bobquasit: (Default)
I've been reading Thoreau's Walden on the Franklin line for weeks. But I have to admit that I can only handle about six or seven pages at most before I have to switch to something like Slave Girls of the SS. :D

Okay, seriously, my other book is currently The Still Small Voice of Trumpets by Lloyd Biggle. Good book, but much lighter reading then Walden - although I have to say that Thoreau is actually pretty damn funny!
bobquasit: (Default)
I don't usually cross-post from Charlie on the Commuter Rail, but this may be of interest.


It's been a long time since I ran across a rude conductor; I guess I was due. Here's the complaint that I just filed with the MBCR:
Conductor 1719 was extremely rude to me this evening. I'd forgotten to switch to my October pass, and so she charged me for the trip, plus the onboard purchase penalty fee. I recognize that she was within her rights to do so, although she certainly knew that I was a regular T pass subscriber; I have been riding in her coaches since long before she began working on #715.

What was NOT appropriate, however, was the delight which she displayed in charging me. She smirked and spoke in a very condescending manner. I don't know why she apparently felt that my forgetfulness was her personal victory; I haven't had any personal interaction with her before.

In any case, I found her conduct completely offensive and rude. That sort of arrogant and insulting behavior does nothing to enhance the reputation or image of the MBTA and MBCR.

It was the equivalent of a victory dance - just a nasty, sneering smirk. Apparently charging me $8.75 was the high point of her day.
bobquasit: (Default)
I've neglected both my RuneQuest site and my commuter rail site for months. I'm planning on doing something for the RQ site (maybe that article on charms; if anyone wants to help me on it, please let me know), but in the last few days the good old MBTA/MBCR gave me the inspiration for a couple of posts on the Charlie on the Commuter Rail blog.

Remember those stairs at Ruggles? The ones that were crumbling last December? They're worse. MUCH worse. Photos over on the Charlie blog.

Hit

Apr. 20th, 2009 08:43 pm
bobquasit: (Default)
To sum up: we were rear-ended tonight in Franklin. We were in an intersection, waiting for the oncoming traffic to clear so we could make a left turn. A woman hit us pretty hard from behind. Sebastian started crying.

The woman drove down the street and pulled over. Then she drove about a quarter-mile down the road. After a while, she turned around and pulled over in front of our car. I'd called the police, and they showed up fairly quickly.

Teri had a headache, and my neck hurts quite a bit. Sebastian's okay. The back section of our car is detached from the body on the right-hand side, but it doesn't look too awful. I'll be filing an accident report tomorrow.

I talked to Allstate, our insurer. Lest anyone wonder: Allstate sucks, Allstate sucks, Allstate sucks. We're out a $500 deductible, and then after that they'll see if they can recover the money from the woman's insurance company and reimburse us. The Allstate rep was less than helpful.

Changes

Dec. 4th, 2008 11:00 pm
bobquasit: (Default)
My journal has been somewhat different, lately.

For one thing, the percent of friends-only and filtered posts has increased to about 50% in the past few months. But an even bigger change is the relative decrease in political posts (unsurprising, I suppose, now that the election is over) and the recent surge of book reviews.

Is this a good thing? A bad thing? Neither, or both? Feel free to tell me what you think, if you want.

By the way, I also just put up a very large post over on my Charlie On The Commuter Rail blog. The outer stairway to the commuter rail platform at Ruggles station is crumbling. I took my camera in today, and got some pictures and video. The resulting blog entry is pretty huge, but maybe someone will pay attention and forestall a tragedy.

Seriously, who repairs stairs with rust-susceptible parts? And after two years of the stairs being closed for repairs, couldn't they have fixed them well enough so that they'd last for more than sixteen months? I think you'll be surprised by the images.

Ow.

Sep. 17th, 2008 09:33 pm
bobquasit: (Default)
I missed the train this morning.

That happens more often than I would like. I keep saying "We're going to miss the train! Come on, we have to go!"...and then we don't. We get to the station just in time to see the train pull away.

That's really *&#$ing frustrating.

Since Sebastian has to be on the bus in the mornings, Teri and Sebastian have to leave me at the station even if I miss the train. I was really pissed off this morning, stuck at the station for 45 minutes, so I spent all that time walking up and down the full length of the Franklin/Dean platform. 318 steps, one way. I did it about 14 times.

And now I have a blister on the back of my right heel that's about two inches across. It hurts quite a bit.

Grrrr.

T Poem

Aug. 13th, 2008 10:12 am
bobquasit: (Default)
This poem started writing itself in my head during my commute this morning. It may still need work, so I'm going to post it here and see if anything more develops in my brain. Your feedback would be welcome, of course.

The Mystery Train

The Mystery Train is a train of excitement,
With windows so clouded that you cannot see
The signs for the station that you might be passing
Or IF there's a station, or where it might be.

You stare in confusion at windows so frosted
An x-ray machine couldn't peer through the haze.
Is my stop coming up? Or have I just passed it?
Or am I a minotaur lost in a maze?

The conductors all thoughtfully aid in the mystery,
Never breathing a word which might pierce that dark veil
Where is the train going? Are we passing a station?
Was that blob Back Bay station, or was it Montvale?

If YOU want to ride on the train full of mystery
They're rolling along on the tracks every day
Pay your fare, hop on board, and soon you'll discover
Life is never a bore on the MBTA.




Or perhaps the last two lines should be

"You might never get to the place you were going,
But that's how it is on the MBTA."

...or something like that.
bobquasit: (Default)
Sorry I haven't posted in a while. I've been pretty busy, and there has been a lot to deal with.

One thing that's kind of interesting is that the T has finally - wait, I need to explain first. If you don't read my Charlie On the Commuter Rail blog (and why should you, if you don't ride the T?) you might need a little set-up.

Basically ridership skyrocketed on the commuter rail over the past month or so. Some time during that month, the T cut the train down from six single-level coaches to five. The situation got so bad that people were being jammed into the vestibules of the trains: the areas between coaches, where passengers are NOT supposed to ride. Apparently they're crumple zones.

This was happening every day, and on average there were 12-14 people jammed into the vestibules alone. The aisles in the coaches were likewise jammed. I estimated that there were approximately 200 standees per train, every day.

Since standees are by far more likely to be seriously injured or killed in the event of an accident, a lot of us standees were pretty outraged.

I've mentioned all this this here before, of course.

Anyway, I wrote to the Governor and got a response within 24 hours - and it was a fairly responsive response, too. They made no promises, though, so I decided that I'd continue pushing the issue until something was actually done. So last Friday I brought my camera to take some decent-quality video of the overcrowding situation.

I got a shock when the train pulled up: it was five coaches, all right, but four of them were double-level coaches! I figured it was a fluke, so I brought the camera again on Monday, Sure enough, there were four double-level coaches again. I was even able to get a seat after the Dedham stop, which is much earlier than usual.

I got an email from the MBCR that day. They told me that the train had been "returned" to it's proper capacity. This puzzled me, since it had never BEEN a double-coach train in my experience, and it had never had that capacity. But nonetheless, the Franklin #715 train has continued in the same configuration all week: four double-level coaches and one single-level coach. On Tuesday I actually got a seat when I got on at Ruggles. Nobody rode in the vestibules, and only a few people were standing.

I'm sure that my agitating played only a small role at most in getting an adequate amount of seating put on that run. Odds are that the real reason for the change was that the conductors hadn't been able to collect a penny in fares for weeks. But it's nice to think that my work might have helped make a difference, and made a lot of people a bit safer and more comfortable.
bobquasit: (Default)
Sir,

For the past 3-4 weeks the Franklin #715 train (departing South Station at 4:10pm) has been desperately overcrowded. Not only is every aisle full of standees, but passengers are being forced to ride in the vestibules between the coaches as well. By my estimate there were at least 190 standees yesterday on the five-coach #715.

This is now TYPICAL of the ridership on that train.

It is, of course, forbidden for passengers to ride in the vestibules due to safety concerns - but there is simply no other option.

Conductors are unable to collect fares. Two days ago I stood for half an hour next to a woman who was six-months pregnant; she couldn't get a seat, and had to physically squeeze past standees along half the aisle to get off at her stop.

Given that standees have a much greater likelihood of being injured during an accident, the current state of overcrowding presents a daily hazard to a large and increasing number of riders. This matter is urgent, and needs to be addressed immediately.

MBCR and MBTA management have repeatedly refused to address this issue. Please do not simply forward me to MBTA/MBCR management; they will not take any action. Large numbers of MBTA passengers are being placed in danger on a daily basis, and there is no sign that ridership is going to decrease. Please take meaningful action.


I've also contacted the Boston Globe and Boston Herald - I'll let you know if either follows up with me.
bobquasit: (Default)
I got on the train at Forge Park this morning. As it pulled into the next stop - Dean College - there was a sudden, violent jerk. It felt as if there had almost been a crash.

Unfortunately my knee must have been in just the wrong place at the wrong time. There are some blunt corners on each seat-back, and the jerk jammed one of them into the space under the edge of my kneecap. Instantly I was plunged into violent, blinding pain such as I've rarely experienced. It was so severe that I doubled over, and was barely able to keep from vomiting. The pain lasted for several minutes, which was a long time, believe me.

I hate the MBTA.

Graffiti

Jan. 30th, 2008 01:42 pm
bobquasit: (Default)
I was looking out the window of the train on my morning commute, and I saw something spray-painted under a bridge:

"ALL WOMEN ARE WHORES"


It surprised me, because it wasn't the usual illiterate gang scrawl. I found myself wondering who had wrote it, and what his story was.

Assuming, of course, that it was a man. If not, I expect that the story would be even more interesting!
bobquasit: (Default)
Yesterday my train home was short a car AND two of the five remaining coaches had no AC. It was 90 degrees out, so inside those two AC-less cars it was hot as hell.

If you want to read the details, you can see them over on the Charlie On the Commuter Rail blog.

Anyway, the crowding in the three cool cars was so bad that I decided to take a few pictures. I used my cell phone to snap some shots. The first one (the one that I used) was through the window; I actually spent most of the ride in the vestibule, along with several other riders, because we were between two cool cars and there was just no way to get inside either car.

But when a conductor came in from outside and tried to start taking tickets, I snapped a couple more pictures through the open door. This caused a bit of a stir. She turned on me and asked if I'd just taken a picture. The door was closing, so I smiled and nodded. She wasn't willing to accept that, so she opened the door and asked me again if I'd been taking pictures.

"Yes," I answered.

"Of what?"

"I just wanted a picture of the crowd," I replied.

She didn't seem entirely satisfied, but let it go.

The odd thing is that apparently a few other people might have been upset. I got some odd looks from one or two of them as they came out at later stops, and one older woman stared me right in the eye and said "Don't take any more pictures!". I couldn't quite tell if she was hostile or what, but she passed relatively quickly. I didn't have my cell phone in hand, so I don't think she thought I was about to take a snapshot.

T policy allows photography, and I only take pictures of crowds; I don't focus in on individuals, and don't post my photos at a high enough resolution for the members of a crowd to be easily recognizable. Feel free to check it out for yourself; the picture is on the Charlie blog. There are no full-face close-ups.

Still...it was a weird experience.

Train

Aug. 14th, 2007 09:25 am
bobquasit: (Default)
This morning on the train I was the only person willing to get up and offer their seat to a little girl and her father. I ended up sitting on the train stairs for a while, and then later got a seat when someone got off the train.

*sigh*

MBCR Lies?

Aug. 2nd, 2007 08:35 pm
bobquasit: (Default)
The main thrust of the BostonNOW! article that I was quoted in recently was that there were a lot more coaches on the commuter rail with working AC. In fact, it claimed that only ONE out of their 333 coaches didn't have working AC.

So I suppose it was inevitable that on the ride home tonight (the #715 Franklin), there were not one but TWO coaches without AC. The #641 and #629 coaches, to be precise.

Did the MBCR lie? I wouldn't be surprised. I'm also sure that there are other coaches without AC, for that matter - although I don't expect the MBCR to admit it!

The rest of the coaches were jammed beyond belief, and there were some young children in the hot coaches who were crying and begging their parents to take them off the train. I felt bad for them.

But at least we all have the comfort of knowing that MBCR and MBTA executives are always riding in air-conditioned luxury!
bobquasit: (Default)
The story was run while I was on vacation. I find it interesting that the MBCR spokesman was flat-out misleading in the story; he claimed that a locomotive could only pull so many coaches, which is true, but overlooks the fact that the #715 Franklin train only has six single-level coaches at most - which is almost certainly well below its maximum load.

http://www.bostonnow.com/news/local/2007/07/31/a_year_later_on_the_rails_no_sweat/

T stuff

Jul. 19th, 2007 10:23 pm
bobquasit: (Default)
Today the train home was unusually empty: there were six people forced to stand, and four or five empty seats. They were empty for various reasons, but two of them were empty because there were oversized people sitting next to them. So technically, only two people really needed to be standing, assuming that two of the standees were willing to be crushed up against a fat guy.

I did pick a random coach on the Needham Heights #619 - actually, it was a middle coach, in the same position on the train as the coach I normally get into in Franklin. It's the third one back from the engine. Anyway, I counted five two-person seats and ten three-person seats on the Needham train that were totally empty. That's forty, count 'em forty empty seats on one coach - and believe me, most of the other seats were NOT filled to capacity. Meanwhile, every coach on the Franklin train six minutes later had multiple people standing.

I'm thinking of starting up an open blog for Massachusetts commuter rail passengers. There doesn't seem to be anything like that right now, and there's a crying need for it. But I could use some advice. What would be the best service to use? I'm not going to be spending money on this. Blogger, maybe? Do they allow you to pick an URL?

Also, what might be a good, catchy, easy-to-remember name for a commuter rail complaint blog? I'd appreciate any suggestions!
bobquasit: (Default)
Filed another "concern" with the MBCR today.


Tonight after the outbound Ruggles stop, car #234 of the #715 Franklin train had 21 people standing - including three children.

After the Dedham stop, eight people were still left standing in that car. Other cars on the train were similarly overcrowded, or more so.

As it happens, I checked a random single-level coach on the #619 Needham Heights train which stopped at Ruggles at 4:13 PM. There were eight three-person seats and six two-person seats which were COMPLETELY empty.

I have nothing against the people on the Needham Heights line; I have relatives in Needham. But I have to wonder why the people of the Franklin line are being shortchanged on seating, while other lines seem to have more capacity than they need.



I don't plan to file daily concerns (I suspect they'd like to spamblock me as it is), but 21 standees and three children is just ridiculous.
bobquasit: (Default)
What the hell. I wrote to the Governor.


The #715 Franklin commuter train is dangerously overcrowded. On Friday, 7/13/07, there was a medical emergency in the coach next to mine; a woman had passed out. Passengers tried to notify a conductor, but there were none to be found. When a passenger tried to come into our coach looking for one, he was completely unable to pass through the aisle. I counted 33 people standing in that coach, including myself. We had to resort to trying to shout out a message to be passed down the line to the next coach. It took several minutes, perhaps longer, to finally get a conductor.

I assume that the ill woman's condition wasn't serious (I spoke to a nurse who tended to her on the train). If her condition HAD been serious, the delay caused by the dangerous overcrowding of that train could have caused a tragedy.

I've been riding the #715 Franklin from Ruggles (departing at 4:19 PM) every day for several years. In that time, I've been able to get a seat less than ten times. I'm never the only one left standing; on average, I've counted 11 standees in each coach. Usually most of us are forced to stand until the train starts clearing out at Norwood Central. That's over 25 minutes standing on a lurching train, often in conditions so crowded that some passengers have nothing to hold on to.

At the same time, the Needham Heights train which stops at Ruggles at 4:13 always has AT LEAST eight fully empty seats per coach.

I and other passengers have written and called the MBCR. We've never received any satisfaction. Conductors are usually rude and unresponsive to complaints. I wrote to Governor Romney two years ago and after five months received a form-letter response and no other action.

And don't even get me started about coaches without air conditioning! On hot days the temperature in some coaches is in excess of 100 degrees. That's a medical emergency just waiting to happen.

Passengers are angry - I know, because we chat about the lousy service we're getting. We're sick of being told that there are plenty of seats. Our eyes (and feet) tell us otherwise. We've been lied to again and again by the MBCR, told that two-level coaches can't fit on the tracks (funny, they fit well enough on later runs on the same track), and that an annual survey ensures that there are more than enough seats for all.

That's simply not true, and we know it. We see other trains which have far more seating for passengers. To be honest, a lot of us have given up complaining, because it's obvious that management simply doesn't care. I wouldn't have bothered this time, except that the medical emergency on Friday made it clear that the MBTA/MBCR's negligence is going to have terrible results sooner or later.

I hope that you'll take action on this issue. Thanks for your time.



I hope he'll be more responsive than Mitt Romney was.
bobquasit: (Bad Sam!)
I'm posting this because it covers something that I was going to write about a few days ago. Unlike the other letter, which went directly to the MBCR, this one is going to the head of the MBTA - it's a column he does in the Metro. I'll elaborate after the letter.


I've been riding the #715 Franklin train from Ruggles (at 4:19 PM) for more than three years now. In that time I have been able to get a seat less than ten times. Often ten or more people are left standing in whatever coach I'm in. The same overcrowding takes place in all six coaches. On many days the train is so crowded that people are jammed in the aisles.

Yet the #619 Needham Heights which stops at Ruggles at 4:13 always has AT LEAST eight fully empty seats per coach. Why?

Last Friday (7/13) I counted 33 people standing in my coach; it was impossible to move down the aisle. There was a medical emergency, and passengers were unable to move down the car in search of help. We had to resort to shouting to try to get the word passed to a conductor that a woman had passed out. It took ten minutes or more for a conductor to arrive. Had the woman's condition been serious, the delay caused by overcrowding could have had serious consequences.

I've spoken to MBCR employees many times in the past and filed "concerns". I've never received the least satisfaction. I've been told over and over that the annual ridership survey insures adequate seating. In this case, I'll believe my eyes rather than MBCR spokespeople who've lost all credibility.

The conductors are often rude. I've personally seen instances in which a conductor has neglected their post, leaving it up to fellow passengers to open the stairways for pregnant women and handicapped veterans - this is NOT an exaggeration.

We passengers often discuss the terrible service we receive. Many of us are paying more than $200 a month for our passes, and yet we can't get a seat until Norwood Central or later - that's 25 minutes or more spent standing, crammed elbow to elbow with other passengers.

Many of us have filed complaints, only to receive the same completely unsatisfactory responses. Frankly, we've given up making complaints. It's clear that management couldn't care less.



The woman looked as if she were in her late 30s, blonde, a bit chubby. A pregnant nurse managed to struggle through the crowd from our coach and reach her; so did a paramedic on the other side. There wasn't much they could do without equipment, but they monitored her. That's more than those two conductors were doing; when they finally arrived (where the hell where they?), all they did was stand there and gawk at her.

The train stopped at Readville for 20 minutes until and ambulance came and paramedics with a stretcher took the woman off. As we were waiting, several of us who were standing in the vestibule were chatting; we'd been pushed into the vestibule to allow the nurse to get through the crowd. Suddenly, a fat woman came to the door and yelled that the door should be closed to keep in the air conditioning, and slammed the door in our faces. It hadn't been particularly hot, but apparently that lard-ass felt that every little bit of AC was vital to her well-being - more vital than ordinary everyday politeness, obviously.

Jesus, I'm pissed off tonight.
bobquasit: (Default)
I have been riding on this line for over three years, and can count the number of times I've been able to get a seat on my fingers. Tonight there were 11 people standing in the coach that I was in, and at least six had to stand in the vestibule. Far more were standing in the coach on the other side of the vestibule. Every seat was full.

This is nothing new. The #715 Franklin train is ALWAYS overcrowded. Yet the #619 Needham Heights which stops at Ruggles at 4:13 always has AT LEAST eight fully empty seats per coach.

Your conductors are arrogant and rude. Your prices are ridiculous - over $200 per month and you don't even put on enough coaches to allow passengers to sit? You pack us in like animals, except that it would be a crime to treat animals like this.

Don't give me the same old story about two-level coaches not fitting on the line. They fit fine in the morning. And don't tell me about the survey of ridership - I believe my own eyes, not the many reassurances I've had from MBCR spokespersons that there are always adequate seats. You have no credibility left on that point.

In hundreds of rides I've had less than ten chances to sit down - and I'm never the only one forced to stand. It's rare to have a chance to sit before Norwood Central.

I've discussed the incredibly bad service with many other passengers, and agreement is universal: management doesn't give a damn and won't do a thing about it. Many say they've complained, and have since given up. It's like talking to a brick wall.

I realize that this is a waste of my time, but I just want you to know that there are a lot of us who are really angry about your contemptible service.

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