So now Kenmore commuters know the what, if not the when

Next-train sign at Kenmore

Walking Boston snapped one of the Green Line's new next-train signs, which shows, well, the next train to arrive, but, unlike the signs on the other lines, not when it's due.

"For the first time in the 100-year history of the Green Line, customers on the outbound platform will no longer have to guess which train is coming next," state Transportation Secretary Richard Davey said.

Providing arrival time information will take additional technology to track Green Line trolleys; the T hopes to release a schedule for installation of that sometime in the next few months.



Free tagging: 



why would you need that information on the inbound side? every train on the inbound goes through the central subway on the way to Gov't Center or Lechmere

when they have tracking, they

when they have tracking, they likely can do the inbound. Right now, at Kenmore, the inbound order is based on when they arrive, which means they need tracking to say give you information about whether the next train goes all the way to Lechmere or stops at Park Street.

For the outbound signs, the order is not going to change from the order they were leaving Park Street, so no tracking is needed.

Your "logic" about the eastbound trains

makes sense except for one thing. It presumes that a train bound for North Station (at present, no Lechmere trains are routed through Kenmore) isn't re-routed into the Government Center loop, or a GC train isn't re-routed into the Park Street loop, at the last minute.

As these re-routing decisions are usually made "on the fly" as eastbound trains leave Boylston, I can see the potential for lots of cases where the passenger information provided at Kenmore won't reflect the reality of where the train actually goes.


I don't understand

I know I'm missing the obvious, but could someone tell me who this benefits? If I'm on the platform waiting for the next train ... I'm waiting for the next train?

And, it's not on the "outbound platform" is it? It's up on the overhead passageway, no?

And, it's outbound only?

Exactly. Another

"feel good" system that only gives the riders a vague notion of what to expect. And, instead of waiting to complete the infrastructure to make it actually functional (by including expected arrival times), they rush to push out a half-baked product.

Sadly, it's par for the course for the MBTA. And shame on anybody (public or media) who actually applauds them for this work.

Waiting to Complete

To my knowledge, the waiting have been multiple years. It has all but admitted that the they have no idea where's the trains are and know the trains breakdown too much to give any time estimation even if they shove the same tracker from the bus. The MBTA only knows the order (and part of why we see trains just waiting at Kenmore, they are not allowed to go out of order).

In other words, this looks less like some kind of failed software engineering project where poor project management and running out of time led to releasing a product with 3/4 of its planned features are cut out. And a lot more like "we got these things on hand we can show, holding off won't lead to more functionality".

If you disagree, how do imagine not realizing what we see now leads to a better product later?


Kiss my big fat hairy ass ok?

I LIKE this. So piss off. It's better than what was there before, which was NOTHING. I applaud the T for doing SOMETHING, which is better than NOTHING.

Look, we get it. You want better service. We all do. But to continuously knock tools that make the ride better, you're being nothing but being a troll about this.

I don't know of *any* public transit service in the US that doesn't have it's fair share of flaws. Of course, people say "oh but MUNI is better" or "NYC MTA is better" but if you ask any local, I'm sure they have the same gripes and complaints about their local public transit agency as we do about the MBTA. So give it a fuckin rest.


Will telling passengers which line

is going to arrive next (especially without an ETA):

A) - result in less overcrowding on trains?

B) - reduce the waiting time for trains on specific branches?

C) - reduce the frequency of disabled trains?

D) - eliminate the practice of short-turning and re-routing trains?

E) - eliminate the practice of arbitrarily holding trains for "schedule adjustment"?

The anbswer to all these questions is No, it won't.

Perhaps it's time to people like you to give your knee-jerk "the T is doing something, so it mst be good" reactions to these pointless gimmicks a rest and think about the types of real and necessary improvements the MBTA should be making to their service.
Like running more trains and improving maintenance so things are less likely to break down.

Knowing which train is coming next *does* matter for some.

It might not matter w/r/t the questions you asked and answered, but it matters a lot to those of us who can take more than one branch of the Green Line to get to our destination (particularly at night, and late night with the ever increasing headways).

I live nearish to Cleveland Circle. It will be great to know if the next D train is in 20 min whilst the next C train is in 2.

Something is better than nothing

I'd rather have some improvements being done than none (which is what you are advocating).

As has been pointed out in the past, the T doesn't have the funding to do everything you think is an improvement at once. They are working on new cars and engines, but they don't grow on trees and neither does the money. The only thing pointless is your complaining.



It's time for you to STFU. You're trolling now.

And how do you suppose the T does this? Who's paying? Do you got 100 Million kicking around to give to the T to fix it? I didn't think so and neither does the T.

Yeah pointless and 'gimmick' to YOU, IN YOUR OPINION. Stop trying to cut the rest of us off who actually LIKE this. And as I keep saying, this is far from a gimmick, over 100 transit agencies use NextBus, so it's not a fuckin gimmick.

We get it, you're a troll plain and simple. Now why don't you and Mark02whatever go play in a corner somewhere. You're being a troll.

Knowing which train is arriving next is helpful

especially if you are going to one of the stops that can be accessed by more than one branch (Longwood, Cleveland Circle, etc). They had the red line arriving/approaching signs up before the wait times, and it was still useful. The apps and websites are extremely useful, especially for buses.

Yes, in a perfect world, no train/bus would ever break down, everyone would have a seat, and they would run exactly on time. Until then, if they can also give me the tools so I at least know when transportation is arriving, then that's great.


Not to take away from your

Not to take away from your point about the T needing to get their shit in shape... but I do have a use-case for the new signs even without ETAs, and I've already put it to use once since yesterday.

I took the D to Kenmore and then got off and looked at the board. Since it did not list a B I went upstairs and caught the 57 bus which I knew was about to leave based on the NextBus web page.

In the past I would go to the mez level and keep an eye on NextBus, while listening for a train downstairs, if I wanted to keep my options open. Now it's more convenient, I can wait in the middle by the Charlie ticket machines.


Did it ever fucking occur to you that there's a REASON why they can't do real time tracking on the Green Line?

You do know that the switching system predates the MBTA itself (1964-Present incarnation). It's too old, it needs to be updated in order for them to do this.

Gee your complaint about reliable transportation goes hand in hand with why they can't do real time tracking. They are one in the same. Maybe you'll get your wish the same day I get my real time tracking.

Yes but why

I don't understand, technically, why real time tracking would be so hard to implement. Above ground they use same GPS transponders found in all the busses. Below ground you put small EZPass-like receivers every couple hundred feet and connected via normal IP networking. These are all commodity parts.

It wouldn't be trivial to get such a system up and running but shouldn't be a decade long, multimillion dollar capital investment either -- the tunnel just isn't that long. Outside of the system being old, what are the technical challenges stopping a tracking system from moving forward?

You know...

There's hundreds of Green Line cars that need to be retrofitted with GPS transponders... that takes time.

The bus fleet had been outfitted with them a while back for internal tracking purposes. So it was just a matter of writing some software to translate raw data into predictions, and then publishing it on the Internet.


The issue is..

it isn't so much that the T needs to put GPS trackers on the trains and deal with the underground issues. It's been done before. SF Muni has an IDENTICAL GPS tracking system that it's been using for over a decade (it was one of the first systems to use the NextBus technology).

However, the big difference between SF Muni's street cars and the MBTA Green Line is that.. unlike the Green Line which is older than dirt. Most of the SF Muni streetcar and subway lines were 'upgraded' and/or installed (as in the case of the Market Street Subway) in the late 1970s and early 1980s. SF Muni's switching system is far newer than the MBTA Green Line's switching system.

That's the problem. Yes the T has admitted they have no idea where the trains are, but it's not their fault. Their switching and ITS system for the Green Line (if it has ITS) is just old and out dated. And as we keep cutting transit funding, it's just not going to get done.

Keep in mind the MBTA has known for years it needs to upgrade that system, but this costs millions of dollars to do. It really boils down to cost. The MBTA just doesn't have 300 million or whatever it would cost to fix it. Dishing out 100k for a software upgrade is far easier and it's something they can do right away vs trying to fix a switching system on a 100year old system that could take a decade to do. This is just an easy, within reach, win for the T.

Most of SF's MUNI system

is buses or trackless trolley hybrid electric buses. There's only a few light rail lines, and the whole system is above ground. Cable cars don't have fancy switching systems, but you can watch them plod up and down Powell Street if you have the transit app. (Pro tip for cable car tourism.)

I think it's comparing apples to oranges, because the MBTA put tracking on the lines where it could years ago. It's just the Green Line's quirk that it's still not up. Agreed, they could move faster on it, but I'm sure there are higher priorities like making sure Red Line doors don't get stuck open while trains are moving and all that.


There's only a few light rail lines, and the whole system is above ground.

You haven't ridden MUNI much, I take it? Or maybe not since the 70s?


Most of the shared stations are underground. Market Street / Twin Peaks tunnel.

They went through the trouble of installing communications-based train control on their light rail lines. So they know where every train is, with modern signalling. Unfortunately, the installation was a complete debacle, so I can see why managers here are not eager to repeat it.

challenges aren't technical, they are legislative

I have done some work as a consultant for the MBTA, in the IT realm. The usual challenges to getting something fixed isn't technical, it is political, legislative or budgetary. There are lots of rules and procedures that limit what the T can do and how fast they can do it. Tell your legislator to take back the debt they foisted on the T, and maybe loosen some of the ridiculous constraints on procurements. When it takes so long to get a purchase approved that the hardware you were trying to purchase is no longer sold by the time you get approval, getting anything done is difficult.


I get so anxious wondering where the next train is going. Seriously, the un-knowing-ness of it all was driving me INSANE! I can now live my life with CONTENTMENT, secure in the knowledge that the next train isn't going my way. (It's a good thing I don't care about when it's going to get there, or I might EXPLODE!)


So Adam

Should we start a pool as to when the first person contacts Citizen's Connect to complain that "the clock telling you when the next train is arriving doesn't work, as it goes up instead of down."

Woah, woah...

I wasn't there for the unveiling. That was not my picture, sorry. :) I retweeted a picture by @walkingbostonian (not Walk Boston affiliated).

I didn't notice I was credited until someone texted me asking questions, leaving me terribly confused. Haha.

It's the AVI transponders

I guess they saw this as a quick hack that could be done for some brownie points. It's the same info that gets forwarded to High Street. The readers pick up the train's tag in the tunnels and transmit that back to HQ. And now they display it on the outbound side of Kenmore, as well as up top. There is a little "ARR" notification that gets posted as the train is arriving. Presumably that occurs when the train reaches the Kenmore switch.

There was a funny Green Line moment: With all the press watching, when Davey pulled the veil off the display, it showed that the next two trains were both Boston College trains.

Not sure if anyones pointed

Not sure if anyones pointed this out, but how long were the arrival signs installed on the other lines before they were even put into use? (I think it was 2007 and just put to use last year)Assuming the T is planning on figuring out exactly how to give Green Line arrival times, then recent MBTA history would suggest the signs are installed before the timing system is in place.

Since the other lines have timed arrival signs, and they are going to install the signs in Green Line stations, they likely figured they might as well do the best they could to put them to use for the time being.

That's just a guess on my part, and I do agree that while waiting for a trolley, it's useless to know which train is next if you don't know when "next" actually means.

Since the other lines have

Since the other lines have timed arrival signs, and they are going to install the signs in Green Line stations

The signs are already installed in all the Green Line stations. You are correct that the signs system-wide were installed in 07 and were not used beyond T-alerts and clocks until last year when the countdown timers went live on the heavy rail lines. There's no new hardware that needs to go up in stations. It's all software/programming (timing algorithms) and tracking hardware.