Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Call them...unreliable

Last night something was seriously screwed up at South Station. I don't know what happened, but I saw the effects down-track at Ruggles.

Nothing came in when or where it was supposed to. The Needham Heights train that shows up at Ruggles at 4:13 PM...didn't. Trains came at the wrong time, half an hour late or more.

And in every single case the conductors didn't bother to announce what the train was.

Some of these trains were coming in within a few minutes of the arrival time of a completely different train. You'd think that conductors would realize that people would be confused, and would announce the destination. But they didn't.

We passengers had to run up and down the station platform every time, looking for a conductor to tell us where the train was going. And even then, most of the conductors still didn't bother to make the announcements. Passengers had to pass the word along instead.

I understand that the conductors and their union are pissed off at the MBCR and the MBTA, but why do they have to take it out on the passengers? Are they under the delusion that we have any influence at all over the management of the T? Because it has been made more than amply clear that we don't. T management couldn't be less responsive to the needs, concerns, and even the basic health and safety of the ridership. We're cattle, existing solely to be moved from one point to another and to pay our ever-increasing fares.

That is, sometimes we pay. Last night no fares were collected; we didn't see a conductor in the train from the time I got on at Ruggles to the time I got off at Franklin/Dean College. This may seem odd, since the T is so desperately hard up for funds, but I've talked to a lot of passengers and it's not all that rare.

The Franklin #715 arrived at Ruggles 17 minutes late, on the wrong side of the tracks. It reached Franklin/Dean fifteen minutes late.

Tonight (12/19/2007) the #715 ran on time, but the train was having some pretty serious electrical problems. The lights and air circulation kept going out. Everything would simply go dead, for a moment, with even the emergency lights off; it was absolutely pitch black. Then a few of the emergency lights would go on, not really bright enough to read by. A minute or two later the lights and heat would come back up, only to fail again within minutes.

This happened over and over and over, at least eight or nine times.

What next, I wonder?

Monday, December 17, 2007

No Break for Franklin Riders!

It turned out that a few days of having an extra coach on the Franklin #715 train was NOT a harbinger of good things to come. Instead, it was the harbinger of doom.

Not only is the train back to six single-level coaches (at most), but they've put the worst conductor in the entire system back onto that run. He's the angry, rage-filled conductor; the rudest conductor I've ever seen. We'd all hoped that we'd seen the last of him when he disappeared about two years ago, but he's back.

The MBCR has, of course, been having a lot of problems lately. The conductor's union has reportedly been engaging in an unofficial slowdown, "working to the rules" in order to reduce the timeliness of the entire system to 84%. That's the worst performance of any commuter rail system in American, apparently.

I've certainly seen a difference. On almost every train one of the two doors and stairwells is now closed and unusable. I haven't seen any conductors complain if a passenger opens a closed stairwell, though, so at least that's a positive thing.

There was an article recently reporting that South Station trains have the worst record in the system. It's nice to have confirmation of what I suspected, although I wish that wasn't necessary.

Trains have been late more often than usual, and the Franklin #715 continues to be jam-packed every evening. There are, as always, ten or more standees per coach, and they stand for 25 minutes or longer.

In fact, for several days I took the extra time to go to South Station and board the train there rather than at Ruggles, just to be able to get a seat. I had a long-term medical test done (the results came in and I'm fine), and standing for long periods was extremely uncomfortable. I've also been going home at different times thanks to the weather and other circumstances of the season; most other Franklin trains that I've taken have considerably more capacity than the #715, for some reason, so I haven't had much to report.

But I've heard a number of stories from other passengers about terrible service on the line. It would seem that things just won't change under the MBCR. And since the MBTA just re-signed the MBCR to a three-year management contract, the future does not look bright.

The worst service in the nation (I got four free tickets recently for trains that were more than half an hour late), undoubtedly thousands of passenger complaints...and the MBTA rewards the MBCR.

Talk about taxation without representation! At this point, I have to wonder if passengers will just have to rise up and throw the management of both the MBCR and the MBTA into Boston Harbor.