Thursday, January 17, 2008

Guano, Delays, and $$$

Guano: The escalator at Ruggles remains uncleaned, and the guano is piling up higher every day. It has been fourteen days since I posted the photo, if anyone is counting.

Delays, and $$$: The Franklin line has been running late quite often - in fact, it's more often late than on time, and that has been confirmed in the news. It's usually the worst-performing line in the entire system!

This morning, though, was special. The #708 is scheduled to arrive at the Franklin/Dean College station at 7:07 AM. It didn't arrive until 7:53 AM instead, effectively pushing it back to the next scheduled train slot. The passenger information marquees performed comically throughout; When the train was already 30 minutes late, the signs said it would be 20 minutes late, and when the delay reached 40 minutes the signs updated to tell us all that the delay might be as much as 30 minutes. Tremble at the technological savvy of the mighty MBTA!

Maybe they should go back to steam locomotives.

With two trains worth of people to cram into a single train, the overcrowding was all that you'd expect. The conductors announced that there had been mechanical problems at the "storage area". If a mechanical problem can cause that sort of havoc, I wonder what will happen if the threatened Amtrak strike takes out South Station starting on January 30th? The mind boggles.

Perhaps a class action lawsuit would be in order. God knows it's annoying enough to pay $223 per month*, $2,676 per year for the privilege of not having a seat on a crowded, swaying train. But if the ridership is subjected to the sheer chaos that seems likely if the strike goes forward...well, I've already heard rumors of legal action. And that's based on the current lousy service.

The #708 arrived at Ruggles at 8:55 AM instead of the scheduled 7:50 AM. I've already filed for my free ticket. It's a good thing that the T has plenty of money to throw away on complimentary fares! In fact, they must be rolling in dough. In the past nine trips I've taken on the Franklin #715 train, I've only seen fares collected four times.

There are stubs which show that a conductor went through the coach after it departed South Station, but well over a hundred people get on at Ruggles. If over 50% of them aren't being ticketed, and that rate obtains over the entire commuter rail system, I'd guess that the MBCR/MBTA is throwing away tens of thousands of dollars every day.

They're not losing anything on me, of course. I'm one of the poor bastards who buys a monthly pass. But people with tickets and punch-passes are getting a lot of free rides. I know one daily passenger who rode for an entire month on a single 12-Ride ticket!

Call me a pessimist, but the commuter rail system simply can't survive much longer under the current management. It's going to fall apart within ten years, I'd guess - just when people will need it most. It desperately needs to be properly funded and managed, but the odds are that none of that will happen until the system crashes to a standstill. Maybe the Amtrak strike will be the nudge that the legislature and management need...but I doubt it!

* - And what do you bet that fares will shoot upward sooner than we expect? They're not supposed to go up again until 2010, but T General Manager Dan Grabauskas recently wrote in BostonNOW! that fares wouldn't go up in 2008; call me cynical, but I suspect that this is a hint that we'll get a 25% or higher fare increase in 2009.


Anonymous said...

Hey, I enjoy reading your blog from time to time as I ride the Franklin line too :) Anyway, I stopped taking the 4:30 train out of South Station because it was making me consistently late getting my son from daycare. Last night I took it for the first time in a long time and it was late, of course. I heard the conductor say something about their being bridge work at Readville and that the delays could go on as long as a year. Have you heard anything about that? -Beth

Quasit said...

Hi Beth!

Bridge work at Readville? Odd, I hadn't heard that one before. If it's really going to cause delays for a year, can you imagine how much it might end up costing the T in complimentary fares?

Although I often wonder how many people actually make the T pay up for half-hour-plus delays. Seems that a lot of people don't know about the guarantee, and even some of those who know don't know that you can cash the tickets in.

Which reminds me, I'm up to five or six free tickets - time for me to cash them in, and take my wife and son out for a meal courtesy of the MBTA! :D