Progress comes even to the Orange Line

Orange Line countdown clock

Jed Hresko captured a new train countdown clock at Mass. Ave. on the Orange Line tonight. The T began rolling out the service on the Red Line a few months ago. He reports:

Pretty sophisticated. The sign changes from ARR to BRD right as the train got halfway down the platform. The signs at the turnstiles announce both directions. Sadly, the voice is gone, now replaced by computer-speak - by necessity, considering the endless combinations that are now announced.



Free tagging: 


I hope they keep doing stuff like this.

It's useful to know when a train is coming. This lets me know if I need to exit the station and start walking, or if the train is coming soon enough. Whoever pitched this idea and got it approved needs to keep attending the right meetings and sharing their ideas.


So glad these are coming to the Orange Line! I've found them to be really helpful on the Red Line in the last few months.

Green Line

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Too bad we will likely not see this on the Green Line in our lifetimes.

I was thinking of that as

I was thinking of that as well. Anyone know the reason they can't do the approaching/arriving announcements (and this) on the Green Line? My initial thought was they couldn't distinguish between the types of trains (B, C, D, E) but this works on the Red Line when they announce it'e either an Ashmont or Braintree train. Is it something to do with the trains themselves?

It's because the entire Green

It's because the entire Green Line is not outfitted for real-time tracking. That data forms the backend for the public-facing MBTA systems (like the older approaching/arriving announcements, the Red Line tracking display at South Station, and these new countdown clocks) and mobile apps like OpenMBTA. I'm not sure that MBTA Central Control even knows more than the rough location of a Green Line trolley at any given time.

I think implementing this is in their plans, but it's years out.



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If you visit the T's operations control center, they'll tell you as much (and you can see it on their board). They just don't have the data for the Green Line; there are maybe ten total points on the line (all branches) where the trains check in, but between those, they could be anywhere. Fixing this would most likely come as part of implementing "Positive Train Control" for the Green Line, but that's a big, slow, and probably not-yet-fully-funded project.

It really is a shame we're

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It really is a shame we're still in 1950.

Signalling system too expensive to modify?
No problem.

Purchase 50 $200 cameras (bonus, do it with the homeland security free money).
Place cameras in tunnel at equal distances (maybe before each station?)
Connect to laptop with software that can harness the power of 2012 and recognize the letters B,C,D and E.

Congratulations, you know know where every train in the tunnel system is, and where it's going.

If camera 1, at Kenmore, sees a "B" the countdown at Hynes can now say 2 minutes.

Total cost:
$10,000 in materials and installation
$90,000 for my consulting fee.

Cameras for The T's Green Line

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make that $300K - $100K as you detailed, plus that same amount for a) MBTA management inefficiencies, bumbling, uncoordination, etc. and again for b) UNION inefficiencies, unfounded squabbles, gripes and grievances, and overall intractability

Or you could use a laptop

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Or you could use a laptop with the power of 1974 technology and just scan barcodes. Or you could be a little more modern and scan an RFID attached to the trolley. Outdoors you don't even need the cameras, and can just recycle the same GPS system the buses use. Except maybe at Blandford St., St. Mary's St., Fenway, and Northeastern Univ. to help sync up the two tracking systems.

Already exists, in a way

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There's between 30 and 40 transponders along the Green Line which identify and record passing trains. Most of them are placed between Boylston and North Station. The surface branches have approximately 1 transponder per branch, for example at Riverside, to record what's going in and out of the terminus. I believe the Riverside transponder is placed at a location just inbound of the platform.

This is what supplies what little information High Street has on their display. If they want more tracking, seems reasonable just to put more of these transponders out.

And of course the Green Line,

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And of course the Green Line, with its numerous surface stops, would be the line where real-time tracking would be most useful.

I give the T credit for the realtime bus and rapid transit tracking, but it's a darn shame that there's no such public data feed for the Green Line.

Ah I see. So are folks

Ah I see. So are folks unable to see Green Line info on their phones too? I have yet to use any of the MBTA mobile apps, as they don’t make many for Blackberry :p

Check out ....

MBTAInfo. Should be usable on any sort of phone (there is even a text mode). (Won't help with Green Line, though).


15 years ago in London

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I saw this in the Tube. I thought hope Boston has this soon. Wow Boston Is on top of things.

I also thought the same thing about grocery store shopping carts with swivel wheels on all 4 wheels. 15 years later we still don’t have that.

Grocery carts

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I've used those carts when I was in Italy. They're great for just a few things but load the cart up with a family load of groceries and it takes a surprising amount of core strength to keep it going in a straight line.

Core exercises

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using your shopping cart full of soda and Cheetos? Sounds like poetic justice for the American consumer.

Until they become an ADA violation because some pregnant Mommie can't push the cart with her three kids hanging out the back of it.

What a tool you are, anon

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How about your elderly mother who's basement you seem to be living in?

Cheetos are easy to move around. It's gallons of milk, produce, and protein that are dense/heavy.

There's this thing

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it's called sarcasm. You should try it sometime.

One Upping

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Remember seeing it in London in 1985. My teenage brain said this would be great to have a Park Street while waiting to see if the next train was an Ashmont or Braintree and how long it would be before it hit the station. Now all we need is a Katrina and The Waves reunion and we will be set.


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Ruggles may have them as well. I was walking through tonight and I heard an announcement saying "Next Orange Line train to (didn't catch destination) in five minutes" in a different voice than normal. I didn't get a chance to see any of the signs but I will check in the morning.

The Voice

I was stoked to see these popping up on the Orange Line. I really like them on the Red Line but you know, I'm an Orange Line gal at heart.

Now, speaking of the voice... I've always wanted to know who the fellow who did the announcements was. Someone out there must know this information. I get that he's some voiceover person, but wouldn't it be cool to see who he is? (Especially since computer man and woman are taking over.)

Then again, I could be the only one who cares. That's ok too.

Frank Oglesby

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I had the pleasure of meeting him a few years back when MY WIFE and I were attending a bus rodeo (another story, another time.) Very nice fellow.

Since I do voice-over work, we chatted a bit. He's actually a T employee (or, at least, he was at the time. I assume he still is.) He gave me his demo tape to pass along to a producer, as he was trying to score some further work in the field. The point is he wasn't a voice-over guy full-time. He was, as I understand it, chosen from the T ranks to do the job because he has a pleasant voice, he had the time, they wanted someone on the payroll already...

I'm not sure who did the production end of things (patching announcements together, etc.)


I've noticed some blue line

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I've noticed some blue line trains have replaced his voice with a new voice. Are they phasing him out everywhere?

I've noticed this too

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Kinda wondered what was going on.. I liked the other voice. BUT the new voices on the Blue Line seem like it is updated software to 'string together' the words better to form phrases

As some of you may not know, the way the current voice is done is it is a segment of words and/or phrases joined together to create a sentence. So there's always that 'pause' or where you can tell that the sentence was joined together because it doesn't sound natural.

So instead of this guy saying "Second Street" and "Boylston Street" or "Harvard Square". It is two words.. he recorded "Street" just once and it is joined with another word, ie. "Boylston" to become "Boylston" "Street".

(there was an article in the Metro several years ago when they first started doing announcements on who the voice was and how it worked. At the time he worked in the Training Department at the T)

Speaking of the Orange Line, this is what happened @ F.H.

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to me yesterday:

[my T complaint]


On The afternoon of Thursday, December 7, 2012, at around 4:15PM, I attempted to speak with an MBTA employee manning the info booth inside Forest Hills station regarding my Charlie Pass which had simply stopped working. The pass appeared to have simply died. I was going to the Downtown Crossing Charlie Pass Store to remedy the situation and wanted to ask the MBTA employee to allow me to pass thru the turnstile. At this time I also had the receipt for my pass purchase, which was clearly time stamped, with the card's serial number clearly displayed.

Upon reaching the booth, the women inside was looking down, reading a newspaper. The glass partition was almost completely closed. I waited for about 30 seconds to get her attention when an MBTA Transit Police officer standing next to the booth told me to knock on the glass, which I did, and followed by opening the glass window. The women looked up at which time I started to politely explain the situation, placing my pass and receipt on the table in front of her. The women immediately started to aggressively berate me, demanding to know why I 'slammed' the card down on the table and 'bang' on the window. I politely explained that the officer suggested I knock on the window to get her attention, and that I did not 'bang' on it, nor 'slam' the card on the table. She continued her verbal abuse, accusing me of being rude and that she was not 'my maid'. I continued to politely explain my issue with the card but she continuously interrupted me, telling me she didn't have to do anything she didn't want to do. At this point she got up, left the booth and casually walked over to a ticket machine, as I followed. I gave her the card, it didn't work, she gave it back, at which point I again explained I had to get to Downtown Crossing within 1/2 hr, showed her again the receipt with the card's serial number and time stamp, and would she please let me thru the turnstile. She then said no, she wouldn't, that she she didn't have to, that 'How dare I demand her' to do anything [I politely requested, not demanded] anything, and that I better hurry up because I had only 1/2 hr to go. She then suggested I 'probably broke the card myself'. At this point she turned away and started to walk back to her booth, and I told her I was going to piggyback thru the turnstile, at which point I heard her say to the transit police officer mention something about the 'white guy', which I presume she meant as me. The officer did not stop me.

I did make it to the pass shop,and they did replace the card, in a professional manner.

The women in question at the Forest Hills info booth is a black women with a Jamaican or some type of Caribbean accent, roughly middle aged.


Now that they've finally installed these things, maybe they can un-install this customer service representative. I can't believe I'm her only victim and doubt the MBTA is unaware of her attitude.

Bible reading lady at Green Street at least doesn't act out

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The T "ambassador" at Green Street is at least polite if ineffective. When a friend visiting from out of town asked her how to use a card which was not working, she politely stopped reading her Bible and responded to just insert the card.

What she did not do was to exit her cozy booth and demonstrate an actual interest in helping this visitor understand how to use the fare gate. If reading a Bible helps her to not act out like the Forest Hills T representative then by all means read on. But perhaps she should also use what she learns from reading a Bible to understand that hospitality and helpfulness requires getting off her holy butt, coming out of her tiny bubble and actually helping a person.

1) she has to give you her

1) she has to give you her employee number and name if you ask
2) if you have a smart phone that records, take it out and say "I have started recording and I am informing you, on the record, that I am now recording this interaction". If you are, indeed, recording you need to get that declaration recorded up front.


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Just because she *has* to give the employee number doesn't mean she will. Luckily the T has all those fancy cameras all over the place now so they should be able to see the reactions at least.

This sounds exactly like a

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This sounds exactly like a bus driver I encountered a few weeks ago. It was a situation where the "stop request" button was not working so I hustled up to the front to tell the driver verbally that I wanted the next stop, please. I was speaking to her calmly and definitely said "please." Instead of stopping she sailed past my street and instantly accused me of treating her "like a cab driver who will stop anywhere I want." I was stunned. I've been taking public transit in Boston for almost 20 years and when this situation has come up before the bus driver has always handled it like a normal human being. The instant rage that came from this driver was bizarre. In my surprise I neglected to get the bus number, but I think if my small encounter with her was anything to judge by, she must have issues with other people and might eventually get noticed by her superiors. I hope, anyway!
Sorry to hijack the orange line topic, but when you mentioned that she thought you were treating her like a "maid" it reminded me of my encounter with the bus driver who thought I was treating her like a cab driver. Yeesh.

Another insolent bus driver

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This reminds me of the time I was waiting, in the pouring rain, for the 43 bus at the stop just outside of Boylston Station. The bus passed me right by, but I ran to catch up with it at the stop light. The driver wouldn't let me on the bus, claiming I was waiting at the wrong stop - I had been at the Silver Line stop, not the bus stop (indeed there are 2 MBTA markers there, but they're not all that far apart from one another - I didn't realize they were different - and in the pouring rain I simply hadn't looked at the front of the signs to check - I didn't think I had to - the shape of the signs are all the same, why would I know there was a difference?). Meanwhile, it's pouring, the bus wasn't full, and I was close to being late for an appointment, but all arguments landed on apathetic ears as the bus driver only told me to get out of the street. (Not even an "I'm sorry there was a miscommunication, but now I'm sorry I can't take you on here at the light because it's not a legal stop," etc. Just a dismissive, rude "get out of the street.") I think then I hailed a cab and paid considerably more to get to where I needed to go.

I hope I never need to take the 43 ever again.


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Sorry for your trouble. BTW, Thursday was December 6th, not the 7th.

should have proof read it better

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Yup, Thursday was the 6th and I used plural 'women' at least a half dozen times instead of 'woman'.


Was she fairly obese?

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There is a very large black lady who I see as a CSA at various Orange Line stops, she has a SERIOUS attitude problem. Seriously, these hostile assholes should not be Customer Service anything.

At least on the Red Line they acknowledge it's bad service

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I had a much more polite experience at Harvard Station yesterday, in which the MBTA representative basically apologized for a lack of support in the station.

When I tapped my monthly pass and it said "See Agent". That's happened a few times to me at Kendall lately, and I usually can just go to another turnstile and that one works. This time, when I tried again, it said "Pass already used". There was no agent milling around, so I went to the customer service booth. The guy seemed slightly surprised to have someone asking him a question, since evidently the general customer service is completely separate from the station agents.
But when I explained my problem, he said "Oh, yeah, hmmmm. Let's see if there's someone who can help you." When he couldn't see any other agents, he said cheerily, "We really should see about manning these stations!". He did come out of the booth, and let me in manually, explaining that this happened all the time, and there should really be someone to help people in my situation.

Was this the white prefab

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Was this the white prefab mini-booth, or the fancy glass Hub Station?

The former is for the customer service agent. I have no idea what all the people in the latter are supposed to be doing.

When Arr means Dep

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At least once the sign on the Red Line listed that a training was arriving. The train had actually departed. The idea of setting expectations is a good if the expectations are accurate. Too often the T sets expectations of arrival times (including buses on the T apps) and yet the bus does not arrive.

I also wish they would eliminate the audio. There is enough noise. When Public Transportation was not a necessary evil all noise of announcements and clarions did not exist. But buses arrived and trains arrived and riders got around.

They're not trying to create background noise

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Those announcements are actually a requirement under the Americans with Disability Act. Simply put, the same information that is provided to a person with complete, sight, hearing, and mobility must also be provided to those without.

Meaning, if there is information provided on a visual message board, it must also be accompanied by an audio announcement and vice versa.

Even in new sporting venues, there are typically one or two dedicated scoreboards set aside to "open caption" PA announcements.

They cannot eliminate the

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They cannot eliminate the audio. Auditory announcements are an ADA requirement. How would a blind person have access to the same information without the audio?

Bus predictions are published by third party

Too often the T sets expectations of arrival times (including buses on the T apps) and yet the bus does not arrive.

The T doesn't publish any prediction data for the buses. Those bus apps are all created by third parties that use prediction data from NextBus Inc. The T gives NextBus a live stream of the GPS locations of all its buses, and then NextBus does its thing and generates predictions.

As far as I can tell, NextBus has no way to take realtime traffic conditions into account. (The data do exist, for example the realtime traffic layer on Google Maps). They also don't seem to do a very good job of taking the time of day into account when making predictions. A bus running at rush hour is going to progress more slowly than a bus running at 11pm, and they ought to know this by analyzing past data, but in practice it doesn't work so well.

Many of the wild inaccuracies happen because a bus is scheduled to start its route at a certain time, but it doesn't, and NextBus has no way to know about these situations. For example a driver is on an extended cigarette break, or the bus broke, or a driver called in sick and the T decided to leave a bus out of service instead of getting a replacement driver. The last one ought to warrant a T alert, but how many times do you see an alert for "We're only running half the scheduled trips on this route today because a driver banged in sick"? I think never.

The T generates the

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The T generates the predictions. NextBus and the other websites just display the data.

No matter who does it, it's a complicated problem. And you can never know with 100% certainty when a bus will arrive until it actually does.

Why ARR and BRD?

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It looks like they have at least 5-6 characters of space in which they could spell out 'Arrive' and 'Board'. On the DC Metro they write ARR and BRD because it goes int a column labeled 'MIN' which is 3 characters wide. But here it seems that they could be a bit more explicit to have the signs be a bit more readable.

Just a small nitpick, I guess.