MBTA starts useful service and the Herald won't stand for that

Seems that when a big convention is in town, the MBTA runs special Silver Line service to the airport straight from the convention center, rather than making people carry their bags on that long walk to the nearest Silver Line stop and crowding onto a bus there.

Are you outraged? The Herald is, to the point of displacing its long-running Indian Joke of the Day series from the front page, which today features end-of-world fonts to accuse the T of stealing "all" its buses to service fat-cat conventioneers. Who, the Herald grudgingly admits, pay their fares just like rest of us - but only after the paper's crack investigative unit did some undercover surveillance:

On Friday, a Herald reporter and photographer observed people at the convention center paying regular fares to board the nonstop airport-bound Silver Line buses. The drivers did not take normal Silver Line routes or make any Silver Line stops before dropping passengers at Logan Airport. A driver said the buses provide conventioneers with rides to the airport. A bus tailed by the Herald did not follow the Silver Line’s dedicated bus route, instead driving directly to the Ted Williams Tunnel.

The horror!

Ed. derail question: Why is the convention center stop so far away from the convention center?



Free tagging: 


Reduces traffic too, though

Even if they are taking "real" SL buses out of service to do this:

Presumably all the riders that take a Silver Line bus to the airport were, in fact, going to crowd onto a normal Silver Line bus to the airport, increasing boarding times in the outbound direction, slowing buses in the tunnel, etc.

Seems likely that this would *improve* performance on SL1/SL2, no?

'Convention Center stop'

is actually called the World Trade Center stop. I believe the planning for this, and maybe even some of the construction, occurred before the Convention Center was approved.

On purpose

Not true. The convention center was being planned or under construction when the Silver Lie came about. They actually routed the SL away from the convention center, for fear a convention would let out and swamp the buses, and making people walk a block or two would stagger the crowd.

What, make a bus station

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What, make a bus station inconvenient, and your low-capacity bus service won't be crowded, because people won't use it? That's a strange measure of success.

someone please put the Hearld out of its misery.

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The people in that video were clearly either told or given hints that the convention-goers were riding for free.

I honestly can't see what the possible issue is here. The Silver Line runs on a set schedule, which requires a certain number of buses in service. There are additional buses in the fleet on top of that number, which are normally sitting idle in a parking lot. Running buses directly to BCEC provides convention attendees with a valuable service, while also relieving some congestion on the regular Silver Line airport route, which has always been pretty crammed every time I've taken it. The riders are paying, so it's not like "they're not paying their fare share!".

Yeah, sounds like people they interviewed thought it was free

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"'What don’t we subsidize with our taxes?' said an exasperated Alyssa King, a Silver Line rider from Dorchester."

Um, this service for one thing? The riders have to pay, and the ease of use makes it more likely for people to take the bus instead of a cab. I bet if you did the math the extra fares would easily pay for the drivers' overtime.

And I love the Herald user comment expressing sympathy for the poor cab drivers who have to compete with the "heavily subsidized" T. You know, except for every night after 12:30 when the T stops running and people leaving bars have to take cabs.

And who says it's even overtime?

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You come in to work, you drive the route they tell you. Scheduling extra routes does not necessarily mean overtime.

Mea culpa: The article does actually note the drivers were paid OT.

The drivers pick their work

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The drivers pick their work quarterly based on senority, they don't just show up to work and drive what they are told unless they have picked to be a cover operator (somebody who fills in for people who are sick, vacation, etc)or they are a new hire who hasn't picked regular work yet.
Scheduling extra service usually does mean overtime or dropping service someplace else and using the driver that was supposed to do that work to do the extra work instead. In this case though, I'm sure it is overtime. But that is not unusual. After Red Sox games, they run extra streetcars from Kenmore to Park Stree; after events at the Harborlight Pavilion, they run extra buses from Silver Line Way to South Station. This is all overtime work, but it is justified to accomodate the extra ridership.

It would be great if the MBTA

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It would be great if the MBTA ran extra express cars from Park to Kenmore before Red Sox games too. Rush hour commuters from Arlington to Hynes always seem to get the shaft at the worst possible time of day when the team is in town.

Full Fare Cash Passengers

These aren't typically people with passes, but people who will be paying the full premium fare for their ride. I wonder how many will be paying in $5 bills for which they get their change as a charlie ticket that they won't use?

While I would love to see them charged the express bus rate for this express bus ride, suffice it to say that most will pay more for their ride on a fully loaded bus than us lowly pass holders.

"The riders are paying, so

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"The riders are paying, so it's not like 'they're not paying their fare share!'."

Has anyone checked to make sure the fares on this service are covering its costs? On average, the T covers about 25% of costs with fares.


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And many a knicker was in a twist this day, oh let me tell you.

I mean, honestly, what the fuck is the problem with ad-hoc scheduling in order to keep all of these people who will immediately flock to the airport off of the red line and out of the regular city buses with their loads of baggage. They're paying full fare ferchrissakes.

The pearl clutching is so loud from the Herald I can hear it in Davis Sq.

OT: South Station?

Now that I take the Silver Line every day to work, I've been wondering: What did South Station look like before the tunnels were built? Did they just happen to have a convenient extra-long flight of stairs going down to the Red Line? Or was there something at the Silver Line level previously?

If I remember correctly

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It was a set of escalators that went all the way down to the Red Line. If I'm wrong, someone who has a better memory will correct me, I'm sure.

Steampunk escalator!

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They used to have this bizarre escalator with wooden slats that were tilted rather than parallel to the ground. Apparently they were great fun for women in heels.

The old South Station

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Those old wooden escalators with the steep incline were awful. Especially at the top where the wooden slats intertwined into each other and became rotating blades.

South Station, before the massive rennovations of the 80s, was a huge empty room with a smattering of wooden benches and absolutely nothing else. No food court, no tables. Just a coffee stand in the middle of the room, called "Best Coffee in Town". It sold a few stale pastries and donuts, but it did live up to it's name. The coffee was excellent. There were also large wooden bulletin boards outside the main entrance where people could post things. Local bands used to put flyers up.

Same At "Washington"

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"Downtown Crossing" to you young whippersnappers!

In my day, we had special escalator-ridin' shoes (which we called "Slat Spats") and you got off the train and strapped 'em on before you rode up unless you wanted to fall over backwards and have your head get smooshed like a ripe melon by everybody else, and serves you right! Of course, the train only cost a farthing and livestock rode free. Those were the days!

Grandpa Simpson

Of course

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...when you put on your slat spats, you tied a onion to your belt, which was the fashion of the day.

Harvard Square T station also

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If I recall, the Harvard Square T station also had one of those old wooden meat grinder escalators until the early 80s, when they redid everything.

South Station pre Silver Line

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There was a high mezzanine level with token booths and turnstiles where the current Silver Line level is. There wasn't much where the current fare gates are other than a couple of corridors leading to the stairways down to the mezzanine. If I recall correctly, the ceiling of the current fare gate area was about level with the ceiling of the old mezzanine.

Many decades ago ...

... the MTA, or maybe the Boston El, built a long pedestrian corridor on top of the Red Line tunnel, leading from Downtown Crossing station to South Station. Part of this is in use today, serving the basements of Jordan Marsh Macy's and the former Filene's. The rest was never opened to the public, and was severed in the 1950s by the Central Artery Dewey Square tunnel.

My understanding is that it

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My understanding is that it was originally intended to be used as a trolley connection between Park St. and the old elevated tracks by South Stn. (plus it was cheap to do since the Cambridge Dorchester subway tunnel had to be dug anyway). But it was determined to be a stupid idea and never used. Certainly the Winter St. concourse didn't open to the public until decades later.

There was always a mezzanine

And by always, of course, I really mean only over the time I've lived in Boston, so, there was a mezzanine for at least 10 years prior to the Silver Line opening.

What's next?

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Will the Herald "uncover" the practice of "stealing buses" to serve all those fat-cat school students who get special service when school gets out in the afternoon?

While this could be a good

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While this could be a good idea, I have a few concerns.

The T should publicize this in a bus advisory on their website, including a schedule.

They should also provide equal treatment to other special events. I've never heard of the T doing this for anyone else.

And there is a fine line between providing extra bus service to prevent overcrowding on public routes, and providing dedicated private shuttles which really should be paid for by the private events.

Of course, if the Silver Line stopped closer to the convention center, and wasn't a slow, crowded mess with inadequate capacity, they wouldn't have to do this in the first place.

Just because it makes sense doesn't make it right

More people using public transportation: great. But, it's still unfair that the average rider has to make do with walking blocks to and from the nearest T stop (not just in the Seaport, of course).

Basically, anything that happens anywhere in the Seaport pisses me off; the whole thing is a car wreck and I don't see any good resolution, at least not in our lifetimes.

Let me get this straight

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You're upset that the average rider's day is still the average rider's day...but for a few thousand people (visitors to the city, even) every now and then, the MBTA improves their experience by helping them get directly to their destination.

Every average rider has some place to start and some place to end their ride and the number of people going to the same place from the same place on your average ride is probably nil...but for those thousands of people going the two whole miles from the airport to the convention center, you're upset that they get door-to-door service as a shared ride...because the average rider isn't going from one place to another in a pack of a thousand at a time?

So, if we can't benefit every rider of the system with a customized door-to-door route, but we can occasionally do so for a few thousand at once because of their special situation of being conference attendees who have arrived by plane...that's "not right" to the rest of the riders somehow? It's not like they're getting drink service on the ride. It's just a custom route used when the situation warrants. Nothing to get pissed off about.

How about the fact that the MCCA is a bloated agency...

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...which collects oodles of taxes and fees to accommodate our convention business, which could spend money on just this kind of dedicated, door to door, custom shuttle to the airport for conventioners.

Instead, the standard taxpayer, whose general access to public transportation is being cut significantly, is subsidizing this. The difference with the Red Sox is that I can get on that crowded train, whether or not I went to the game. Here, not so much. Plus, the public's very expensive equipment, which has wear and tear costs, is being used as a discount coach.


Do we know the T is losing money on the deal?

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You'd think the crusading newspaper would have gotten an answer to that question, but, strangely, it didn't. What are they hiding?

Plus, the public's very expensive equipment, which has wear and tear costs, is being used as a discount coach.

Even the Herald admits riders were paying full fare. If the Silver Line is a "discount coach," then so's the entire T system. Should we just shut it down?

It's possible that it isn't

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Non-stop service, only runs for a short span, almost guaranteed riders? Could be profitable. Although I wouldn't put it past the T to screw it up.

Wear and tear costs?

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These people are paying a full fare price to go 2 miles. The average rider on the MBTA pays the same amount and goes more than 2 miles. If anything, the "wear and tear" of running these things to the convention center without having to make any other stops, etc. is going to be FAR LOWER than if they'd been running their usual route instead.

This type of site-specific

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This type of site-specific door-to-door service is normally provided by private shuttles. The T is only running it because MBTA and Convention Center executives know each other personally.

Citation for which

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Citation for which claim?

Convention center officials are friends with MBTA officials:
"[MCCA Executive Director Rooney] ... ended his MBTA career as deputy general manager."

And the Herald article mentions MCCA spokesman Mac Daniel. Daniel used to write the transportation column for the Globe, so he has plenty of contacts at the T.

The T only does this because officials know each other:
Tough to prove or disprove, but the Herald article does say:
"Before a convention, MCCA officials contact the MBTA’s bus operations division, which approves the airport shuttle service, Pesaturo said."

I suppose you or I could try calling the T to ask for free (to us) service for an event we're planning. I'm not going to try it, because I'm confident of the answer.

Other convention centers and conventions hire private shuttles: Go to any large urban convention center during a convention. See all the private buses. For example:
http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20111104/midtown/m... (click to image 3)