load.

Today the B Line ends at Government Center and that only happened because the LRV's could no longer turn around at Park St. Still the B should be extended to Lechmere as between the North Shore bus terminal at Haymarket, Commuter Rail at North Station and the huge increase of passenger traffic to Lechmere that end of the Green Line is under-served.

The Lechmere of my youth was simply the end of the line for people to catch buses to Somerville, Arlington and Medford with the occasional person going to the old Lechmere Sales store on First St. However today you now have the Cambridgeside Galleria which beings in shopers from the Back Bay, South End, Dorchester and Roxbury as it is the only full blown mall close to downtown. A few years ago when North Station was being rebuilt the T DID have 2 of the Green Lines terminate at Lechmere and it worked well.

Simply put there is no good reason to end the B at Government Center except "Well that is how we have always done it."


I now use the Silver Line to go to Logan from Cambridge and the service is very good. If anything the line is becoming a victim of it's own success as when there is a convention in the Seaport area the Silver Line can not handle both the airport and convention goers. Somehow headway needs to be increased which I assume is one of the reasons SL3 was discontinued to add bused to SL1 and SL2.

The most recent figures I can find for MBTA ridership by line and station are from 2008-9.

The Silver Line figures appear to be from 2006 and are very low in the report. It seems like the line has become very popular with travelers leaving Logan.

Something to consider here : The Silver Line is now becoming a 'first impression' of people visiting Boston and it shows off how the Seaport area has exploded.


I use the #1 Harvard-Dudley bus daily and it has its good days and bad days. If ever a line screamed for 60 foot buses it it this one ( and the #66 ) as most buses are packed from 7 AM to 9 PM. I have found the new bus tracking system useful.

Other than those two lines I have no real complaint with the bus service. I do understand Boston is not a traffic friendly city.


I wish we could use the plastic Charlie Card on the train. How hard can it be to do this?

My only other complaint is minor but it would seem that somehow the #94 bus which services West Medford station could be adjusted someone so connections between the two lines would be better.

I do hope we will see arrival times of the subway trains on the electronic signs at each train station. A cell phone application at most stations is useless for lack of a signal. I am assuming that all that is needed for the signs to display the time is software?

Overall I think you have done a fine job since taking over the T.


PLEASE 60 FOOT BUSES on the 1 and 66???

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your comments, a few in response.

Charlie is coming to CR, we began a pilot on the boats in September to get some more ideas on how it can work. We will be making decisions very soon on the path forward.

Silver Line service continues to grow, especially with the Essex St connection, we are improving the Washington St stations this winter and spring to include real shelters and heaters. Some new 60 footers were sent to the SL as well. In terms of additional service, we are in the middle of our bi-annual service plan review and this will be considered. Of course, the budget needs to be considered as well.

Relative to the #1, the CT1 was added to relieve congestion on the line, though the #1 continues to be one of our most popular routes. This could be a candidate for 60 footers in the future, although we have to look at turns on the route to ensure the turn radius is ok. Bunching is an issue, the traffic on the #1 isn't good.

You mentioned signage at stations. We are piloting some upgrades in signage (see LCDs at Back Bay, Ruggles, South Station and Govt Center). More detailed countdown info on the LEDs is something my team is working on. More to come.

"That's because that's the way we've always done it" is no longer an acceptable answer. Period. The team at the MBTA is starting to rethink how we do business right down to the customer level (we've been using better diversion signage at stations, still too random though. We are working to make it more consistent.) and the three car trains on the B and D lines should help relieve peak congestion. We have a GL team meeting every couple of weeks looking service improvements, big and small. I'll ask them to review the Lechmere service, though my guess is that we need to loop service at Park and Govt Center to maintain headways going westbound. With that said, the GL extension will provide us more opportunity to provide service to East Cambridge.

I appreciate your thoughtful comments, I know we have customers who care very deeply about the T and cheering for our success. Keep sending your ideas and questions our way.


Rich Davey

Love the old photos!