RIPTA and their Clock Problem

So today – I get to Bus Stop V at 5:48PM. And the #27 bus is taking off. I give it the old open palm gesture – I know the driver could see me but he kept going.

I figured I’d wait for the 6:00PM #28 as it goes down Broadway too. But it never came. By 6:10PM I gave up and walked home.

But then it struck me – all RIPTA’s clocks are two minutes fast.

But then MBTA today was fun – the 4:08PM didn’t leave until 4:15PM because, and I kid you not, they couldn’t find the engineer.

RIPTA a Rant One of Many

So this evening I got to the stop for the 27/28 bus lines at 5:30PM on the dot. No 27 bus to be found. So I figured I’d wait as the 5:40PM I’d catch the 28 bus – both run down Broadway until Olneyville where they split off, the 27 towards Manton Avenue, the 28 toward Hartford Avenue.

The 28 bus as I said was supposed to be that at 5:40PM and in fact often gets in at around 5:35PM. But tonight, just because traffic was light it got in at 5:43PM. Yeah, you read that right, light traffic and the bus was late anyway. How the fuck does that happen?

Now I know RIPTA is planning to enable GPS tracking on buses but get this – they won’t put it up on the web, oh no. You’ll have to go to a kiosk in downtown Providence to see that. I’m tempted to hack it.

This is why I prefer the MBTA Subway lines. They’re pretty much on time most of the time. Oh and they do make every stop but my commute from South Station to Central Square Cambridge is at a max 13 minutes, but more frequently 10 or 11 minutes. Zip, zoom go. Well, maybe not – it’s a 4.3 mile car ride, about 3 miles train wise. Which would mean the average speed of the Red Line is 16.36MPH, or 26KPH for my metrically oriented friends. But that train seems to go a lot faster. I’ve got to turn on Google Maps someday and have it calc the true speed between two stations. Because those trains are moving at way faster than 16.36MPH/26KPH. They crank more like 35MPH to 50MPH or 56.3KPH to 80.5KPH. It’s the time at the station stops that eats it up and reduces it. But still I like it much more than a bus.

RIPTA could learn a thing or two from MBTA

Ok, so tonight RIPTA once again managed to piss me off. The MBTA train ride home wasn’t bad. But it was cold and rainy. I happened to have one ride left on my 15-ride card.

So I walked down to Kennedy Plaza, checked the RIPTA web site on my phone and found the #28 bus would be there in < 5 minutes. Cool!

And as is wont to happen when RIPTA is involved – the bus NEVER came. It was supposed to be there at 6:26PM. By 6:36 no bus. I decided to walk, and deliberately walked the path the bus runs. No bus.

Now to contrast – I’ve been taking the MBTA Providence Line commuter and then the Green Line for a few weeks now. They’re both ON TIME nearly every single time. Granted, I know this is Apples to Oranges because in both cases the MBTA vehicles travel on dedicated track.

But it’s worse – a private shuttle gets me from the train stop on the Green Line to my office. That shuttle is ALWAYS on time too. And I note you can pretty much set your watch by the MBTA’s #59 bus. Just as I’m coming up the ramp from the station that bus is always just taking off. It’s funny how they know how to keep a schedule yet RIPTA seems incapable of keeping a schedule, unless it’s on their vaunted R-Line (Formerly the #11 and #99 bus).

The other joke – RIPTA did traffic and ridership studies. Turns out I live on the 2nd busiest route of their entire system. Yet they can’t seem to get a bus to keep to a schedule.

I’ve ripped into RIPTA before but now that I’m using MBTA services again I have to say it, RIPTA ain’t shit. They can’t even move to build a streetcar line. The project is completely stalled for over a year now. And of course they dipshitedly decided to plunk the first line between the hospital complex on the south side and Brown University on the east side.

The above despite studies that have said, when you build a line into an economically depressed area it suddenly starts climbing out of the depression. But no, RIPTA and their ‘experts’ chose to link two already well established areas. Fucking nitwits.

I’m thinking maybe we should scrap RIPTA entirely and invite the MBTA to take it over lock, stock and fucking barrel.

More Reasons why I hate RIPTA

It seems that every Friday evening, RIPTA doesn’t run for crap.

Tonight was a perfect example. I arrive in Kennedy Plaza with time to spare. I usually walk over to Exchange Terrace because you can catch the #26, #27, #28, and #92 buses and trolley from there.

But this evening Exchange Terrace to Sabin St. was a little bit heavy with traffic. So the #28 driver decided he’d take Memorial Blvd. Only problem was he got seriously stuck there. I could see him as I started walking.

Like the other night, traffic on the normal route from the office was backed up. The driver decided to detour. This seems to be a common occurrence with RITPA drivers lately. I think they’re trying to hold to the schedules but RIPTA needs to be cognizant of the fact that buses have to compete with street traffic. And over the past few years street traffic has been getting worse and worse in Providence.

This is why I really want to see streetcar service with dedicated lanes. No more fighting with traffic. And despite RIPTA’s contention that light rail doesn’t work for distances less than 10 miles, give me a break. Plot a ten mile radius around the city of Providence and you’d hit Woonsocket, North Smithfield, and Cumberland to the north, going east you’d get into Warren and Barrington even Bristol, and south would take you deep into Warwick, East Greenwich and perhaps North Kingstown.

I understand funding is hard to come by, but RIPTA needs to be creative here. I’ve already made suggestions like the 80/20 rule for federal highway monies, where 80% goes to the highway project, 20% to public transit systems. I don’t see them running with that and I wonder why?

Put it this way, there are several BILLION dollars worth of highway improvement that is becoming necessary in RI. Let’s say conservatively about $2 Billion. 20% of that would be $400,000,000 for RIPTA.

Even with their new CEO etc. I don’t think RIPTA has the vision necessary to plan a 21st century transit system in Rhode Island. They’re still stuck on buses. Buses are 20th century technology. Yes I know, rail is a 19th century technology but at least it’s grown from locomotives that could do maybe 35MPH tops to trains that book along at 200+MPH. Buses on the other hand, have gotten cosmetically better looking and the new hybrids sip gas a little less precipitously. But they still stink of diesel fuel, and still get stuck in traffic.

So get with it RIPTA.

BTW, I’m told that people inside RIPTA cannot view wordpress blogs. So I emailed this to the RIPTA CEO Charles Odimgbe.

My experiences on RIPTA

I hadn’t ever thought to post about this but I use RIPTA every now and then. Been doing so for several years and in general after using MBTA commuter and subway system I find buses to be sub-optimal for transit services.

That said, I know I’ve read stories where RIPTA buses have hit moving vehicles, parked vehicles and even run over people. Up until a certain point I’d read about drivers being assaulted (Some rightfully so I’d imagine!).

About two years ago I watched a woman whale on a driver. Police were called and she was arrested.

But this evening I had my first “bus hits a parked car” experience. Pretty much crushed the drivers side of the car. But then the guy was parked in, you guessed it, a bus-only no-parking zone. Plus he was sticking out quite a bit on a tight street to begin with.

Total delay was about 20 minutes, enough time for the police to get there, take the report from the driver and car owner and then that was it. RIPTA buses hit things all the time and as I said, every once in awhile they run someone over. Par for the course really.

I’d venture that MBTA buses and NY’s MTA buses have the same parameters.

However I am one who says scrap the bus system as it exists. Drop track on the major routes in the city and then track to surrounding communities. Adopt the MBTA system where each host community chips in for the services. Leave the buses to do more narrow routes.

New Money for ITS Programs in RI

Apparently Senator Jack Reed was in RI announcing the $1.34 Million dollar grant to the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA).

The enhancements according to RIPTA are:

“Thanks to Senator Reed, RIPTA will be able to add Intelligent Transportation System technology to all 240 of its fixed-route buses, bringing the RIPTA bus fleet into the 21st century. This new technology, which will also include real-time information for customers at our transit centers, will result in greatly improved service for our customers. We are very grateful to the Senator for securing the funding to make all this possible,” said RIPTA’s General Manager. Mr. Moscola also thanked Senator Reed for obtaining ITS funding for RIPTA in the past.

The enhancements will include vehicle location, automatic A/V announcements of stops on buses, and computer aided dispatch. I guess they’ve been putting GPS transceivers in all the buses lately.

This is good and I’d like to see this technology spread to major stops (E.g. those with shelters). It’d be easy to throw solar on the roof of the shelter to power a networked device. I’m pretty sure they could even work a deal with the City of Providence to tie them into the MESH network the city has deployed all over the place. You can spot them easily, they’re little whip antennas on top of street lights.

And down the street from me is a PowerWave Repeater for the network. It’s just hanging on a pole with a bigger whip on top of the pole. I’ll have to see how many of these I can spot in the neighborhood.

I’ve also emailed both my Senators and my Representative telling them that if MA could get $20 Billion to bury I-93, we should sure as hell be able to get a similar amount to put in tracked public transit in RI, especially in the urban core.

We don’t even have to bury the pathways for the light rail either. Just lay it into the road. You could even run power underground – put a third rail recessed a few feet into the ground. No need for overhead catenary. And those light rail trains are low enough to the ground that you wouldn’t worry about pedestrian hazards with it.

It’s time for us to re-think RI’s transportation strategy.