Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Slow-motion crash

The stairs at Ruggles continue to decay. The morter is crumbling away.

As you can see above, the whole structure has shifted so much that the
internal holes in one of the bricks have been exposed.

The staircase is slowly spreading outward at the base; another effect of this slow-motion collapse has been to pull apart the railing on the left side, as you walk downstairs.

On the outer side of the staircase, you can see that the wall is visibly bowing outward. I can't imagine that this is a safe situation! Would any public safety inspector allow a staircase in this condition to be used by the public? I have to doubt it.

The weird thing, of course, is that those stairs were closed for at least two years for repairs, and only re-opened in August 2007. Will they make it to August 2010? I don't know. Will they be closed for another two years for repairs again? I couldn't say. Will the next set of repairs last longer than three years? I'd like to believe so - but see no reason for hope!

MBCR Comedy

On January 6th I got one of the funnier emails that the MBCR has created so far. It included the following gem:

"Please enter and exit only through a door that is attended by a crewmember."

Apparently whoever writes those emails has never actually ridden the commuter rail. Because if that rule were ever enforced, every train in the entire system would be consistently 20 minutes late, or more, every day. Why? Because each train would have only one working door.

There AREN'T conductors at most doors - ever. I haven't exited a door on the evening train once since I got that letter that had a conductor within two coachlengths. Today I looked around, out of curiousity. For the five-coach train (three singles, two doubles) there was exactly ONE conductor visible.

If they're providing enough conductors to be at each pair of doors on each train, I don't know where those conductors are disappearing to! But it seems more likely that MBCR management is shorting the trains and the public of the staff needed to carry their own rules. This way, when something goes horribly wrong, they can point to this email and say "See? We told people not to use unsupervised doors!".

RIP, Franklin Dean Station

They closed the Franklin/Dean College station down permanently a couple of months ago - another cost-cutting measure, presumably. I can't say that the timing was great. That station was definitely being used - it was always packed with commuters, dozens of them, every weekday morning.

Especially on cold mornings, of course. Which is why the timing is so particularly bad. The Franklin/Dean parking lot is quite small, so a lot of people are dropped off at the station in the mornings. Now they have no place to stay warm while waiting for the train.

And god help them if a train is late, as they still sometimes are. At least once every couple of months a train has serious problems and has to be canceled, resulting in a wait of an hour or more until the next train comes by.

Apart from that, though, I have to say this: that was a really interesting old station. It was very shabby, with a lot of personality. There used to be little model trains in it, here and there; my son loved to look at them. The coffee and donuts weren't at all bad, and there was a nice rack of used books that weren't too expensive. The bathroom was tiny and, well, odd; a minuscule little sink, an old-fashioned radiator, and a few faded decorations.

Down a corridor in the back, there was a dark room with an old sofa on it. It didn't seem to be for the public. Sometimes several people were sitting on it, but I got the impression that it was for station personnel. It was strange, but interesting. The station was an oasis of old-fashioned quirky shabbiness in a world of impersonal grunge and decay.

I suppose it will just fall apart, now.


The Franklin 1719 continues to have adequate seating, to my surprise. The same can't always be said of the Providence #811, departing South Station at 3:45 PM.

It's not always jammed, but in the past several months I've seen passengers jammed into the vestibules several times. Here are a couple of photos from a couple of months ago:

Once they crowded into the vestibule, that's pretty much where they had to stay. Every aisle was packed.