There are some absurdly obvious ways to improve the T. One study was done in NYC which showed that making the busses free would actually save them money, as the gas/time spent idling (and delayed) actually cost them more than fares. I wouldn't go this far, but I'd say that if there are 50 people in line to get on a bus, that they shouldn't charge a fare to just get things on-time. As-is, I see bus drivers hold up things all the time for one person counting their nickles to get on the bus; that is simply inefficient. - http://www.economist.com/blogs/gulliver/2013/06/fares
Other places like Park St could be massively improved. Have one side of the platform (outer side), be the side that people get on the trains from, and the center area be the place that people get off the train. This would streamline foot traffic in the station. Make some stairways one-way to additionally streamline foot traffic.
For some reason, Boston never planned for bypass capability, for trains to be able to get around stations, run express or in parallel. NYC did it, and it helps a great deal with construction, disabled trains, express trains, etc... Not all the the T is 100+ years old, and for newer lines/stations such certainly could have been done.
I could probably sit here all day and think of basic improvements to help with things like this, but it takes the T forever to implement anything. How many years did it take to get the signs on the Red/Green lines operational for tracking train positions (a trivial problem in my mind, from an electrical and implementation side. These days, I'd just use iBeacons...)
And, you might have missed at the bottom of the page... here's a realtime version: https://mbta.meteor.com/
> I could probably sit here all day and think of basic improvements to help with things like this
You probably could, but armchair-quarterbacking on HN isn’t going to help anything. Take your ideas over to http://www.meetup.com/Code-for-Boston/. I’m sure they would love the help.
The MBTA provided the data, which is as transparent as it gets. Getting analysis from a 3rd party provides a level of impartiality that this data needs.
I used/use the D.C. metro system since I was a kid and this has always been an issue with the system. As it gets older, the system gets more unreliable (and constant budget issues from having to span 3 territories continue to defer basic maintenance) it's getting worse and worse. During the summer you're lucky to get 5 continuous days of trouble-free service. Even worse, issues on unrelated lines spill over onto working lines and the entire system grinds to a halt. Even worse, the ride is pretty bad, it's as bumpy as the NYC system, which you wouldn't expect with it being half a century newer. But it's the maintenance that's at fault for all that.
But NYC is unusual in that it has such redundancy built into it, I don't think even other large systems of similar vintage (London, Paris) have such a robust system. Doing so these days is likely so expensive it'll just never happen elsewhere. Even the newest line being built for the D.C. system is single tracked.
That being said, NYC still has issues, probably stemming from it being basically ancient (so does London and Paris). It's a noisy, uncomfortable ride, with stations seemingly randomly closed and a service schedule that's pretty opaque once until you've used it for a long time.
Recently, I was in London, and almost everyday there was some kind of outage on the Tube. It's fortunate that stations are close enough, and the bus system so good, that you can work your way around it without too much fuss (and the TfL did a remarkably good job getting employees out and about to redirect people). It's just part of being an old system, the maintenance becomes pretty heavy.
I worry about the gleaming newer systems in Asia. Huge, complex, mostly built within the last 30-40 years...mostly single tracked like everywhere else. What's going to happen when these systems are more than 100 years old like the MTA or the Tube?
I found this part of the Wikipedia article especially interesting:
> Used for leisure journeys, the RER has had a major social impact. By bringing far-flung suburbs within easy reach of central Paris, the network has aided the reintegration of the traditionally insular capital with its periphery.
That's what suburban train systems usually do, isn't it? You get on the train in the middle of the city and in 40 minutes there's lakes and forests and everything.
By all accounts, it worked pretty well.
I'm not at all familiar with Boston, but I know a fair bit about DC and the main issue is pretty straightforward - tunneling is monstrously expensive.
Combine that with a lack of dedicated funding and the competing interests of DC / MD / VA for what funding there is you'll hear 'premature optimization' faster than an HN thread suggesting a three tiers for a startup web site.
That's before you consider that the system is shallow enough near the center to run alongside anything with three or more basement levels and the fallibility of switch gear.
it is even more expensive in parts of Boston known for having the worst problems. The Green Line (which isn't even analyzed) runs through Back Bay, which is largely landfill without very good engineering properties. Combine this with running under many buildings that are National Historic Landmarks and have shown shifting with bits of construction such as adding an elevator, these tunnels are pretty much impossible to expand.
On a related note, what Somerville is doing right next door: https://data.somervillema.gov
They haven't extended the T since I think the 80s (Not counting those silver line buses). The green line extension is coming anytime now....
Massachusetts has a hard time getting stuff done, but it does seem to happen eventually (convention center, new garden, big dig).
Part of the problem is the lack of state (or county which barely exists here) control to push stuff through. The red line doesn't go to Arlington because they didn't want it. The garage at Ailewife station doesn't have enough spaces and the T doesn't have the money to expand parking to meet demand.
You are right, you can sit here all day and come up with improvements.
The commuter rail system has been extended (Worcester, Old Colony) and those relatively simple expansion ran into huge obstacles because of community and environmental concerns.
The red line doesn't go to Arlington because they didn't want it.
Thanks to NEPA. The problem is trying to find the right balance between letting NIMBYs dominate the conversation vs letting the state push through a transportation project that destroys neighborhoods (a la the original elevated artery). If the problem was easy to solve, it would have been solved by now.
Heh, I was going to respond "but Assembly Square is moving so fast". Then I read the Wikipedia and saw that it was declared blighted in 1979, and didn't actually see much improvement until 2005. Construction on the new mixed-use development has been moving rather well over the past two years though, after the IKEA legal tango was finally resolved.
Yeah, I already much prefer Assembly Row but it was useful from a bargain hunting sense.
I wouldn't go that far either -- but why not decouple the functions of driver and ticket checker. This is already done in some systems and seems to work well. The people pay for their ticket at the station instead of the bus and stamp it themselves when then board (with a time stamp). (or avoid the process by buying monthly pass).
Then people can board directly through the back doors as well because the driver doesn't need to check.
Periodically, a ticket-checker or police-type of person comes through and gives fines (lets say $50) to those who don't have a ticket.
1. Drivers might be in less of a hurry. MBTA busses frequently run red lights and/or sit in the middle of intersections creating gridlock. [Source: Pick any busy downtown intersection during rush hour and wait <15 minutes. Watch.]
2. In my (admittedly limited) observation, Boston bus riders tend to fall into two groups.
(a) Relatively affluent riders connecting to the T (the subway or trolley). The MBTA will still get some money.
(b) Relatively poor riders commuting solely by bus to one of the multiple jobs they're holding down per day. Consider this a kind of reverse sales tax.
The best solution is to have cashless buses. In London, you can only use Oyster card or visa/MasterCard/Amex contact less payment cards to ride. It seems to have smoothed things considerably.
Even when I'm in a top-20 city (instead of a top-5), I could still be persuaded to take the bus if IT systems make it easy and convenient.
Believe it or not, there are people working for these systems who are both willing and capable of making that happen. Unfortunately, there's a trump card of paranoid ass-covering which routinely squashes such aspirations:
I worked with a transit agency was not just capable of sending texts, but had a surprisingly slick mobile-ready, web app for displaying realtime, animated schedules in 2008.
Someone got up in a meeting and said 'What if terrorists use that information?'
Today, six years later they don't have so much as a reliable API available to the public.
Do you commute from the north part of the city to the west part of the city? Plan an extra hour per day for the next 30 months or so.
For the next couple of years, getting from the airport or north shore to metro west is a Blue > Orange > Green transfer, which is definitely much more of a hassle. It would have been nice for them to leave a corridor open between the Green & Blue trains at Gov't Center, but then you'd have the liability of people walking around inside a construction zone.
I've never been happier that I work in Watertown.
Edit: the blue line does not serve Charlestown. Brain fart.
I wish that Boston's RGBOSi system did this. it would make life so much easier getting from one line to another.
Boston's really into transit-disrupting projects. Big Dig aside, the Longfellow is (mostly) out of commission for... three...years...
As a former resident, yipes. Sometimes it feels like they're trying to measure just how hard people want to live here.
Thankfully, the red line is still going, bike/pedestrian access is still allowed, and one car lane is open Boston-bound.
The chart I'm talking about is in Tufte's Envisioning Information, and is one of my favorite examples in all of his books: https://pbs.twimg.com/media/BpxpK-1CIAAl2yH.png:large
EDIT OP, where did you get the data?
>Service starts at 5AM on Mondaymorning. Each line represents thepath of one train. >Time continuesdownward, so steeper lines indicateslower trains.
Has anyone else noticed this issue? (Arch Linux, Chrome: 35.0.1916.114)