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"Anything and Everything Boston"
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    At summit of Sugarloaf last winter
     Ski season is slowly creeping up on us! Killington Mountain in Vermont and Sunday River in Maine are some of the only mountains in the east that are currently open daily, but from what I have seen, most of the resorts in MA, NH, VT, and ME will be opening by the end of the month.

    Ski season is one of my favorite times of year. I have been skiing the mountains of New England for over 15 years, trying to hit the slopes on every one of them. Since starting college though,  I have found it harder to head up to the mountains. Like most ski bums who live in the city I have no car, so driving is out of the question. There are also no mountains within a 10 mile radius of the city so there's no way I'm taking a cab.Well, city skiers fret not because here is my list of the easiest ways to get to some of the best mountains in New England
    by way of good 'ole public transportation!

    The MBTA:
    The MBTA's Ski Coach 
    In 2007 the MBTA and MBCR partnered up with Wachusett Mountain to create the "Take the Rails to the Trails" Ski Train program and this year it is once again returning! Once the ski season is officially underway at Wachusett Mountain, located in Princeton, MA, the MBTA will start to run their Ski Train every Saturday and Sunday. The schedule for the train has yet to be determined but last year the train left North Station at 8:45am and arrived at the Fitchburg Commuter Rail station at 10:06am. The train departs from Fitchburg back to Boston at 5:45pm. Wachusett Mountain provides a free shuttle from the Fitchburg station to the mountain. Each train is equipped with a specially designed "Ski Coach" which makes it easier for passengers to stow their belongings. The coach has the capacity to hold 42 passengers, 34 sets of skis, and 12 snowboards. For those of you who are bike fanatics this is the same coach that the MBTA converted into a bike coach. Last year the MBTA charged $7.75 one way for the train ticket but this year with the fare increase it will probably be around $10.00.

    Amtrak: The Vermonter
    As most of you know Vermont is well known for having one of the longest ski seasons in the country.  Amtrak's Vermonter Service runs on 611 miles of rail and travels from Washington D.C. through Springfield and Amherst, MA. to St. Albans VT. The Vermonter stops in Waterbury, close to Stowe Mt., Sugarbush, and Bolton Valley. The St. Albans stop is also very close to one of my favorite resorts, Jay Peak. Some ski areas and inns provide shuttle service from train stations, but skiers should call ahead for prices -- which vary -- and reservations. Stowe Taxi Service charges $15 for one person or $20 for two or three people to transport skiers from the Waterbury/Stowe stop to the Stowe ski area. Shuttle service only to Mount Snow from the Brattleboro stop is $26.50. The drive takes about 35 minutes. Overall, the Vermonter is not only one of Amtrak's most scenic routes it is also one of the easiest ways to get to Vermont's greatest ski resorts from Massachusetts.  The train also has a specialty baggage car that has racks to hold tons of skis.

    Amtrak: The Downeaster
    As I stated in an earlier post The Downeaster is without a doubt my favorite train. The Downeaster is owned by the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority and is operated by Amtrak. It was put into revenue service in December of 2001 and currently runs five round-trip trains daily from Boston's North Station to Portland, Maine and three daily round trips between Portland and Brunswick, Maine. Over it's almost 10 years in service the Downeaster has become Amtrak's fastest growing service moving over 500,000 passengers this year. 

    Unfortunately, this train actually doesn't bring you very close to any ski resorts in Maine. What I usually do is have my friend, who goes to school in Maine, pick me up in Portland and we head up to Sugarloaf! If you're a die-hard however, from the Portland Transportation Center you can take a bus (Concord Coach) to Augusta Maine and head to a resort from there. Resorts close to The Augusta Transportation Center include the Camden Snow BowlEaton Mountain, and The Lost Valley Ski Area.

    I hope some of will try and take the "rails to the trails" this winter! Not only is it convenient for those of us who live in the city but it is also better than taking out another loan to buy gas for your car. 

    Have a great ski season!



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  • 02/26/13--11:06: Boston to a T is Back!
  • It's been almost three months since I have posted here on Boston to a T, but I'm finally back!

    I would first like to apologize to all of my loyal readers. The past three months have truly been very busy ones for me. I accepted a new job, I was involved in a musical production at my school, and was sill trying to focus on all of my school work. During this time, Boston to a T was unfortunately put on the back burner.

    Now that I finally have some free time in my life, it's time to bring Boston to a T back to life.

    I have a long list of posts that I am vigorously working to get posted in the weeks to come, so please stay tuned. As always I am always looking for guest contributors as well as ideas for different topics you would like me to cover.

    For more updates and other fun posts be sure to follow us on Twitter and "like" our Facebook page.

    Best,

    Dan Lampariello

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    Governor Deval Patrick wants to bring South Station back to its former glory with an $850 million expansion project. The expansion has become a prominent part of his multi-billion dollar transportation plan. 

    The project would include demolishing the United States Postal Service sorting facility adjacent to South Station. This would free up space to add 7 more tracks to the 13 that are currently serving the station. 

    Having a total of 20 tracks serving the station would allow for faster and more reliable rail travel. 

    Check out our video package about the project below:



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    I can't believe it's already been two years since Boston to a T was founded.

    Boston to a T was started in a dorm room at Suffolk University two years ago yesterday. We  began as a blog that showcased to college students what it was like to live in the heart of Boston. Over the past two years however, we have transformed into a platform dedicated to informing the public about the inner workings of Boston's public transportation system.

    First, we would truly like to thank you for reading and following Boston to a T. If you read us on a daily basis, follow us on Twitter, or just accidentally stumbled upon the page we thank you for supporting us over the past two years.

    For me, creating this blog has not only helped me strive to become a better journalist, but it has also instilled in me a love for urban development and planning, hospitality, and of course transportation.


    Over the past two years we have posted over 120 different articles. They have ranged from feature stories, to field trips, and even some history posts. Social media has also been a large part of Boston to a T's success. Through our  twitter, Facebook page, and Youtube accounts, we have been able to give our followers a different perspective on things happening around the city.

    We have also been able to meet and speak with the MBTA  CFO Jonathan Davis, MassDOT Secretary Richard Davey, MBCR General Manager Hugh Kiley and many other notable members of the Boston community. 

    Boston to a T was founded on the platform of informing the public. We made it our mission to inform the people of  Boston, and its outlying suburbs, about the happenings around the city and information about the MBTA. 

    As we move forward, we will continue to look for even more ways to help bring information to Boston residents and commuters alike. We are committed to using this blog and other social media platforms to put pressure on the MBTA and other Boston organizations to be more transparent.

    Happy Commuting, Happy Reading, and of course THANK YOU for supporting Boston to a T!


    - Dan Lampariello

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         Delays are a regular occurrence on the MBTA, especially during the winter months. You might read online or get an alert on your phone that your train or line is experiencing delays due to a mechanical failure, medical emergency, or signal problem but what does the MBTA actually mean when they use these terms? 

    Here is Boston to a T's list of MBTA "Delay Terms" and our interpreted definitions. 


    Mechanical failures
        
          A mechanical failure can include any failures related to locomotion, braking (traction, pneumatic) and electricity. Due to the fact that commuter rail operation is such a dynamic system involving multiple systems working together, many issues can constitute a mechanical failure.  Engine failure can relate to either the main driver engine which powers the locomotive or to the Head End Power (H.E.P.) generator which generates all of the electricity & power for the train set. Mechanical failures happen all to often, this is due to the age of the MBTA's locomotive fleet (the majority of which are over 30 years old).

    Disabled Train
       
         A train can become "disabled" due to a number of different problems. The trains AC or DC traction motors and propulsion system may blow out and prevent the train from moving, the braking system may not be working properly, there may be an electrical problem, or a computer fault. Any number of "mechanical failures" will cause a train to be "disabled". 
        
    Signal Problem 

        One of the most common reasons for a signal problem is the interruption of a circuit between a signal and the signal's relay. This would cause all signals within an area (or block) to go to red. This will result in any train within the block to have to stop (and of course all trains behind it) until the prblem can be resolved. Sometimes it will reset on its own, other times signal personnel have to go to the signal, and check all the signals in the area to see where the prioblem started and then correct it. This takes time, and thus causes delays. Signal problems can occur all over the MBTA system. There are a few lines, however, that these delays are much more common. Due to the age of it's signal system the Fithcburg line is constantly plagued by delays. There are however plans in place to fully upgrade that system.

    Speed Restriction


    A heat kink on the WMATA
    Photo: WMATA
         Speed restrictions can be put into place on an area of rail due to a large amount of reasons. One of the most common is heat restrictions. In the past CSX (the freight rail company that once owned most of the Worcester line) would implement a speed restriction on the Worcester line when temperatures would reach about 90F. Steel rails slowly expand and contract as temperatures rise and fall. In fact, an 1800-foot length of rail will expand almost one foot with an 80-degree change in temperature.With welded rail the normal tendency to expand must be constrained internally by securing the rail. Engineering measures, including heating the rail, are taken when rail is installed to account for rail expansion and contraction. The ties, rock ballast, and rail anchors must be strong enough to keep the rail solidly in place instead of expanding or contracting. Under extreme heat, the rail, on rare occasions, wins the expansion battle and a heat kink occurs. A heat kink causes the track to shift laterally causing a curve in what is otherwise a straight pair of rails.Speed restrictions can also be caused by construction, signal problems, and medical emergencies.

    Medical Emergency

         Although medical emergencies are somewhat self explanatory, there are still a few different things that can cause one to be put into place. Someone can be physically sick or hurt on a train and need the assistance of an ambulance. This causes the train to move to the nearest station and standby until medical personnel and transit police can arrive. The train will not be released until the scene is cleared. Another cause can be a trespasser being struck by a train. Accidents like this will cause major delays on that rail line. There will be extensive police activity, and speed restrictions will be put into place if other trains are able to pass the scene. 
    A fire at Chinatown Station in 2012

     Police / Fire Department Activity 


         Police and Fire department activity is a delay that happens anytime the police or fire departments need to be called to an MBTA train, station, or other property. It could be because of an unruly passenger, an electrical fire in a station, or a person jumping into the subway pit. 

    Amtrak Interference (Providence/Stoughton/Lowell/Haverhill)

         This delay is just as it states. Trains are delayed due to an interference with an Amtrak train. Usually these delays happen on the Northeast Corridor (which Amtrak owns and therefore has priority over MBTA trains). If an Amtrak train is late it will then cause the trains that follow it to be late. This can also happen on the Lowell and Haverhill lines where 
    Amtrak's Downeaster runs. 

    Freight Interference (Fitchburg/Worcester)


         Once again this is just as it states. Trains are delayed due to an interference with a freight train. Usually these delays happen on the Fitchburg and Framingham/Worcester Lines. CSX and PanAm Railways are the prime culprits, in this area, when it comes to freight interference. 


    Downed Wire

    MBTA Type-8 LRV pantograph and catenary. 

         A downed wire can cause MAJOR delays on the railroad. Currently only the Green Line, part of the Blue Line and the entire Northeast Corridor have over head electric wire. Over head electric wire, or catenary,  is a system of overhead wires used to supply electricity to a locomotivestreetcar, or light rail vehicle which is equipped with a pantograph. Non-electric trains (such as the MBTA's diesel locomotives) may pass along these tracks without affecting the catenary. Downed catenary wires can be caused by tree limbs falling over, high winds, and broken support brackets. 




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    This makes me want to run the marathon!
    BTAT file photo: April 2011
         The city of Boston will be abuzz with tourists, runners, and their families next past weekend, as everyone gathers for the 117th annual Boston Marathon

    It is the oldest annual city race in the world and attracts some 500,000 spectators along the route every year (To give some perspective, the entire population of Boston proper stands at just over 617,000.) Over 20,000 runners participate every year, making this a major event for Boston.

    With more people filing into the city, streets, attractions, stores, and YES the MBTA will be much more crowded that usual. 

    If you plan on utilizing the MBTA on Monday April, 15 there are a few things that you should know: 


    Subway & BRT

    • Red, Orange, Green, Blue, and Silver line service will run on a NORMAL weekday schedule and will run at rush-hour levels before and after the race. 

    • Copley Station will beCLOSEDall day. Customers wanting to get to the Marathon will have to use Hynes Convention Center or Arlington stations. Passengers will only be able to exit from the Boylston Street side of Hynes Convention Center Station. 

    • Word of Advice: If you don't have an MBTA Link-Pass make sure you add value to your Charlie Card before Marathon Monday. Lines will become very long at Charlie vending machines.

    Commuter Rail:

    • ALL MBCR Commuter rail lines will operate on their regular weekday schedules. 


    Bus:

      • Buses and trackless trolleys will operate on a Saturday schedule.



      • The following bus routes willNOT OPERATEon April 15th. 
        •  CT1, CT2, CT3, 4, 19, 52, 67, 68, 79, 84, 85, 114, 121, 131, 170, 217, 221, 245, 424, 424W, 428, 434, 439, 448, 449, 451, 456, 459, 502, 503, 505, 554, 556, 558.

      Crowds near the Prudential Center
      BTAT file photo: April 2011
      • Some buses will be rerouted at certain times during the day to prevent disruption of the race. These routes include: 8, 9, 10, 39, 47, 55, 57, 59, 60, 62, 65, 66, 76, 86, 94, 95, 96, 101, 134, 350, 504. 

      The MBTA expects that with the dramatically increased ridership and extreme crowds on Marathon Monday passengers should expect delays on different parts of the system throughout the day. (Especially Commuter Rail and the Green Line service) Make sure you check MBTA.com or follow @MBTA_Alerts for up-to-date service alerts.

      You can also watch LIVE coverage of the Boston Marathon on the Boston Athletic Association's website: HERE.


      Good luck to ALL of the runners! 



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      Rendering of MPI HSP-46
      Courtesy: MBTA
      Back in July of 2010 the MBTA board of directors approved the purchase of 20 new locomotives to improve the systems aging fleet. The $115 million order was placed with Motive Power Inc. (MPI) which is based in Idaho. Under the contract, MPI was tasked with designing a unique locomotive specifically for the T (HSP-46 locomotive). They would also meet the EPA's tier-3 emissions guidelines.


      Over the past three years the T's order with MPI has been changed quite a bit. In July 2011 a new paint scheme was voted on by the public, The MBTA board of directors then added 7 more locomotives to be to the order in July 2012, and most recently this past April, thirteen more units were added to the order. This changes bring the total order up to 40 brand new locomotives.

      Back in 2010, when the contract was granted to MPI , they were given two and a half years to produce a prototype unit and have sent here to Boston for testing. That date was later pushed back to June of this year.

      Well it's June, and there has yet to be any info released by the MBTA about a prototype coming to Boston or any updates on the order in general.

      The T has not released any official statements saying the order is delayed, but this is a brand new unit and delays do happen. Look what happened with the Rotem bi-level order.

      F-40 #1004 built in 1978
      These new locomotives are vital to the MBTA if they want to maintain reliable transportation for Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Currently the MBTA's oldest in-service locomotives date back to 1978. They are loud, unreliable, and highly inefficient. When the 40 new HSP-46 locomotives replace the oldest units in the MBTA's fleet they will be reducing their diesel fuel consumption by over 1,700,000 gallons per year (according to GE).

      I guess we shall see what the month of June brings. Hopefully we find out that the order is on track and we will see a prototype on the rails very soon.


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      As a follow up to a story we first reported on June 4th Boston To a T can now confirm that the MBTA’s order for 40 new locomotives is about two months behind schedule.
      Last year the MBTA released a statement stating that the first of 3 pilot locomotives would be arriving in Boston this month. According to MBTA spokesperson Joe Pesaturo the first pilot unit will not be shipped out of the Motive Power Industries plant in Boise, Idaho until the end of July.
      Pesaturo blames the delay on "design modifications and improvements". 
      Currently, all 3 pilot units are out of production and are being prepped for testing. One of them will be sent to GE's Transportation Division in Erie, Pennsylvania for testing and the other will be sent to the TTCI test track in Pueblo, Colorado where it will undergo dynamic testing.
      When the third unit arrives here in Boston it will undergo acceptance testing and training will take place. 
      If all goes according to plan we might see the first pilot unit in service by years end. 


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      For the past three years the Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad (the company that operates the commuter rail for the MBTA) has flourished under the leadership of General Manager Hugh Kiley.

      Now a comes a new chapter for MBCR. The company announced yesterday that Bonnie Murphy,  a former safety executive with the Federal Railroad Administration, would succeed Kiley as General Manager. 

      “Bonnie brings strong operational leadership and regulatory expertise to MBCR with her 30 years of railroad experience." says James F. O’Leary, chairman of the MBCR Board of Directors. “MBCR has enjoyed success under Hugh Kiley’s stewardship and we wish him well in his future endeavors.”

      Under Kiley's three years of  leadership, on time performance has been on the rise. The MBCR has met  exceeded the 95 percent benchmark set by the MBTA during Kiley's tenure. 

      Bonnie Murphy says she is looking forward to working with the diverse staff at the MBCR.  “MBCR will continue to focus on service delivery, consistent on-time train performance and safety in its operation, as well as introduce innovations and enhancements that will benefit our customers." says Murphy. 

      Murphy will oversee the day-to-day operations and manage the strategic direction for the MBCR, which provides rail service to the more than 140,000 passengers who ride the MBTA commuter rail system each day.

      This shakeup in leadership comes just as the MBCR's contract with the MBTA is set to expire. The  current contract, which has been in place since July 2011, is set to expire sometime this month. 

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      It's been about four months since the first of 75 new Hyundai-Rotem bi-level coach entered revenue service here in Boston. Although their arrival has been a long time coming they now seem to be a true asset to the commuter rail system. 

      Despite positive reviews from riders, the Rotem cars are no stranger to controversy. Production setbacks at the Hyundai-Rotem plant have caused a series of delays in the $190 Million order. The problems with Rotem became such an issue that then acting MBTA General Manager John Davis had to take a trip to Korea last September to set things straight. 

      Currently there are 26 coaches that have arrived on MBTA property since November  2012 and 12 of them are in constant revenue service. According to MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo the rest of the coaches are now arriving in Boston on a "revised schedule". 

      As for the other 14 cars on T property, they are currently going through an extensive testing program. 4 of them are going through the final stages of testing and should be in service very soon.

      With new equipment comes more reliable service, modern amenities, and increased capacity, and it seems that these coaches will surely bring that to MBTA commuters. 

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      In December of 2011 we posted a story about the history of plans to extend the MBTA's commuter rail system into the State of New Hampshire.

      At the end of that post we talked about how the MBTA, NHDOT, Rockingham Planning Commission  and the towns of Plaistow and Atkinson New Hampshire were all working together to try and extend the MBTA's Haverhill Line to Plaistow. Ultimately the project was shot down by Atkinson residences in early 2012. As of last week however the plan seems to be making a comeback. 

      The New Hampshire Department of Transportation says its studying alternatives for a possible extension and will be holding a public meeting on August 22nd to hear from area residents. 


      When the plan was inroduced in 2011 the residents of Atkinson disliked the idea of having a layover facility in their backyard. In December of 2011, The Plaistow Area Transit Advisory Committee met for the first time in more than a decade to discuss the project. The meeting, which took place at the Atkinson Community Center, was attended by dozens of concerned Atkinson residents and local officials. The meeting eventually turned into a shouting match between residents as committee member Tim Moore tried to explain the facts of the project. According to The Eagle Tribune, the meeting got out of hand numerous times, with people shouting and interrupting each other.

      Plaistow officials have been trying to bring commuter rail service to their area for years. They say that extending the commuter line would ease traffic on NH Route 125 and would help put Plaistow and the surrounding areas into metro Boston commerce. 

      The first step in the project will be for the Town of Plaistow's Executive Council to pass a $658,316 feasibility study. The study will be done by HDR Engineering in Boston and will take about 18 months. The firm will do an environmental assessment of sites for a layover facility and a station platform. The study also would include estimates of the operating cost and forecast ridership.


      Plaistow Town Manager Sean Fitzgerald says it is important for voters to realize the benefits of this project. “This project represents extraordinary opportunities to capitalize on existing infrastructure that would be unique to this rail project,” he said.


      The public meeting will be held at Plaistow Town Hall (145 Main St) at 7pm on August 22nd. 




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    • 08/16/13--08:26: Riding The Patriots Train
    • For the past few years the MBTA has operated a "Football Train" that takes passengers from Boston down to Gillette Stadium for games. Once again, the T will be operating the train for the 2013-14 season.

      The dedicated trains that travel to and from Patriots home games have become essential for fans looking to avoid traffic, high parking fees, and just the overall hassle of driving into Foxborough. According to the T, the current ridership for each game averages about 1,900, compared with about 1,630 in the 2006-2007 season and 1,500 in the 2002-2003 season.
      This year the round trip ticket price is $15. Tickets can be purchased in advance for passengers departing from Boston at the MBCR ticket windows located at South Station, Back Bay and North Station and at Dedham Corp. Center Station on game days. For passengers departing from Rhode Island tickets will be sold exclusivly onboard the train. 

      From Boston, passengers can board the trains at South Station, Back Bay, and Dedham Corp. station. From Rhode Island passengers can board at T.F. Green Airport, Providence, South Attleboro, Attleboro, and Mansfield stations

      Things to remember:

      • NO personal items may be left on the trains during the game.
      • All personal items left on the train will be collected and discarded. 
      • The NFL has a NEW Bag Policy 
      • Trains depart Gillette Stadium Station 30 min after the game ends.

             **All trains depart Gillette Stadium Station exactly a half hour after the game ends. **

               


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      Inside the MBTA Operations Control Center  (OCC)            Courtesy: MBTA


      With last weeks unveiling of the MBTA's new "Next Train" signs for the Green Line, some of you might be wondering why does the Green Line still not have real time arrival data?

      Map of AVI locations       Courtesy: MIT
      Although these new "Next Train" signs are new to the Green Line, the technology that they run on has been around for the past two decades. AVI or automated vehicle indicators are how the Green Line is currently tracked by MBTA employees. 

      Around the system there are a series of AVI readers embedded in the tracks. When a train passes over one of these readers it reports the trains location to the T's Operations Control Center (OCC) which is located at 45 High St in Boston. When a train passes a specific point it's number appears next to that AVI point on a large map at OCC. This means the T knows that a specific train is at or beyond that specific point. When it reaches the next reader it will disappear from the first point and appear on the next one.

      Seems like the T should know where most Green Line trains are right? Unfortunately, it's not that easy. In the central subway, which runs between North Station and Copley Station, the AVI points are somewhat close to one another. When the trains go above ground however, the points are very far apart. All above ground routes are monitored by an actual human being. An MBTA inspector will post themselves at a certain stop along the line and monitor when trains are passing by.
          
      Still a little confused? Here's an example: Lets say Green Line train 3651, which has a destination of Boston College, just passed the AVI point at Copley station. The T knows that the train is at or beyond Copley but it has not yet passed the next point which is at Kenmore Station. Once the that train passes Kenmore the next AVI point isn't until Chestnut Hill Ave. which is 16 stops from Kenmore. On average, that's about a 25 min ride over 3.5 miles. During that time central control has no visual on that train unless the inspector on the line physically reports its position. 

      Overall, the T knows what train will be next (B,C,D,E) but they do not know the spacing between trains. Therefore no real time train data can be determined for the Green Line. These new "Next Train" signs are a big step for the Green Line but bigger and better things are coming. Back in January the MBTA announced that they would have real time tracking data for the Green Line by 2015. Since it's still over a year away, these "next train" signs will have to do for now. 



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    • 10/03/13--09:06: Next Stop: Facebook


    • MBTA riders could soon be receiving updates and alerts by way of a simple Facebook post. The T announced on Wednesday that they have "reclaimed" a Facebook Page, that was once maintained by riders, as their own.

      According to MBTA spokesperson, Kelly Smith, the T is in the middle of "recalibrating" its social media image, "The reclamation of the MBTA Facebook page is another step in that process and we are currently deciding how best it could serve our customers."

      It is still uncertain if the T will begin posting on this newly reclaimed page, but they now have all the necessary tools to do so.

      The page was originally created in 2008 by members of the MBTA Rider Oversight Committee.

      The MBTA has been steadily increasing its presence on social media. Over the past few weeks the T have switched it's Twitter handle from @mbtaGM to @MBTA, gained around 1600 new followers and has become verified by Twitter.

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    • 10/15/13--18:50: So what is Slippery Rail?
    • © 2013 Boston to a T

      Well it's that time of year again. Thats right, it's Fall! The days are getting shorter, nights are getting colder, and the leaves are falling from the trees.

      For the MBTA however it's a different type of season. It's slippery rail season. Slippery rail is very common during the end of end of September through mid-November when leaves are falling from trees and clinging to the tracks below.

      Slippery Rail is caused when a train, which pushes a large amount of pressure onto a rail as it moves, passes over a wet leaf that has been sitting on a rail. Over time the combination of the leaf's oil and water creates a black gooey substance that layers itself on top of the rail. As this black goo builds up on the rail, it makes it much harder for a train's wheels to gain traction.

      During the fall months the residue requires engineers on most railroads in the United States to break earlier and accelerate slower in order to avoid slippage. In extreme circumstances the resultant loss of traction can cause trains to slide through signals or cause inability to pull away from stops or up inclines. If the problem is left unchecked it can cause millions of dollars in damage to equipment and severely cripple on-time performance.

      To fight back against Slippery Rail, the Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad (MBCR), the company that operates the commuter rail system for the T, devised a plan in 2005 to create a high pressure system that would blast water onto the rails and take the gooey residue right off. The high pressure washer trains safely blast away leaves and residue, using 15,000 pounds per square inch of water pressure without causing damage to the rail.

      The MBTA currently owns two pressure washers which were both built by MBCR maintenance employees. The washers include a diesel generator pump, and control cab which are mounted on a flat car. The trains also includes a tank car, which holds 22,000 gallons of water, a caboose, and two work locomotives.

      The trains can travel at speeds of around 15-25MPH while still blasting off residue.

      Prior to the fall season, MBCR crews cut back trees and shrubs along the MBTA's commuter rail routes to hinder leaves from falling onto tracks.

      The MBCR is planning on running train set's during off-peak hours, weekends, and nights this fall.

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      Photo Courtesy: MBTA 
      For years, Boston commuters have had to deal with old equipment, an aging infrastructure, and of course, delays. Something could soon be giving commuters a little bit of hope, however.

      After 3 years of production, the first of 40 new commuter rail locomotives arrived in Boston on Thursday, October 24.

      In July of 2010 the MBTA board of directors approved the initial purchase of 20 new locomotives from Idaho based Motive Power Inc. (MPI). Under the $115 million order, MPI was tasked with designing a unique locomotive specifically for the T, while also meeting the EPA's tier-3 emissions guidelines. Their result was the HSP-46 locomotive.

      Under the order, which has since been increased to 40 locomotives, MPI was supposed to ship one of the first 3 production units here to Boston back in June. Unfortunately, with every new order comes delays. According to MBTA spokesperson Joe Pesaturo the order ended up being about 2 months behind schedule due to "design modifications and improvements".

      When all 40 locomotives are in active service they will be replacing locomotives that have been in operation since the late 70's and early 80's. These new trains will not only increase reliability for commuters but they will also decrease the T's hefty carbon footprint. According to GE, they will reduce the T's diesel fuel consumption by 1,730,000 gallons, saving around $5.2 million a year. A grant from Federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality program will be funding part of the order.

      Although the locomotive is now here in Boston it may still be a while until it enters service. According to Pesaturo "It will now be subjected to rigorous testing and inspections before it is introduced to passenger service next year,".

      Overall, these new locomotives are a win for both the T and their commuters. Lets just hope this order doesn't end up having more setbacks like the Rotem bi-level coaches order.

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      Photo uploaded by zaigee on Flickr

      The Hoosac Tunnel is an almost five mile long tunnel that runs from Florida, Massachusetts to North Adams Massachusetts through the Berkshires. It is the longest, still operational, transportation tunnel east of the Rocky Mountains. Today, the tunnel is only used by PanAm Railways which runs freight traffic through the tunnel

      The Hoosac Tunnel was first proposed in 1819 as an underground canal beneath the Berkshires as a way of providing a passage way for goods and raw materials between Boston and points west. With the invention of the steam locomotivewthe tunnel plan was re-evaluated and re-proposed for railway traffic. Work officially commenced in 1851 by the Troy and Greenfield Railroad Company. It would take 24 years and $21 Million dollars to complete. 

      Initially the tunnel was to be constructed using a 70-ton steam-driven boring machine. The machine however seized up on a test run and could not be used for construction. Following this failure, the work was done by means of hand-drills and gunpowder. That was until the invention of  nitroglycerine.  The nitro proved to be a very powerful and extremely unstable explosive that resulted not only in successfully blasting the length of the tunnel, but also in killing dozens of men in its use.

      The tunnel was considered an engineering marvel when it was completed in 1875. Yet, it would cost 195 lives in various fires, explosions, and tunnel collapses, hence earning its name among the crew as the "Bloody Pit". Today, it is also said to be one of the most haunted places in New England.


      GhostStories

      After the accidents began piling up during the construction many workers came to feel that the tunnel was cursed and many of them refused to enter it again. Some of the crew members simply walked off the job and did not return.

      1: Murder ?: On the afternoon of March 20, 1865, three explosive experts named Ned Brinkman, Billy Nash and Ringo Kelley decided to use nitroglycerine to continue their work on the tunnel. They placed a charge and then ran back toward a safety bunker that would shield them from the effects of the blast. Brinkman and Nash never made it there however. For some reason, Ringo Kelley set off the charge before the other men could make it to shelter. The two men were buried alive under tons of rock. Soon after the accident, Kelley vanished without a trace, leading many to believe that the "accident" with the nitro may not have been an accident after all. He was not seen until a year later when his body was discovered inside the tunnel. It was found at almost the exact spot where Brinkman and Nash had been killed. The authorities quickly deduced that Kelley had been strangled to death. The death was thoroughly investigated but no suspects were ever found and the crime went unsolved.

      2: On October 16, 1874 a local hunter named Frank Webster vanished near Hoosac Mountain. Three days later, he was found by a search party, stumbling along the banks of the Deerfield River. He was in a state of shock, mumbling incoherently and falling down. He explained to his rescuers that strange voices had ordered him into the Hoosac Tunnel and once he was inside, he saw ghostly figures wandering around. He also said that invisible hands had snatched his hunting rifle away from him and that he had been beaten with it. He couldn’t remember leaving the tunnel. Members of the search party recalled that Webster did not have his rifle when he was found and the cuts and abrasions on his head and body did seem to bear evidence of a beating.

      3: In 1994 Kevin from Boston reported that while in the old control room opposite the ventilation shaft he heard "whisperings" and a "shape" about three feet tall and completely black staying just outside of the edge of his flashlight beam. "It always stayed just outside the beam about 20 feet distant, I have to conclude it was the light that kept it away from me. What I saw was real and moved with deliberation and I didn't have reason to believe it was friendly."

      Locals in the area still claim that strange winds, ghostly apparitions and eerie voices are experienced around and in the daunting tunnel. Some researches have left tape reorders in the tunnel and have reported hearing what seems to be muffled voices when they play back the tape. There is also rumor of a hidden room in the tunnel. The room is said to be bricked up and house unspeakable horror.

      HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

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      Photo via Wikipedia Commons

      The original Harvard Square Station opened on March 23, 1912. The original headhouse on the street was a brick oval building (pictured above), which was later replaced with a simple cast-iron and copper shelter. The later shelter now stands close to its original location and houses Out-of-Town News, another Harvard Square landmark 

      The station was closed on January 31, 1981 to make way for the present day station. 

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      ©2012 Boston to a T
      A group of San Francisco subway riders were in for a frightening and wild ride last Wednesday morning when their train departed the station without its Operator. The Motorman of the outbound K-Ingleside Muni Metro train had momentarily stepped out of the vehicle at Castro Station to fix a door that would not close. When the door slid shut the train, which was in automatic mode, departed the station leaving the transit worker stranded on the platform. Passengers aboard the car scrambled to find a way to stop the vehicle; eventually using the emergency brake to stop the driverless train.

      Muni trains, which operate manually above ground, switch to an Automated Train Control System (ATCS) when traveling through the Market Street Subway; a practice which has been in place since the late 1990s. When operating in automatic mode the Motorman has no control over the movement of the vehicle, but still cycles the doors at each station and makes necessary announcements.

      Muni Transit Director John Haley reaffirmed his support of the automated system while attempting to squash concerns about passenger safety. Haley said “I think the point here is the train was under control by the automatic train control system at all times. The system worked the way it was designed.”

      And that is where Director Haley is wrong.

      While Muni’s ATCS was designed to remove human involvement from the running of trains underground, humans were never intended to be removed from the operation of trains underground.

      As far as safety is concerned Muni Motormen serve an important purpose in the subway by acting as the eyes and ears of the blind and deaf SelTrac ATCS. Should the ATCS fail to brake properly or if an obstruction were to block the tracks, the Operator onboard is instructed to use the emergency brake to stop the vehicle and protect passengers.
      Although Muni insists the ATCS is effective both with – and apparently without – a Motorman, the concerns over automatic train control are ones that shouldn’t be ignored.

      When Muni first introduced the SelTrac ATCS in 1998 it was plagued with problems. These problems including trains that bypassed stations, trains that followed the wrong route, and trains that went into emergency for no reason at all.

      Despite expensive software upgrades and years of tinkering, the ATCS is still one of the bay area transit authority’s biggest headaches.

      A review of Muni’s on-time performance in 2010 found that metro trains failed to connect to the ATCS more than 200 times every month, each time grinding service in the Market Street Subway to a halt.

      These service crippling computer glitches have generated a colloquialism in San Francisco over the past decade. They call it a “Muni Meltdown”.

      While computer glitches that stop service may be an annoyance, other ATCS glitches around the world have caused injury and loss of life.

      Two separate accidents in Beijing in 2011 injured a combined 450 people and killed 39 when newly implemented computerized train control systems failed to stop two trains from hitting stationary ones in front of them.

      San Francisco’s other automated subway system, BART, has also had a series of incidents regarding their computerized controls; including a test train that ran off the rails and into a parking lot.

      The most high profile accident regarding automatic train control was the 2009 DC Metro crash. The accident, which claimed 9 lives, was caused when the ATCS failed to recognize the train in front of it sending the striking train into a stopped train at full speed. A similar accident occurred on the Metro in 1996 resulting in the death of the train Operator.

      As part of a safety agreement between ATU Local 689 and the WMATA the DC Metro has been run manually since the 2009 crash.

      While proponents of computerized train control systems can point out accidents caused by Motormen on manually controlled subway and rail systems there is an enormous difference between the two.

      An accident caused by a Motorman in manual control can be corrected through progressive discipline or retraining, and can be used as a teachable example to other Motormen to avoid a similar accident in the future.

      An accident caused by a glitch in a thoughtless, heartless, and inanimate computer system cannot be predicted, cannot be corrected, and cannot be prevented.

      Susan Moore, a passenger on the driverless train, perfectly summed up what it was like to be on that train. In an interview with San Francisco’s ABC-7 she described her and her fellow passengers’ concerns. “We didn’t know if a train was going to come up…” Moore said “For Muni to make light of it was really upsetting, because… You weren’t there”.

      The blind faith that Director Haley and Muni have placed in their ATCS is emblematic of the over reliance our 21st century society has placed on technology.

      This editorial was written and edited by Dan Lampariello & Scott Page






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    • 11/25/13--06:55: North Station Woes
    • Commuters were face with significant delays coming to and from North Station this morning due to a signal problem. Delayed trains left passengers stranded outside North Station for over a half hour.


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      An MBTA commuter rail locomotive went of the rails at the end of the line in Fitchburg Tuesday evening after the train failed to stop due to "slippery conditions".


      According to MBTA officials, the incident happened around 8 p.m. during the height of Tuesday night's snowstorm. 

      The train was traveling at a low speed (less than 10 Mph) when it entered the station but ended up hitting the railroad bumper at the end of the tracks. These bumpers are meant to stop a train in instances like this. Luckily the bumper did its job and only the locomotive came off the tracks. 

      About 40 people were on the train at the time of the accident, but no serious injuries were reported. 


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      ©2013 Boston to a T

      The Mass Bay Commuter Rail Company's (MBCR) eleven year reign over the T's commuter rail system may be coming to end.

      After delays and months of closed-door deliberations MBTA General Manager, Bev Scott, has decided to recommend that the T drop the MBCR and award a new contract to Keolis Transportation.

      The current contract with the MBCR will expire on June 30.

      The new contract calls for an eight-year term with the possibility of multiple two-year options after that.

      The T's board of directors will have the final say on who the $1 billion contract is awarded to, which could happen when they meet on January 8.

      Keolis, a French base transportation company, is just breaking into the United States. They currently only have one contract, which is with the Virginia Rail Express.

      Whether the MBCR or Keolis is award the contract there will surly be some changes happening on the rails here in Boston.

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      Courtesy: Keolis America 

      After a nearly three hour meeting, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation has unanimously approved Keolis Transportation as the new operator of the states commuter rail system, replacing the Massachusetts Bay Commuter Rail Company (MBCR).

      The new contract with Keolis will last eight years, with the possibility of two two-year extensions. The contract will cost the Commonwealth $335 million a year ($2.68 billion over 8 years) which will be the largest operating contract in the states history.

      According to MBTA General Manager Bev Scott, Keolis is mandated to hire the entire current commuter rail workforce and keep existing labor agreements in place.

      Keolis, a French base transportation company, is just breaking into the United States. They currently only have one other contract, which is with the Virginia Rail Express

      Keolis will take over for the MBCR when their contract end on June 30.

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    • 05/19/14--18:21: Farewell Boston


    • Boston to a T was started in my dorm room at Suffolk University three years ago. I wanted to create a blog that showcased to college students what it was like to live in the heart of Boston. But over the past three years Boston to a T has transformed into a platform dedicated to informing the public about the inner workings of Boston's public transportation system.

      First, I would truly like to thank you for reading and following Boston to a T. Whether you read us on a daily basis, followed us on Twitter or Facebook, or just accidentally stumbled upon the page I want to thank you for the support. For me, creating this blog has not only helped me strive to become a better journalist, but it has also instilled in me a love for urban development and planning, hospitality, and of course transportation.

      But now it is time for me to say goodbye. Tomorrow, I begin a new chapter in my life. I will be moving down to the beautiful state of Tennessee to begin my career as a on-air reporter. I will be working at WBBJ-TV which is the ABC and CBS affiliate in West Tennessee.

      So you may be asking yourself, "what's next for Boston to a T"? Although I won't be living in the city I hope to still update you all about what is happening in and around the City of Boston. But things will not be the same. The Boston to a T Facebook page will still exist, I will try to update it with content in my free time.  I will also try to write posts here if I have time as well. As for the Twitter account, I have not yet decided what it's fate will be. I will post an update here as well as the Facebook page in the coming week as to what will come next.

      Having the opportunity to inform you all about the inner workings of the MBTA over the past three years has truly been an honor and a privilege. I'm going to miss Boston, but I am very excited for what this new opportunity has in store for me.

      Be sure to follow the hashtag  #DanMovesSouth to see my new adventure unfold!

      Until next time Boston...

      Sincerely,

      Dan Lampariello