It's buses all the way down, at least to Salem, for Newburyport/Rockport riders

Waiting for the bus in Salem

Claire Blechman was among those having to transfer from a bus to a train in Salem, due to work on the Newburyport/Rockport Line that will keep it shut through Aug. 13.

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    Commute

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    A ton of commuters at one station stop on an inbound rush hour train, and the train is a single decker. Those cars must be jammed full of people.

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    They're running the same

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    They're running the same number of trains as before. So the platform is crowded because everyone is transferring from buses, but the train shouldn't be worse than normal.

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    This service disruption is sending a message

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    Public transit is not intended for people who can afford to drive or pay for a car service.

    Even disproportionately-served suburbanites, who might prefer to play on their iPad on the commuter rail rather than drive, can't get reliable service.

    If it's not standing out in the snow and ice, it's standing out in the heat and humidity.

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    What exactly is your

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    What exactly is your complaint about this well-publicized construction project and its shuttle bus alternative? How would you do things differently if you were in charge?

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    What do you propose they do

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    What do you propose they do instead? Teleport trains from one side to the other while they replace this bridge?

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    Takes time to get used to it

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    The shuttle bus service started a week ago for the Positive Train Control installation project.

    The PTC is federally mandated and the MBTA has no choice but to get it done, otherwise they would be told to cease operations on rail lines that doesn't have it. The government has pushed back mandatory PTC for all passenger railroads several times now and finally put their foot down. All passenger rail companies nationwide are working on this with similar impacts. The problem is that many of the passenger routes are not owned by those companies but by freight railroads, and not all freight railroads are being required to install it. This means the passenger companies need to raise the funds and get permissions to install it on someone else's tracks.

    Complicating matters is that the radio spectrum, the radio frequency on which PTC works (it's like a cell phone) is not available everywhere due to other business having taken it years ago, so PTC has to be built to operate over several radio frequencies and be able to switch from one to the next. If you have ever dropped a cell carrier between towers that is something like this which needs to be overcome. In some areas the PTC has to be able to switch between cell towers and radio frequencies through multiple states and it is a tech issue that is causing problems, not to mention high $$$ expense.

    The weekend shuttle was well organized with buses marked at North Station and waiting on Haverhill Street just outside the No. Station subway. Keolis even had a ticket truck there. . We got an express straight to Salem and it only added 10 minutes to the ride, and that due to traffic on Rt 93. You actually ride free from Boston to Salem and only pay north fo there. Coming back we were between shuttles so we took already-available buses back to Wonderland and connected there. This worked well on the weekend but traffic coming in on the highways will only add to the time. Chalk that up to city traffic. It won't be avoidable.

    The weekday shuttle will last a few weeks while the bridge over the river at Beverly is disassembled and a new one is floated into place, tested, and implemented.

    Salem is already the 5th busiest station in the commuter rail system so yeah... it's going to be that much more crowded. You can still get the #459 to Downtown Crossing, #450 to Haymarket, and #455 to Wonderland there. It does take longer but you plan ahead.

    That said... this is just the start of things.

    Starting in August, the Lowell line will start cancelling service on weekends for the PTC project and that will last till the end of October.

    Details on how that will operate and overlap has yet to be published by the MBTA.

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    The busses are comfortable and ...

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    ...restroom equipped but no bikes allowed and I assume, no pets allowed either. I hope the work is finished on schedule.

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    Why do the buses not allow bikes?

    Are they using non-MBTA buses that are not equipped with bike racks?

    (If they are using Greyhound-type buses, there ought to be room in the baggage compartments for bikes.)

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    No way to secure them

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    The trains do not allow bikes at rush hour anyway.

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    Weekends etc

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    The trains do allow bikes on weekends and non rush hour trains. I often take my bike on those trains and so do others. I need it to get where I'm going when I get off the train because the North Shore is a public transportation desert. I'd get a camel, but ....

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    Yankee

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    The bus I rioe in yesterday was a Yankee tour bus. It had luggage compartments underneath. I don't know why bikes are not permitted but I do know some bus companies like Greyhound require bikes be in transported in bike boxes with handlebars and pedals removed. The reason being bikes can slide around and damage other freight or get damaged themselves and that leaves the bus company facing liabilities. It's also tough on driver's backs unloading bikes after sitting in the driver's seat for long periods. It would be great if they would allow damage waivers. A lot of people like to bring their bikes up to the North Shore. Especially in summer.

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    Passengers should load and unload bikes, not drivers

    Whenever I've taken my bike on a long-distance bus (such as Peter Pan or C&J), I've always put the bike into the luggage compartment, and taken it out, myself. I've never expected that would be the job of the bus driver.

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    I've had the same good experience

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    with smaller bus lines. Although the MBTA schedules all say no bikes allowed on any of the train replacement busses, I think there is a good chance the driver would still let you slide a bike in the compartment. Just like the train conductors who often look the other way if someone shows up for a rush hour train with a bike.

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    The busses are comfortable and ...

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    ...restroom equipped but no bikes allowed and I assume, no pets allowed either. I hope the work is finished on schedule.

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    Plate of shrimp

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    I was pleasantly surprised by how smoothly my ride was this morning, despite a few kinks to be worked out (traffic jam in Hamilton, driver not knowing where to drop us off in Salem). I caught an earlier-than-expected train and it was no more crowded than usual. The driver also let a guy put his collapsible bike in the bus's luggage hold at Ipswich. Still, let's see how many hugs I'm ready to give out tonight.

    I don't know about iPads and humidity though. I think the message is "Don't plunge off the bridge and drown."

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