BOSTON — A number of responses to our "How You'd Fix the T" survey mentioned other cities and countries that show how good a good transit system can be ... possibilities explored by WGBH's Phillip Martin in his story "How to Create a World-Class Transit System."
David Wilson, Cambridge
Uses the Red Line, Orange Line
I've lived in Zurich, Switzerland; Shanghai, China; and Singapore, and in particular Singapore and Zurich have remarkable public transportation systems. The key in both cities is that the cost of driving into the city has to be prohibitively high enough that it becomes burdensome not only to low-income individuals, but also high-income individuals. Tolls paid via transponder as you enter the city core in an automobile, which can be graded to be higher at peak traffic times, are a particularly effective way to do this, as Singapore and London have demonstrated. There should be no way to get downtown in a car without paying tolls. The vast majority of that significant revenue source can then be diverted to support the growth of public transportation.
It also seems to me that there are a lot of cities in the world which have successfully expanded their transportation grids in recent decades in a planned, coordinated and ultimately highly successful fashion. My impression (which admittedly is based only on casual observation, not any kind of research) is that the upper echelons of the T are hired from within. As a result, it seems likely that there is an endemic corporate culture of "this is how we do things" at the T. I think that it would be a worthwhile investment to bring in consultants from some of the world's biggest public transportation systems, like London and Tokyo and certain cities in continental Europe, as well as some of the cities in the US which have recently and successfully grown their own public transportation networks, like LA, and advise on how to coordinate and facilitate growth and sustainability within the system.
Julie Ecker, Boston
Uses the Orange Line
While recently in NYC subway fare was $2.25/trip and is good for a 2-hour window. I would change fare structure in Boston. Those who need connections from bus to bus or subway/bus should be able to ride one direction for one flat fare and not have to pay for each leg. Especially since poorer neighborhoods are more likely not to have subway and to have buses instead.
Mary Devlin, Washington, D.C.
Uses the Bus System, Red Line, Green Line, Commuter Rail
As a Massachusetts resident attending college in Washington, D.C., I've noticed how much better and more efficient the Metro is than the T. First of all, the rules against eating on the Metro make it extremely clean. Second, there are extended hours on the weekend. Third, there's cellphone service almost everywhere underground. And fourth, you know exactly when trains are coming and can download a cellphone app so you can see when the next train is coming. The T could definitely take a few lessons from the Metro.
Jan Pechenik, Cambridge
Uses the Bus System, Red Line, Green Line, Silver Line
If you want to see a world-class public transportation system in action, go visit Hong Kong. The first thing I do would be to make the T much more convenient than it is now, without raising fees. Buses and trains should arrive every 5 or 10 minutes. Smaller buses and shorter trains for off-peak periods, but no need for schedules because you would never have to wait more than 10 minutes for a ride. Once you have the convenience problem fixed, you can increase the comfort level (e.g., slightly wider seats on train) and promote programs that encourage people to take the T.
Joanne Fray, Lexington
Uses the Red Line
I would post clear maps showing the routes of the vehicles like the maps in the Paris Metro and the London Underground.
Gerry Katz, Chestnut Hill
Uses the Green Line
Run it on a schedule — like every other urban train system in the developed world!
And one dissenting voice, from Gillian, in the comments on Martin's story:
I'm a little surprised you held WMATA in such high regard. The Metro is saddled with debt, has serious safety concerns and the ridership is hardly enthusiastic about the customer service. The Metro fiscal model is horrid. The sheer number number of employees as well as inflated salaries help make it one of the most expensive public transit systems in the country for riders. Research peak of peak fares, penalizing those who use Metro for what it was created for, commuting! Because of this the federal government subsidizes employee commutes or offers free parking so they don't have to shell out over $400 a month for commuter bennys. Each year Metro is faced with dwindling funding because of the "tri-state" reach and zero commited funding from either of the three districts. Having lived there for 6 years it was great to be able to go just about anywhere on Metro as well as have updates on boards in the station but it was a budgetary stretch each month and considering weather constrictions (heat, snow and rain), safety (theft and train crashes) as well as overcrowding and horrid attitudes by employees made it a D+ in my book. At least in Boston you get what you pay for: a less expensive system that isn't very extensive and not technologically advanced. If Boston can provide Metro service (at its best) and keep Boston-sized fares, I'd move closer to the city!