Tag: Red Line

What the hell is with Amtrak Signalling

I was thinking today. How is it Amtrak’s signalling infrastructure is so fragile yet automobile traffic lights take a pounding all year round and still function nearly flawlessly.

I think the U.S. Congress, including the RI, MA, CT, NY, NJ, DE, MD and DC representatives and senators need to get funding to upgrade the signalling on the entirety of the line from Boston to D.C.

It was so bad today – that the MBTA commuter only went as far as Back Bay Station. So I had to hop on the Orange Line toward Oak Grove and get off a the Downtown Crossing station, then head for the Red Line bound for North Quincy station.

Tomorrow I’m leaving the house early – I want to see what ¬†cluster fuck it’s going to be then.

And let me be clear, I don’t blame the MBTA for this – I blame Amtrak and our Congressional delegation for not investing enough in rail transit in the United States – particularly that cash cow Acela line. When they built the Acela system they replaced the tracking and strung overhead catenary for the trains. But they did not upgrade the signalling.

And let me be abundantly clear – you can design electrical/electronic signalling systems that are immune to high wind and water. It’ll cost a bit more but with the weather patterns being what they’ve been recently it would behoove them to do it soon.

 

You can always tell there was a holiday weekend

Because public transit systems go to absolute shit.

Today’s was interesting. Got to the North Quincy station at 4:08. Usually it’s just a couple minutes and the Red Line into Boston is there. Not today – no it got there at 4:17PM which means I missed the 4:35PM commuter back to Providence. Had to wait until 5:00PM for the next one. And of course the Red Line drivers go REALLY slowly between North Quincy and JFK.

And then there’s RIPTA – now up to 7PM the #27 and #28 bus run every twenty minutes, staggered so service to Broadway where I live is every 10 minutes. Not so tonight, Got to the berth at 6:30PM and waited – at 6:45PM and no bus I walked home.

Now I understand that after a holiday weekend you’ll have your no-shows as far as co-workers and bus drivers. But really this type of behavior on the part of RIPTA is irksome – because all the buses are GPS tracked. On the entire 20 minute walk home I didn’t see on westbound bus at all.

I’ve now made a resolution to put money aside and buy a car. I’d rather put up with traffic then to have trains to stupid things like move like a snail, or park in Mansfield for 10-15 minutes so Amtrak trains could go by us.

Now I know, I-93 and i-95 could be slightly hellish. But I’ll take that hell over commuter rail and subways.

When the MBTA screws up they REALLY screw up

So ¬†yesterday getting in during the storm was just fine. Commuter was a little late pulling into Providence but got into Boston at it’s usual time. And the Red Line was running so I got into the office on time. Mind you this is DURING the storm with whiteout conditions and the like.

The trip home on the other hand – a commuter than normally gets into Providence around 5:20PM got in at 6:30PM. Not fun, the almost interminable ride home. The lesson in that – take Amtrak – they get priority on the rails. Pay the money for a business class ticket and enjoy the ride.

This morning the commuter to Boston was 10 minutes late, and we pulled into Boston 20 minutes late. This is on a fully packed train mind you. Not my idea of a fun time.

Get down to the platform for the red line and see this on the displays:

20150203_081425[1]Yeah – that’s a bad omen. All it displays is current time, no info on next train etc. Something is fucked.

20150203_082151[1]

That’s the first empty train that just stopped at the station, didn’t open the doors and continued on toward Alewife.

Clusterus Fuckus! That’s what the Red Line was today. Ominous warnings about severe service delays occasionally too. A bunch of fairly pissed off people. It was pretty interesting.

What boggles the mind is there isn’t a storm today – it’s clear and sunny. Granted it’s only 10F but these trains operate in the total range of freezing to boiling. So that can’t be it. I chalk it up to typical MBTA lead in the ass.

MBTA Stuff

So for the past few weeks I’ve been riding the Providence to Boston MBTA commuter. And I find myself searching out a car that has WiFi every time I ride.

Apparently MBTA is the first transit company to install WiFi on its commuter rail. I think it serves a dual purpose though since this has also happened at about the same time they rolled out the Charlie Card. I was trying to think how they could use a stored value Charlie Card on a commuter rail and then it hit me, just use a wireless device that the MBCR (Mass Bay Commuter Rail) employees can swipe the card against. The side benefit is we commuting schlubs get WiFi out of the deal.

Then from Boston I take the Red Line down to Braintree. Yes it’s a long commute but well worth it.

Anyhow here’s what I noticed. They tend to treat the older Red Line cars more gently. Those are the ones that are white with the red stripe. The newer cars are stainless steel with a red stripe at the bottom. The newer cars also have the LCD destination signs and for stop announcements there are the red LED signs and the automated voice. Interestingly that picture is taken at the station where I get off, Braintree. Both sides are used for inbound so that lower part that says “Next Train” lights red. When a train is about to leave a loud bell is rung and you’ve got about 30 or 40 seconds to get on the train before it starts for Boston.

As I was saying, the older cars are treated more gently. They’re rattle traps so they tend to keep the speeds under 40MPH, while they push the newer cars up past 50MPH.

I also found out an interesting fact. They only have a three hour window to do track repairs on that line. The service starts off at about 5AM and ends at roughly 1AM. So you’d think they have four hours but they have to make sure all the cars are in the barn and then power off the track, then roll the repair car out and then do their work.

Part of the reason is because the subway system in Boston is the oldest in the nation.

But it makes me wonder, how did Boston end up with such a great transit system and Providence got the shit end of the stick? Up until about 1950 we had trolleys that ran on power supplied by overhead catenary and the train station in Providence was a hopping place right up until then. Here’s a photo of one of the tracked trolleys and then one of the trackless trolleys in 1946. By 1950 they were all gone.

But then that’s when the highway projects started, and GM and Standard Oil started National City Lines to get transit companies to use buses that burned diesel and went through tires like crazy. And of course it’s why RI’s transit authority RIPTA is in such dire straits today.

I’d like to see the MBTA absorb RIPTA, along with GATRA and SEPTA. Make it one humongous regional system. The MBTA commuter already runs into Providence and soon it will run to TF Green airport in Warwick. Plans are also on the board for stations in Wickford and Westerly. That will be nice.

But it’s going to take a while for that to happen.