Typical E Line shenanigans

It was just like every other day at Longwood Medical Area Station: waiting 20+ minutes until one of the "every 8 minutes" Heath St trains showed up at 12:10. On cue, a green sardine can came hurtling towards me, but then proceeded all the way up to the intersection before speeding off and blowing it's horn. That was certainly not typical. From my knowledge of the stop light cycle, I noted that it must have blown a red light as well.

A train followed closely behind, so I thought to myself, "No worries!" However, I soon overheard they were hoping to short turn the train I was riding. The plan was quickly nixed, though, thanks to a wheelchair-bound passenger who was heading Heath-bound. A new plan was quickly formulated to split the train into two trolleys and crossover the trailing car, and so we waited between Longwood and Brigham Circle anyway.

The train was hastily pried apart with a thump, and we soon proceeded into the station. This was soon followed by the Heath-bound trolley losing air pressure. Good thing they split the train to fix the schedule, right? Eventually, the wheelchair passenger simply asked to be let off so he could run to 7/11, to which the operator obliged - except, the platform was at the opposite side from where wheelchair passengers disembark at Heath Street. The doors on this side did not operate, and so they had to bring him down the trolley to the other doors.

Eventually, even I had to be kicked off the train as it was pulled from service. There were three trains immediately behind the disabled trolley at this point, and a plan was formed to begin short turning more trains. At last, I embarked what was then third Heath St train I had waited for after going just one stop. But it didn't end, oh no, it did not. The train sat on South Huntington Ave as an inspector worked his magic on the disabled train which was now hogging up Heath Street Station.

It took 50 minutes, but I was finally at the VA Hospital at 12:40. At any time, I could have walked for 20 minutes instead (I was monitoring the bus app as well, but at no point would the 39 have worked out unless you could predict the next problem), but I was not in a rush, and I preferred to experience this as a typical passenger would. Unfortunately, it seems bizarre events like this occur every day on the E Line. What, exactly, do the inspectors and dispatchers smoke?



Free tagging: 


This type of thing is not unique to the E line

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It happens on all the Green Line branches.

The basic problem is that the MBTA long ago abandoned the idea of having enough trains available for service to maintain a proper schedule, but doesn't want to publically admit that. So they short turn trains and "split" trains and the like so the numbers on paper match what the schedule should be.

In short, the dispatchers and inspectors adjust how the trains are run to fit the schedule, instead of having mamagement adjusting the schedule to reflect how the trains run. That's why you have nearly no service to Lechmere while Riverside and BC trains looping at Government Center are routinely held at Park Street for 5 to 10 minutes.

Not so sure about that

Barring the B Line, I can't really fathom any line getting screwed with as badly as the E Line. The inspectors must earn a bonus in their pay check for every train they short turn at Brigham Circle, because they LOVE to do it. Had they not split the train in order to cross over one measely trolley, this post wouldn't exist, as it was simply a matter of a trolley not stopping and then blowing through a red light at Longwood Ave. By the time they got the split train crossed over to the eastbound platform, the train which blew past me was approaching Brigham eastbound.

Like I said, I truly can't fathom any Green Line branch where the inspectors are so eager to crossover trains.

Government Center-bound trains

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routinely being looped at Park Street for one. And it is not uncommon for eastbound D and C line trains to ocassionally be looped at Kenmore as well.

But I agree with you, the E line does seem to get the worst of it. That's what happens when you have a management that dictates "maintain schedule", even though the "schedule" for each run is set by only two parameters - when the train leaves the origin terminal, and when it returns to that terminal, and then fails to provide enough resources (in the form of trains and crews) to enable that goal to be met.

I believe

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They are encouraged to turn around at Brigham Circle because they eventually want to scrap every stop after that. If they make it look like it causes no problem and fewer people are not using service past Brigham then they can make a case for themselves on paper. They did the same thing before with heath/arborway.


They are encouraged to turn at Brigham Circle

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as a CYA move. This is becuase management won't put enough trains in service to provide adequate headway all the way to Heath Street, and can use these turnbacks as a way to massage the schedule numbers to their advantage.

Ever wonder how the T continues to claim such great "on-time" performance with such lousy service? That's one of the reasons.

Your point about the MBTA wanting to abandon streetcar service beyond Brigham is noted, and is probably one of the T's worst kept secrets. Apart from the VA's concerns about loss of Heath Street service, the truth is that such a move would severely overload the 39 buses (making them even worse than they are now).


Does the T even publish

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Does the T even publish on-time statistics for the Green Line?

http://www.mbta.com/about_the_mbta/scorecard/ shows various stats, but no on-time performance for the Green Line or buses.

And I assume Percentage of Scheduled Service Operated counts a trip even if it's short-turned. How else could the Green Line be at 100.4%?

A goal of 4250 miles between breakdowns on the Green Line is pathetic. And they failed to achieve that goal.

And the document has of mistakes. If the on-time goal is 95%, and the Blue Line was 94%, why does the blue bar cross the Goal line?


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is being deliberately run into the ground by management, with of course the collusion of the state. I'll let you decide what the reasons for doing this are.

As for the green line, it's always been the 'rapid' transit weak link of the MBTA. Streetcars, trollys, 'light rail', whatever you want to call them, are not compatible with a big, modern, heavily used transit system. They simply lack capacity unless you have the streetcars to string together 4-6 car trains and be willing to accept the labor cost for the needed driver for each streetcar. The streetcar system is really a financial boondoggle. Very inefficient and costly.


Nowhere else in the world does each car get its own driver.

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Nowhere else in the world does each car get its own driver.

People pay their fare at the station (machine) and get a receipt.

They get on or off the train using ALL doors, speeding service.

Inspectors ticket people who do not have receipts.

This works in Charlotte, San Francisco, Portland, on NYC Select Bus, and across all of Europe.

I'd rather have someone driving each car.

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As long as they are there in case of emergency or to help. The issue is not these jobs, it's how the T is run as a "no profit" entity and not funded by the state, and is made to carry debt from the big dig still. More jobs at good wages is always a better thing overall.

go to Greece

...if you want to see a public service run with the end goal of more jobs at good wages. One guy drives the bus, the other guy opens the door, etc...

Jobs at good wages which are supportable and make sense are great. You are not describing that situation.


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there is literally no comparison to the economic climates in Greece and the US.


because we try to not to have public sector jobs for the sake of jobs. Suggesting the T have unneeded workers for the sake of 'jobs with good wages' is a good start down that path.

I wouldn't mind that either.

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It would be great to have a worker in every car to keep people safe from crime, help move things along, help with directions, etc. They don't have to be drivers.

I also think they should have a few people at each station. It's eerie at some of the stations at night with no workers there to help if needed.

The Green Line needs drivers

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The Green Line needs drivers in each car to operate the doors. If it was just to collect fares, the second driver could get off at the subway portal heading inbound, and get on the next train heading out, saving some labor cost (at the risk of increased complexity).


Not quite

As I understand it, the doors can be operated for up to three cars from the lead driver. However, it is difficult (perhaps impossible) for a driver to go from one car to another in a tunnel, whereas you can pass through on the heavy rail lines. So it is a legitimate safety concern. Until we get a light rail vehicle the length of two trolleys, we're stuck with what we've got.


Impossible to pass through

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between light-rail cars while the train is in motion.

The other reason it is impractical for one operator to control the doors on a two or three car train is visiblity. Unless you prefer the T spend a ludicrious amount of money to install multiple cameras and split video screens (like the ones put in on the Orange Line to permit one person operation) at every above-ground Green Line stop.

Its also impossible for one

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Its also impossible for one person to pass through a Red, Orange, and Blue line train while it is in motion as well, if that one person happens to be running the train.

How ludicrious is the amount of money to install mirrors, cameras, and monitors compared to the perpetual cost of having two operators (or three on a three-car train)on each multi-car train?

What is truly ludicrous about

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the "one person operation" on the Orange Line is the fact that, while the second operator on the trains were eliminated, personnel were added at each station to "assist" the operator in verifying when it is clear to close the doors.

This despite the cameras, mirrors, and "split video" screens that were installed at nearly every station.

They only have people at busy

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They only have people at busy stations during peak hours to help with the doors. They didn't lay anybody off when they went to one person operation, they reduced staff through attrition as people retired, and they had to keep people busy with platform work until the ranks were reduced. Ride the Orange Line today from end to end during the off-peak and you won't see many platform people helping with the doors.

MUNI manages to do OPTO

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I've witnessed it personally. Multiple light rail cars -- one person operation.

Their surface stations are often nothing more than yellow stripe painted on a pole. No cameras there.

The T needs to try another excuse.

Unless they've changed it since I was last there

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it's my understanding that MUNI runs single cars on the surface branches, then couples the cars together into multi-car trains when they enter the central subway. And the "extra" operators from the trailing cars that are now a single train wait for a train in the opposite direction that will be broken up, and then take those single cars back on the branches.

If we could somehow convince MBTA management that the Green Line world eastbound really ends at Lechmere (instead of this current nonsense of most trains looping at Park Street or Government Center, and very few continuing on to North Station or Lechmere), it's an idea that might actually work for us and enable the T to truly maximize Green Line operations.

But silly me, the MBTA obviously has no interest in making the Green Line efficient.

Multi Car

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Muni is multi car on surface streets. There's still a driver in each car as I remember.


The problem with the green line is the signal system. Its archaic. It really needs to be upgraded like the Orange Line North was a few years ago. But again.. the T is bleeding money so it's unlikely it will get done anytime soon.

I wish the recent train crashes would release some funds from the FTA so they could fix the signalling system. The green line would be far more efficient if it had a modern signally system like MUNI. (Remember, a good chunk of MUNI was upgraded in the late 70s and early 80s when the Market Street subway was built)

Its amazing that the Green Line is the US's busiest LRV system and it still uses a signalling system from the 1940s..

Nope, double cars

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You can spot it on satellite imagery too if you zoom in on SF.

But I've stood and watched as a double train looped around the end of surface branches such as Judah, and a single operator did it all by herself.

There is a place where they do split/join in revenue service and that's for the new Third Street branch which can only support 1 car at a time. Maybe that's the one you were thinking of? IIRC, they split/join just before reaching Fourth/King.

This is from my informal observations taken around two years ago when I spent some months on the west coast.

MUNI used to combined trains

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MUNI used to combined trains at their west tunnel portal back when its fleet was Boeing LRVs. They upgraded the signal system in their subway in part so they could handle more trains and discontinue the practice of coupling/uncoupling trains at the portal.


There are other light rail

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There are other light rail systems that operate multi-car trains in tunnels with only one operator (Seattle, San Francisco, Buffalo, Hudson-Bergan Line, and Portland westside tunnel come to mind). It is true you can not pass through light rail cars in general (not just in Boston), but the doors can be opened from the outside with a key.


Wait, what?

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People legitimately take the Green line? Like, as a form of transportation? Willingly???

FYI residents of Boston: the Green line is designated exclusively for annoying college kids with Gatorade bottles filled with vodka, and stupid tourists. Literally, no one else should be on these trains. Like, if the entire Green line stopped tomorrow, any REAL LIFE person who was honestly inconvenienced is either REALLY lazy, or is actually not really real.

Daily, I walk 10 minutes out of the way to board the Orange line. I do this for two reasons: it is still almost always faster (even with the additional 10 minute walk tacked on) ... and, I'm really worried I might inflict bodily harm on another passenger, as NO ONE ELSE seems to even attempt to comprehend public transit etiquette.


Have you ever seen the

Have you ever seen the parking lot at Riverside in the mornings? There are hundreds of people living in Newton and Wellesley who take it to work every morning.

EDIT: Nevermind, I think you meant the E branch, not the Green line in general since you can walk to the orange line in 10 minutes.

Stomp you're an ass. First,

Stomp you're an ass. First, college kids do count as people regardless of your opinion and your forgotten memories of being young.

Second, the definition of being inconvenienced is things is life becoming more difficult to do things. Low laziness doesn't change that annoyance and that meaning if something in life gets screwed up. If the Green Line is part of the way to go about the day, then having to deal with things not working or disappearing as you gave as a thought experiment still means an inconvenience you ass.

Third, maybe you have to fight your desire to inflict bodily harm to everyone because you view people with such a broad definition of laziness, don't count college kids as people, and presume tourists as stupid.


I'll take drunk college kids

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I'll take drunk college kids on the green line over the orange line crackheads any day thanks..

The Green Line

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Has about 240,000 trips taken on it per day, closely following the Red Line as the busiest "subway" system in Boston.

In the United States, it is the #1 busiest "light rail" system by a wide margin. In North America, it is #3 behind a city in Mexico and Calgary's C-train in Canada.

In Allston and Brighton, according to the ACS, about half the people who live near the Green Line use it to commute to work. That includes me. Every day I see people riding it, and I have plenty of friends who ride it. The people riding the Green Line are not all "students and tourists." They are "really real" however.

I see people in suits riding, presumably to downtown firms. I hear stories told by service workers to each other, after they just got off their shift. I know several folks who work on Beacon Hill or City Hall and ride downtown. Yes, there's plenty of students, and they have to get to their classes too. There's also plenty of seniors: Comm Ave in A/B has a large population of elderly residents who depend on the Green Line as a lifeline to the rest of the city. There's families with kids in strollers. There's also kids going to school. There's all kinds of people who depend on it and they are quite real.

Now it would be nice if the people in charge of running the Green Line didn't seem to have the same attitude as our fine friend, Stomp, here.

Speaking of "E"xcuses

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just got this alert.

Green E-Line: Srvc will terminate at Brigham Cir at approx 8pm on Aug 17 until approx 8am on Aug 18. Use Rte 39 bus between Brigham Cir & Heath St.

Due to construction activity around Brigham Circle on Huntington Avenue performed by Boston Water & Sewer and its contractors, Green E-Line service will terminate at Brigham Circle beginning at approximately 8 p.m. on Saturday, August 17, until approximately 8 a.m. on Sunday, August 18. During this temporary service change, customers are encouraged to utilize the Route 39 bus for service between Brigham Circle and Heath Street.

Affected routes:
Green Line E branch

Affected stops:
Fenwood Rd. Station
Mission Park Station
Riverway Station
Back of the Hill Station
Heath St. Station

Last updated: Aug 15 2013 2:44 PM

Click here for more information:

Just face it..

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The E line blows.

I lived near Prudential.. hated riding it. It was faster to walk to Copley half the time.

Now I ride the other end to Lechmere daily. If i had a dollar for every train that was marked Lechmere but was short-lined at Gov't Center or N Station.

I swear the E branch beyond Brigham Circle is the bastard line. The T is salivating on cutting service beyond Brigham Circle so there will be no more 'in street' LVRs. Every time there's cuts this one is always on the table... but never flies because the VA bitches about it.

VA bitching is for good reason

Trust me, I handle a good deal of dispatching for para-transit for the VA. If it wasn't for the E Line, the cost of paratransit would probably skyrocket. There is NO operational savings in cutting the E back to Brigham (NONE!). Most of the guys taking the Green Line are not going to scoot over to the 39, and the taxpayers would be at a loss. My employer would get a fatter check, though, and I would continue using the Orange Line to get to and from home, so whatever.

I should thank the E-line

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It is what turned me into a dedicated cyclist. Working at LMA and a bit further up Huntington Ave. was an impossible T commute - as much as 2 hours to get someplace only 9.5 miles from my house. The bike ride was 45-55 minutes, consistently.

If it weren't for the e-line, I'd weigh 350 lbs at my age like most of my family has.

yes swrrly we get it

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cycling is great, anyone who doesn't is a fat slob etc etc

Not really

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More likely a thin but late person, from regularly walking/jogging the final mile or two.

The T screws the disabled.

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When the T makes and announces changes on route, they are essentially kidnapping deaf customers.


That's what the electronic

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That's what the electronic signs are for inside the trains. Too bad the current ones are pre-windows 95 LED technology.



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ID:1 COM:1 BAUD:9600

I always laugh at the when I see this on a Green Line train. Because I Know its connected with a serial port. Even the ones in the stations are serial port driven.


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The electronic signs and audio messages

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inside the trains tell you (when they're actually working) that the train is being taken out of service, but give no clue as to what passengers wishing to continue along the line should do.

If the operator is on the ball (not always likely), they will make a manual PA announcement explaining what passengers should do (doesn't help a deaf person much though). However, this illustrates the irony of the system - if the operators can override the automatic system to make announcements (and many on the E line do routinely - even for non-diversion situations - and do it very well IMO), then why do we need an automated system in the first place?

You must not remember

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You must not remember what its like before automated annoucements. Drivers would mumble, and or just not say station names. Trust me, it's a vast improvement.


Bit of a stretch to call Back

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Bit of a stretch to call Back of the Hill and some of the outer E line stops as "stations", don't you think? Most of them are barely marked. Each one should have a well-marked crosswalk intersecting with where the trolley's front door would be. Maybe paint a "T" logo onto the pavement too.

Commuters don't ride the Huntington Ave E line as much as students and tourists do. The 39 comes more frequently, and the orange line (not that far away as it passes through Ruggles and Roxbury Crossing) is faster.

Got to justify the wasteful expense

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of the "improved" alert system somehow. Despite the fact that stating "E line terminates at Brigham Circle - for destinations to Heath Street use 39 bus", and then stating "E Line running on or near schedule" when the issue was resolved was far more efficient than the current nonsense of listing all station names in the alert title, and then reiterating the original alert title with "All Clear" once the problem goes away.

The cat's meow , when E was

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The cat's meow , when E was just the Arborway trolley. All aboard, Cardinal O'Connell Seminary , VA Hospital South Huntington Ave. , St Mary's Brookline ( get off at Huntington & S. Huntington ), hospital action at Brigham Circle , a megabucks hit at Longwood Ave. with Boston English , Boston Latin , Boston Teachers College, Mass College of Pharmacy , Mass College of Art, moving on Huntington ave, Wentworth Institute , Boston Trade , then Northeastern University. There you go, students rode their own dime, no yellow school buses yet. A whole lot of action ..............

How Can You Be Sure the 39 Wouldn't Be Faster?

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It's always a judgement call. I look at the traffic, I look down the line (from the MFA), don't have the app. You can't know a E train will fail, but it's just so damn likely.

Less philosophically, the A branch was cut (allegedly- before my time) because of an equipment shortage. E next? Or just cut to Brigham?

I know the 39 is one of the busiest bus routes already, so… shuttles from LMA to the OL?