Transportation & Infrastructure

Can We Make it to Mars?

Friday, February 25, 2011
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Snow Expected To Snarl PM Commute

By Jess Bidgood and Andrea Smardon   |   Wednesday, January 26, 2011
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BOSTON — The third winter storm in as many weeks arrived in Boston Thursday afternoon as snowflakes began falling over the city.

Thus began the storm that's put much of East and South Massachusetts under a winter storm warning -- with Central Massachusetts and parts of Western Massachusetts looking at a winter storm watch. 

"It's just another one of the seemingly endless number of winter storms we've been having," quipped Alan Dunham of the National Weather Service. The heaviest snow is expected to begin Wednesday evening and last through the midnight hours.

"The snow will move in during the course of the day, it'll start messing up the latter half of the evening commute," said Dunham said, predicting that wet snow combined with high winds could cause slippery roads and low visibility.

"We sometimes refer to that as 'heart attack snow,' you have to be careful," Dunham said.

By the time of the storm's predicted end, around 10 a.m. Thursday, parts of Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut could see 8 to 12 inches of snow.

The MBTA's General Manger Richard Davey says the transit authority will be working overtime to keep things running as smoothly as possible.

"Folks can expect the MBTA to be in place, our team to be in place to make sure that we’re giving every effort for tomorrow’s commute," Davey said.

But he admitted the likelihood of problems on bus lines. "Given that and given the weather, I’m sure there will be some delays." 

Davey said commuter rail and rapid transit shouldn’t have as many problems as they had on Monday and Tuesday – when extreme cold temperatures wreaked havoc on mechanical systems. Davey says the MBTA will be running trains overnight during off hours to resolve any issues before the morning commute.

Frontline Asks ' Are We Safer?'

Wednesday, January 19, 2011
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Commuters Quietly Pleased With MBTA Experiment

By B. John Campbell   |   Friday, January 14, 2011
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Jan 14, 2011

MBTA officials may hand these cards out to commuters who make too much noise on the quiet cars it's piloting for the next few months. 

BOSTON — Thousands jam into South Station for the afternoon commute. The place is loud. Announcements echo through the hall. And above it all is an electronic board, rattling off departure times. 

But the MBTA is piloting a program to give commuters a little solace from all this noise. They're marking off certain cars on the commuter rail as quiet cars. And as the program wraps up its second week, it's getting rave reviews from riders.
Robert Huggin is a train master for the Massachusetts Bay Commuter Rail. He's been in the rail business all his life, and he thinks quiet cars are just the right thing for many commuters.
"I absolutely enjoy the train ride everyday, it's very relaxing. You can get a lot done. Or you can get nothing done. It's your choice, and now we are giving you the option of just coming in for a nice peaceful, quiet ride," Huggin said.
The MBTA introduced the quiet cars for 90 days beginning on New Years Day. The car closest to the locomotive is designated as the quiet car. Riders who choose this car are asked to behave as if they were in a library--no ringing cell phones or audible music and no loud conversations. Currently, the trains only run on the Franklin and Fitchburg lines. 

Inside the quiet car it's, well, quiet. There are no cell phones or computers -- though some people are reading books and magazines. It feels like a moving library, which is exactly what MBTA General Manager Richard Davey wants it to.
"For some of our customers the quiet train ride in the morning or the quiet train ride in the evening is really the only quiet time they have to nod off, read a book, read a newspaper, or just think," Davey said.
In the quiet car, when all you can hear is the steady rumble of an engine, it sure is peaceful.

But inside the regular cars, conversations flow. Among the talkers is Alisha Volla, who rides the commuter rail everyday from Franklin. Although she steered cleared of the quiet car this evening, she says it could be a godsend on certain mornings. 
"Every morning it's the 6:12 train. Won't say who it is… but particular people: yip-yip-yip-yip-yip! Loud as can be! I always make sure to go in whatever car they're not going in. That's how loud they are," Volla said. "Under that aspect, I'm all about the quiet car."
The MBTA reports early reviews about the quiet cars have generally been positive -- but there are reports of some riders not obeying the rules. The conductors hope to fix this behavior with quiet cards. On the cards is an image of a man shushing with his finger. The goal is to quell noise with making any --  and keep the quiet cars just that: Quiet. 

Outages, Cancelations Linger In Wake Of Snowstorm

By Sarah Birnbaum   |   Thursday, January 13, 2011
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Jan. 13, 2010

People are digging out their driveways, homes and bicycles on Thursday -- like this one in Central Square. (Jess Bidgood/WGBH)

BOSTON -- Emergency crews and homeowners around Massachusetts are working to shake-off the aftereffects of a snowstorm that knocked out power to 100,000 residents, kept all flights from going in and out of Logan Airport, pushed down branches and trees and caused thousands of school and workplaces to be closed.

On Thursday morning, hundreds of schools were still closed or delayed, and at least hundreds of customers remained without power.

Gov. Deval Patrick, who declared a state of emergency during the height of the blizzard, asked residents still dealing with no power to remain patient.

"Rest assured that we are doing everything we can to light a fire under the utilities and have them respond to you," Patrick said during a briefing on Wednesday.

He also said drivers should continue to exercise caution on roadways, which may not yet be perfectly clear. "The residue will linger for a while and the ramps will be slippery, but cleanup will continue and just keep an eye out for folks who are doing that work on your behalf," Patrick said.

As dangerous as roads were on Wednesday, no major accidents or injuries have been reported.

The storm left up to 30 inches in Western Massachusetts, around 18 inches on Boston and half-a-foot on Cape Cod.

MBTA GM: No Fare Hikes This Year

By Andrea Smardon   |   Friday, January 7, 2011
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Jan. 7, 2010

MBTA GM Richard Davey says you won't have to pay extra to get on the red line this year. (Maestor_Shake/Flickr)

BOSTON — MBTA officials have started the process of trying to close a more than $120 million budget deficit they’re facing in the next fiscal year. Numerous cost-cutting proposals were presented to the Department of Transportation’s finance committee this week, but General Manager Richard Davey is assuring riders that there are no immediate plans to raise fares.

“The bottom line is we have a significant budget deficit that we have to find a way to close.  We’re operating off of the assumption that we will not close it with  fare increases this fiscal year, and not with substantial service cuts,” Davey said.

One proposal is to sell future income from parking lot fees to investors in return for an immediate payment — essentially taking a tax-free loan on future revenue.  Davey says the instant payback — as much as 325 million dollars — will help manage the MBTA’s rapidly escalating debt.  

Davey said it’s important to start paying off the principal now, even if it means taking on future debt.

“It will incur slightly more debt down the road.  But the problem is that the road is so steep for us the next five years, that I’m not worried about the road the next 15 or 20 years,” Davey said.

Another proposal is to reduce the number of operators on the red line subway trains from two to one.  Davey says this has already been tested successfully on the blue and orange lines using closed-circuit televisions to monitor platforms.
T officials also want to save money by moving employee health insurance to the state’s Group Insurance System.  Several unions are contesting that e move, and a hearing is scheduled later this month in Suffolk Superior Court.   

About the Authors
Sarah Birnbaum
Sarah Birnbaum is WGBH News' State House reporter. Send her a news tip.


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