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Franklin Line loco dies before Boston; would this sort of thing happen in Austin?

A Franklin Line train sits motionless just past Dedham Corporate Center this morning, with no lights and conductors getting all Sgt. Schultz on the riders (they know nothing! Nothing!). Riders know what's happening only because the T is thoughtfully tweeting alerts these days. Or as Chuggies puts it:

Can you tell the conductors to share this info ON the train!! Why do I have to scour twitter to find out why we are stopped?!?!

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Bwahahahahahahahahahahahaha

It'll fix it.. riiiiiiiight.

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This has been a constant issue on the commuter rail lately (the information being on Twitter long, long before the conductors have it or they send a text). When someone was hit on the Worcester line last month, they made no announcements why my train was stopped in Natick for at least a half hour. People were trying to piece together what was going on via text messages from friends and Twitter.

If the MBTA/Keolis can't run things effectively, they can at least be more transparent with their customers about what's going on, and make an effort to get information out as quickly as possible.

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This is precisely what I was getting at in my comments yesterday about Wednesday's Worcester Line debacle.

I shutter to think of what might happen when, after a train has been sitting motionless for 15 minutes with no info provided, some idiot tweets something about an imminent threat.

A no information environment in an enclosed space is a powder keg - all it takes is one spark (real or perceived) to set it off. Keolis, and the T in particular, have to fix this and start leading the Twitter charge, not following it. I know that it is harder for them because they have more responsibility to verify things than some chucker on Twitter, but still, they have to be quicker on this stuff.

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or a very dangerous environment. I think we have to check our hyperbole.

I have also experienced a recent incident with a disabled commuter rail train and the conductors not knowing anything (which, indeed, is a problem). We, in our car, were mildly perturbed but no one was acting, as far as I can tell, in a dangerous manner by tweeting "powder keg" comments across social media. And I find it pretty far fetched to think anyone would do so.

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look - I'm typically with you. Even if someone tweeted, or started yelling about a bomb on the train, I'd be pretty skeptical. My point is that it only takes a couple of people to panic to cause a stampede, and I think that we all know people who are more prone to panic than others. It's not like we haven't had our share of hoax device and/or hoax calls over the past few years.

Also, as I alluded to yesterday, the CR is one thing, but the situation becomes many times more dangerous if it happens on a packed Red Line train stopped halfway into Park St. Station with a full platform at rush hour. Panic could spread quite quickly in that situation.

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dropped dead as it was entering Melrose Highlands station. The result was that it blocked the Franklin Street crossing for about 20 minutes.

Interesting watching the tractor trailers attempting to turn around by going through the station parking lot - one had to make a six-point turn to avoid hitting parked cars.

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How about a 20% fare hike to help service? If the T goes through with discounts for low income riders (25% of the ridership based on a 2009 survey), someone will have to pay for the R&M on the T & Commuter Rail.

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Question for you then

1. Show me how many riders would stop using transit because of a fare increase and then calculate the off set.

2. Calculate how much the full fare riders would be paying for the low income riders, and what the off set would be.

If you can answer that, you'll see that rapid raising fares makes riders move to other services if they can afford to do so. Every time fares increase, the T loses ridership. Does it gain some back, some.. not all.

"Low income riders" is a joke.. they are just making the full fare riders subsidize the low income ones and created classes between in public transit riders. Its a very bad idea and a slippery slope.

And truthfully.. we already have such a program.. TAP. Transportation Access Program. Which is reduced fare for low income people. Not sure what more Charlie thinks he can do. Plus like any similar program (HC placecards, TAP program, etc).. it all becomes a scam people use to try to not pay full fares. Watch.. give it a year and you'll soon notice that this program will double in size due to the scammers. So did we really make any money or did we just spend more because now we're managing a program (with administrative costs)?

This is just a bad idea all around.

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The MBTA Transportation Access Pass is for people with disabilities. It isn't a low-income program.

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Here is a very good article from CW Mag on why subsidizing "low income" riders is a terrible idea.

And truthfully.. we already have such a program.. TAP. Transportation Access Program. Which is reduced fare for low income people. Not sure what more Charlie thinks he can do. Plus like any similar program (HC placecards, TAP program, etc).. it all becomes a scam people use to try to not pay full fares. Watch.. give it a year and you'll soon notice that this program will double in size due to the scammers. So did we really make any money or did we just spend more because now we're managing a program (with administrative costs)?

Yup. This is why some countries are seriously considering a "basic minimum income" scheme to replace all their myriad welfare programs. In many cases, ditching the dozens of means- or otherwise-tested welfare programs in existence, and just handing every single citizen a check each month, no questions asked, turns out to be cheaper than administering the existing schemes.

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MBTA Commuter Rail ‏@MBTA_CR ·
Franklin Update: Train 708 is stopped at Ruggles. Passengers advised to take subway.

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None of the crew on any train are allowed to have a cell. Let's remember that. As such if there was any Twitter from the MBTA to the Twitter-sphere, they won't know it. In fact they will find out from other passengers.

There is likely no info because they may not know why the train is dead. There are at least a dozen reasons why that might happen and the locomotive operator needs to go through a check list to find the problem and correct it. So all he/she knows is that it's broke and cannot offer any info on why its dead or when it will be moving.

The conductors are just as clueless in such a case.

Their 2-way radios have distance limitations as well. They operate in the 162 MHZ VHF radio band and at best all they do is allow them to talk to each other within the train or to the dispatch center that controls train traffic.

In most of Europe, all train personnel are equipped with GSM cell phones that are locked down to certain numbers and have other features to send a help signal.

Taking the cell phones away from train staff was a bad knee-jerk decision by the legislature, that was fired by a misinformed public ridership. There were already plenty of rules to discipline train staff for phone usage that simply were not being enforced. Now the mere carrying of a cell phone can get you in trouble. Of course if the train radios fail or cannot get to the local radio antenna, your are SOL honey.

So take my advise, when you ride the train or any public transit, carry two things... a well-charged cell and a flashlight.

For those who didn't know when the Red Line runaway was ongoing, they were actually talking to a passenger ON A CELL PHONE getting updates on where the train was and if it had stopped yet.

So we all suffer from some bad decisions and some of that by people who have no clue as to how a train operates or what "Murphy's Law" may dictate.

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Why can't the dispatch center distribute this info to the conductors over the radio? I don't want my conductor reading twitter--I want someone sitting in an office reading twitter, communicating with other trains, watching the "big board," etc and then synthesizing the info and delivering it to the conductors. Not sure how cell phones help except if the radio fails (which it didn't in this case).

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The train crew provided the information about THEIR mechanical failure to dispatch, who then forwarded it to the T so the T could send a tweet.

Why would you expect a train crew to wait to be informed by dispatch about a problem that they already had notified dispatch about?

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The crew is always within radio contact and has been since before cell phones became something everyone had.

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Between the fare increases and assuming everyone has a smartphone to check for status updates, the MBTA is going to have to work a lot harder if it wants confidence in its level of broad accessibility.

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Add to that, the assumption that everyone has hearing ability. 15% of American adults report having trouble hearing.
http://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/statistics/pages/quick.aspx

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Whoever dreams up these rhymes, need some time off.

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..and to be fair, they did make an announcement about a mechanical issue. It was about 10 minutes after we first stopped, and 10 or 15 minutes before the MBTA alert was posted. HOWEVER: The loud speaker on the car I was on, and maybe the whole train, was (shocking development!) not working well so all you could hear was "*static* mumblemumblemumble-anical issue mumblemumble *static*"

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They seem to have one line of 27 miles(driving distance), their last train of apparently 18 trains seems to leave in town at 6:30, the first train leaves the end station at 5:30 AM. This isn't the T.

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When a train fails like this, the operators must have to communicate with the MBTA, right? Perhaps riders should start listening in, in order to be informed: Radio frequencies used by the MBTA. Police scanner apps.

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