Carnage along the E line: Councilor wants to mount cameras on trolleys to catch motorists who don't stop for riders

City Councilor Mike Ross says riders on the E line between Brigham Circle and Heath Street shouldn't have to worry about getting flattened by crazed Massholes who ignore the "STOP" painted on the sides of open trolley doors.

Ross, who lives on Mission Hill, is seeking legislation to let the T install cameras on trolleys that share the road with motorists in that stretch to catch and ticket drivers ignoring stopped trolleys.

Under Ross's proposal (see attached), images from the cameras, along with date stamps and locations, would be forwarded to an MBTA police officer trained in traffic enforcement, who would then write out tickets.

The proposal gets a hearing before the council's Committee on Government Operations at 10 a.m. on May 29 at City Hall. If the committee and then the full council approve, the measure would then go to the state Legislature as a home-rule petition.



Free tagging: 

PDF icon Ross's trolley camera proposal0 bytes


Maybe the City Council

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will also pay for commuter-car mounted cameras that will record every time a T bus pulls over at an angle, not only taking up the Bus-only section at the side of the road, but also blocking an entire traffic lane so they can easily pull back out after the pickup. And maybe the City Council can also impose a $100.00 fine on T Bus Drivers who block lanes like this to equal the much-advertised fine imposed on lowly commuters for blocking bus lanes (not that I condone this, but fair is fair...). Then again, maybe the City Council should impose a $1,000.00 fine or $2,000.00 fine on T Bus Drivers in these cases, since a commuter in a bus lane may interfere with one bus driver, while a bus angled into a commuter lane interferes with numerous commuter vehicles and messes up traffic for blocks, especially in rush hour, which is when they do it regularly.

Inconvenience vs Injury/Death

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The proposal to protect citizens from a real life frogger game (getting creamed by inconsiderate drivers who don't stop) is a good one.

T-bus drivers who don't pull to the curb don't, while obnoxious, doesn't kill people. I don't condone them doing this, but a long 39 bus probably holds (fully packed) 100+ people vs one inconsiderate asshat commuter in a passenger car. Majority rules.

File your complaint under boo-frickity-hoo.

File your complaint under boo-frickity-hoo.

By anon on

Dear anon (not verified) - 4/26/12 - 11:54 am,
If big bad Boston is so scary for you that each time you get off the bus it's like "a real life frogger game" then I suggest relocate yourself to the nearest cozy safe suburb tout de suite!
Never had a problem myself, but then again I'm not texting on my blackberry while wearing my headphones either. This is a city, which means there are lots of people: some who follow rules and some who don't. Pay attention to your surroundings. If you can't handle that, then you really aren't cut out for urban living.

Did you read the link or Adam's article?

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The proposal is for passengers exiting the E-Train, which below Brigham Circle drops off it riders in the middle of Huntington Ave--in the middle of traffic that is supposed to stop That was the frogger game to which I did refer.

Course, your so urban you knew about that. You just suffer from poor reading comprehension.

I couldn't agree more about

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I couldn't agree more about the buses not using the bus stops and just stopping in the travel lane or doing what you describe, half pulling in and still blocking the travel lane.
I would also request that the cameras also track the trolley drivers who run the red light at the South Huntington split and block the entire intersection on a regular basis.

Are you a selfish prick or what?

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There could be dozens of people riding, maybe standing room only, on that bus. Why should they all be delayed so that single-occupancy vehicle massholes like you can keep blocking them in and preventing the bus from pulling out?

Not only is the bus driver doing the right thing, they should be helped through curb extensions so the bus can quickly stop and pickup passengers without leaving the lane and sending all the standees lurching to the side.

It's 2012, and it's high time that the city stop shitting on bus riders.

Angry much?

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I like the extended sidewalk suggestion though.

IMHO the best thing that could happen to this stretch of Huntington Ave. would be to prohibit parking. This would allow for a safe, isolated bike lane and two lanes for vehicular traffic.

Not one bus driver...

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The bus driver pulling halfway to the curb is keeping things moving for, oh, up to 90 people. You're inconvenienced? Ok, that makes it 90-1. Want to really help congestion, since you're so concerned? Take the T instead or walk.


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This seems like enforcement creep.

How many riders are ever hit in a year? Are we putting in a solution for a problem largely imagined?

As someone who lives near one of those stops,

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I've called the "T" police several times pleading for more enforcement. Almost being hit as you step off a train has given me some perspective.

As you can see from Mr. Ross' proposal the problem remains an issue.

It's not that

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How many times does an alighting passenger have to dodge away from a car illegally passing?

Drivers run stop signs and stop lights all the time, but usually people on foot manage to get out of the way. That doesn't mean it's OK.

This is a really great idea and could make the city a bunch of money too. Hopefully it doesn't get shot down by selfish massholes who will whine about having to follow the law.

Great point

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Lets put cameras on every stop sign too.

Red Light Cameras

I don't understand why Boston hasn't wholly embraced red-light cameras, cameras at bus stops and cameras on trains. With the way that drivers seem to flaunt the law: double parking everywhere, running red lights, parking in bus stops, driving past trollies as they alight, it seems that cameras could easily cover the cost of installation through the uptick in fines...

Well, for one thing, the

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Well, for one thing, the state doesn't allow camera enforcement.

Why hasn't Boston embraced proper synchronization and programming of its lights?

Most recent annoyance: driving east on Cambridge Street in North Allston, waiting at a red light because oncoming traffic has a green left arrow. But there's no way any traffic could be turning left there, since it leads to a locked chain-link fence blocking a closed entrance to the rail yard.

If Boston took a flying leap into 1950 and installed a traffic sensor in the left turn lane, they could still give a green arrow if that fence were ever unlocked, or someone needed to make a U-turn.

Do you drive in this city? It

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Do you drive in this city? It would be nearly impossible to get anywhere if people didn't skirt red lights, or at least drive through intersections with red lights they got stuck under. Flagrant violators get caught, eventually, the rest of us just get used to it.

As for the T, they don't need cameras, they need giant stop signs and flashing lights. I've almost run past a stopped E-line train because if you don't drive down that way often, it's a bit unexpected when the train stops, the sign goes out for 2 seconds, and then starts ejecting people into traffic.

I mean, the best solution would be for the passengers to just look before they jump off a train, since no amount of regulation will stop a moving vehicle, but maybe that's too much to ask of around here.

I do drive in Boston!

And I get around just fine without running red lights. I also don't block intersections. It may take me a little longer to get where I'm going, but I'd rather spend a few extra minutes in the car than risk a ticket or block an intersection.

Good point. Street-running

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Good point. Street-running trolleys are so rare in this country that many drivers don't know about them.

In addition to school bus-style flip-out stop signs on the trolleys (not just the STOP wrap on the door panel), there should be big street signs on that stretch of Huntington and South Huntington saying "Do not pass stopped trolleys on right".

It was not intended to be

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It was not intended to be sarcastic. I don't get over there that much, and didn't know these signs exist.

I see on Street View that they do exist:

But the sign saying not to pass trolleys on the right is tiny, badly maintained, and of nonstandard design. The overhead sign is easier to read, and is slightly closer to MUTCD standards. But "CAUTION yield to pedestrians" doesn't make it clear that under no circumstances can you drive to the right of a stopped trolley.


Huh. I've driven down Huntington Ave. dozens of times and I've never noticed those tiny little signs. The above link is the first time I've seen them. And they don't actually say you can't pass trolleys on the right. They say:

"Massachusetts state law [...illegible...] prohibits vehicles from passing within eight (8) feet of a stopped trolley."

But that's not a completely true statement, because that law only applies when the trolley is stopped to let passengers on or off.

The overhead signs are slightly better, but all they tell you is that there's a trolley stop. The "yield to pedestrians" shouldn't be new information to anyone who passed their driving test.

Better solution

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It seems like the more obvious solution would be to let the MBTA stop running E Line service past Brigham Circle as it's been driving to do for the past few years anyways.

That's a fantastic idea!

Let's give the transit agency the option of only providing easiest transit, rather than requiring it to respond to things like commute patterns and location densities. It's too hard? Don't bother, then! The 'T loves this cop-out, as do some politicians who probably aren't too crazy about transit to begin with, but I'd just as soon have service routes and frequencies determined by ridership needs.

Red light cameras are a

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Red light cameras are a terrible idea - if you want to live in an Orwellian society that's your choice, but they're a bad idea for any number of reasons - increased rear-end collisions by drivers slamming on the brakes at yellows has been proven in many areas.

A police traffic stop does a lot more - it can get a drunk or wanted driver off the road, the police presence serves as a warning to other drivers, and a driver who has committed a violation gets an immediate response to their mistake - not a letter in the mail weeks later.

In places where traffic cameras are in use, the abuse is rampant and private companies that make and maintain these devices can make millions - which they use to stuff the pockets of officials who look the other way when the system is abused. Driving in Boston just plain sucks, and more regulation and penalties isn't the solution.

The problem of people not stopping for the trolleys - I bet a majority of drivers don't know that law even exists. Maybe the stops should be coordinated so that each one has a traffic signal, and the presence of the trolley turns the light red (or the driver has a control to change it red when people are boarding).

Or a flip-out stop sign and

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Or a flip-out stop sign and alternating red lights on the trolley, like on a school bus. Everyone knows what that means.

Oh, the horror

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Expecting people wielding dangerous heavy machinery to follow the law? ORWELLIAN!

Walk outside and your eyes can prove that Boston drivers slam on the accelerator as soon as they see a yellow, or even a red light.

I even saw a guy last week come to a complete stop in front of a red light, and then floor it through the red. He couldn't wait the extra 5 seconds for a green light.

Yes, there's abuse of the cameras, but should we just give up and accept that we, as a society, cannot control corruption? Is that America?

The police and local

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The police and local officials are incapable of fair and effective enforcement now - why give them even more powers? Be very wary of ceding powers to police or city hall - getting them back can prove nearly impossible. (see: the extremes of Boston-area parking enforcement, despite the fact that everything works fine on Sundays, when most rules aren't enforced).

I don't trust the police much either, but if you get pulled over by one, he might cut you a break or allow you to explain that the sun was in your eyes or a truck was blocking your view of the light.

In Maryland, they were caught speeding up the yellow cycle on camera-equipped lights in order to bag more unsuspecting drivers. Apparently this one camera made them a million dollars in one year - by cheating the people. In California, they can fine you $400 or more for a single, minor traffic offense without so much as a traffic stop. If that's right, then I'd rather be wrong.

Bad news then

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Police and local officials already have all the powers you seem to be afraid about.

Now, do tell me about parking enforcement. Explain how having people actually enforce the rules is bad, again? If the rules are bad, then have them changed, instead of this weird arbitrary system. And what does that have to do with "works just fine" on Sunday? Do you think that weekday demand is the same as Sunday demand?

I'd rather have police officers do the stops too, but I'd even more rather have them stopping violent crime. Your need for speed is not a civil rights issue.

I've heard about the issues in Maryland and other places. Corruption is bad in any form. It can and should be handled through the courts.

Not so fast, Captain Rationalization

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If you can't see the light because you're behind a truck, then you're too close to the truck. Give them a little space at intersections until you can see that you can cross with the light and not block the intersection. I promise you'll catch right back up and not get where you're going any slower.

Your argument works the other way

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but if you get pulled over by one, he might cut you a break or allow you to explain that the sun was in your eyes or a truck was blocking your view of the light.

And that right there is the argument in favor of the red light cameras. Instead of giving the police officer the option of letting you off because you are the right race, or an attractive person of the right gender, or a member of his tribe, thereby unfairly disadvantaging everyone else, you have an almost mechanical process in which the camera snapps your picture and some anonymous bureaucrat mails a ticket.

Consistent enforcement creates respect for the law and a general sense that the system is not rigged against you.

Is this really about people

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Is this really about people running the trolleys or is it a smokescreen that Councilor Ross hasn't had any press covering his latest piece of (ridiculous) legislation?


No press release that I know of

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I get an RSS feed of upcoming hearings by City Council committees. A notice for this one ne popped up (for a committee chaired by Matt O'Malley). I hadn't heard of it before, looked up Ross's request for a hearing (these "orders" typically include an explanation of the issue and the proposed solution, handy for bloggers too busy/too hermit-like to actually try to talk to people). Voila, a Universal Hub post.