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How the T REALLY plans to accomplish single person operation on the Orange Line

Forget those highly visible mirrors that are showing up on the station platforms. As I observed this morning during my first Orange Line trip from Oak Grove in a long time, most stations now have large flat screen TV panels mounted on the wall adjacent to the end of the platform. These panels, which are not visible if you're on the platform unless you know where to look, show a four-split view of the platform from cameras.

Once again, for the sake of eliminating personnel becuase they claim they're so broke (never mind the money they spend on "necessary" environmental reports and workshops and public meetings, not to mention totally gutting perfectly functional subway stations like Kenmore), the T is WASTING money on yet more USELESS high tech gear that does NOTHING TO MAKE THE TRAINS AND BUSES RUN FASTER OR MAINTAIN SCHEDULE BETTER and will eventually break or be vandalized. But that's apparently the T's mantra -millions for high tech junk that looks pretty, but pennies for maintaing staff that actually do work.

And if you disagree, ask yourself this question: How much has the T's debt burden been increased by introducing this additional equipment, and how long will it take for the supposed cost savings from eliminating some train operators will offset the cost of the fancy new stuff. Of course, the lawsuit from one dragged person (which I hope will never happen) will turn these calculations to mush anyway, but that's another issue for a different day.

Hopefully they don't have a serious incident that requires a train evacuation, which no amount of elctronic gear can help with.

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Comments

You should go on strike!

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The difference between the high tech equipment and the poor put-upon employees you describe is that when the video system is outdated, we don't have to pay for its cushy pensions for the rest of their lives. Your post fails to explain why spending more money on employees is going to make the trains run faster or maintain schedule better. Some of the bus and T-drivers are great, some are terrible. You will never convince me that a unionized workforce is going to enable any employer to actually pay the best workers the most and to get rid of the worst. I think you probably need to drive your train into another train while texting to lose your job at the MBTA. Are you really arguing that the legacy costs of a surveillance system has bigger legacy costs than a driver who sits in the second car of a train, pushing the 'door open' button?

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I don't disagree with your math, as far as equipment having a lower cost in the long term than "overstaffing" an orange line train, or anyplace else for that matter.

But in terms of your generalizations on unions, I have to disagree. Much like a lot of places, the T is governed by the 80/10/10 rule. 80% of the people show up and just do their jobs. 10% do a fantastic job, because they're the kind of people that take pride in their work. And the other 10%... well they're the jackasses you read about in the Herald. There's nothing magical about it.

Also, there is nothing magical about getting rid of lousy employees, even if they're in a union... The protection afforded by a union position prevents you getting canned because you happened to have a relatively minor screw-up on the same morning that your boss found out his wife was cheating on him. It doesn't prevent habitual screw up from getting canned because they suck at life. What prevents *that* from happening is the fact that managers don't follow the very clear cut procedures laid out for disciplining and eventually firing union employees.

Why don't they follow those procedures? Because it's easier not to. They're not paid well enough to deal with the hassle, most haven't received a raise in five years, and there's a good chance the guy above them isn't going to back them if they do make a stand. So the "good" 10% picks up the slack, and the "bad" 10% makes the front page of the Herald. Not saying it's right, but it's the way it goes.

And regarding the "cushy pension"... First, it's a contributory pension system, meaning the employees put their money into it every month, much like a 401k (strange that you don't read about that part of the system in the Herald...). And second, one of the main reasons they seem "cushy" is because pensions are uncommon in this day and age. People talk about the "burdens" associated with a pension plan. But with a properly managed and invested contributory pension system, there shouldn't be an issue. You know your expenditures are X, your incomes are Y, and your interest is going to be approximately Z... What's so hard about that?

Sorry for the long rant... Three cups of coffee already this morning...

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to someone who obviously wants to deny others things those people have rightfully earned that they don't have for themselves.

I would also note that nearly every company and government agency had a pension system for their employees until greedy high priced executives, looking to boost their company profits, deluded everyone into the belief that 401Ks were a much better long term solution. A classic example of breaking something that wasn't broken.

And, even though I've stated this in the past, for the record, I DO NOT work for, nor have I or any family members ever worked for, the T or its contractors or consultants.

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Is your problem with the management of the T or is it with the current nature of American business? As someone who isn't in a government union, no, I'm not a fan of paying for other people's retirement benefits when they are above and beyond that available in the private sector. The current beneficiaries have rightfully earned their pensions as it was in the contract, but sure as hell doesn't mean that the taxpayers of Boston should continue those benefits in perpetuity in spite of the fact that the economy is flat to stagnant and many private sector employees (who are paying for this) haven't seen anything beyond a COL wage increase recently. Why should we pay for extra drivers? This is simply benefitting an arbitrary group of workers at the expense of everyone else. I have less of a problem with the BTU and BFD getting raises over the T drivers as they provide vital services.

Let me reiterate- you are claiming that to reduce headcount at the T is to 'deny people what they have rightly earned', i.e. the goal of the T is maximize employment, not say, move people from point A to point B in an efficient, timely manner?

To the other point, I don't think that most private sector employers accept that 10% of their workforce is useless, so yeah, that's a strike against unions too.

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How about those kiosks they put in South Station?? Now they are gone, someone probably stole them and took them to a recycling place. Total waste of money. They did have the "Contact the T" feature disabled on them though. I wonder why....

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This morning I was 2 feet from the front door of the first car of an Orange line train. Yet instead of holding the door open for a few more seconds the driver closed the door. Either the driver decided to close the doors when a rider could have been trapped between doors or the driver was not paying attention.

The latter had to be the case; we know that all T drivers practice the highest level of safe driving. Afterall the bicyclist who was killed by a T bus driver had "thrown himself under the bus?" Pardon the diversion.

So, assuming for the sake of discussion, that this morning's subway operator was simply was not paying attention, this raises the following question: how mirrors or LCD panels will help subway operators see whether there are other passengers about to enter the train if they simply will not pay attention?

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At least the doors automatically reopen in Boston. In NYC and many other major cities, there are no safeties on the doors. I learned this the hard way my first time in New York when I almost got stuck in the door. People wait for trains, trains do not wait for people. It is not convenient or sympathetic, but it's the only way to maintain the schedule.

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The idea that more people are necessary to operate these trains is nonsense. There are dozens of subway systems around the world whose trains operate with ZERO people. Its called COMPUTERS. While I agree that the current state of the orange line clearly requires some operators (as the trains are not automated for one thing), use of technology to elimenate unecessary positions will be a cost savings. If you want to have a debate about whether the MBTA should, as a matter of policy, make higher employement a goal simply to keep people employed that is one thing. However, to suggest that the use of technology will endager the system or its finances is silly. People cost more than computers in sallary, overtime, healthcare, and pension, period.

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The argument over whether or not the TVs are actually needed aside, you can buy a decent flat screen TV for $300. That's less than a single T employee makes in a week. That means you could by 52 flat screen TVs for far less than the cost of a single car operator.

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be swiftly and safely evacuated in the middle of a subway tunnel. Especially should the single operator at the controls be incapacitated because the've just rear-ended another train. Can't happen because of automation you say? Well, tell that one to the folks in DC.

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...is a very good thing, perhaps even essential.

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Thats right, we should spend thousands of dollars a day in extra labor costs because once a decade, two trains crash. Brilliant.

And of course roadman doesnt understand that a single flatscreen monitor costs less than a single T employee will make in 2 days.

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Riddle me this:

How does removing one person from a two person train crew actually IMPROVE the safety and punctual operation of the trains FOR THE PASSENGERS riding them?

Oh yes, it's much better to install a gazillion cameras and HOPE somebody miles away is looking at the right one when a problem happens rather than having an extra crewperson on a train to respond quickly.

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Because of the lower operating costs the MBTA has said they will be improving train frequncies nights and Sundays on the Orange Line when the one person train operation begins. That will be an improvment for passengers.

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Its called a cost/benefit analysis. Even assuming for the sake of argument that an additional person improves safety (which is debatable), the cost saved by elimenating that addtional person outweighs the benefit of having them there/risk of not having them there. Under your reasoning, why not have three or four people per car? It is unecessary to have these additional workers on the cars and the T is broke. This is a good cost savings.

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Provide me with a link to the detailed cost/benefit analysis the T has done supporting both single person operation and their claims that it will not slow down trains nor adversely affect passenger safety. Let me read it, and I might be swayed by the T's arguments for the system.

My guess is that there isn't one available for anyone to review, and that T management just said - Sure we can save money, we really don't need that second guy.

As for the T's claim that night and Sunday service on the Orange Line will be improved as a result, where have we heard those promises before. That's right - every time they've asked for a fare increase. And has the service actually improved - No!

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I have never heard a past promise that Orange Line nights and Sunday service will improve before now, but if off-peak service does improve with the change, then is that a good reason to go to one-person operation (seems like one to me)?
And why is one person operation fine for the Blue Line and almost every other rapid transit system in the world except for New York and Toronto but will be a problem for the Orange Line?

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