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Entire subway system loses power

UPDATE at 9:20 a.m.: Looks like the power is back on and some trains are moving again, but slowly, since the signals aren't working.

9:30 a.m. Joe Pesaturo: "Power is being restored, but all lines are experiencing delays. An investigation into the cause of the outage is underway." T now advising people to not take the T.

9:50: Boston Police report the Red Line still dead due to signal problems.

1 p.m.: NECN reports the T is blaming "a private company doing routine maintenance" on the system. More to come at a 1:30 news briefing.

People stuck on trains all over the place:

Red Line.
Orange Line.
Green Line.
Blue Line:

*MAJOR* mbta fail. no power at Maverick T station. no buses. making people walk to airport to get buses. in a cab now.

No lights at Back Bay station; commuter-rail tracks almost pitch black.

Nykwil proposes the MBTA buy one million hamsters and wheels as a power supply.

Michael Femia: Maybe the T shouldn't have diverted all of its power to David Ortiz.

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Comments

Just got a phone call from a co-worker who's stuck at Kenmore.

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Coworker just called from Lechmere to say that she was told by the T to "find your own way to work." No shuttle buses, ETA, nothing.

Another reason to love the MBTA! When are they raising the prices?

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Still fielding texts from a co-worker stuck on the Blue Line. "Moving with delays" is what they're being told at 9:32am - but they still aren't moving from Wood Island.

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Power to move trains has been restored, but signal power is still out most of the way between Kenmore and Park Street. Trains now running at restricted speed (6 mph) under a 'modified' manual block (i.e. trains are authorized to pass a dark signal provided they wait two minutes before proceeding).

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Nearly 40 mins and the moved us off the train we were on claiming it was out of service. Oh and now the announcement is signal problems. I think it's time to disband the mbta and install moving walkways over all the tracks. Even when they break down I'll still be able to walk to the city from oak grove faster than the mbta can get me there.

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I don't know if it's just because of the heat, but... that's sounding like a strangely fantastic idea just now!

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Finally, 40 minutes later, there's a T alert.

All Subway Line are experiencing significant delays due to power problem. Seek alternate transportation to avoid delay. 5/21/2009 9:33 AM

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I wonder if they still have those signs on 93 and 128 that read:

The T: The Alternate Route

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These signs are still in place.

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You can follow the texting crash on the Green Line with a system-wide power failure, but what do you do for an encore? A Red Line train jumping the tracks and plunging into the river? The Blue Line caving in under the harbor? You've set the bar high, guys...

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This is definitely the winner of the day. Great comedic elements and well played. Very well played.

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In the wisdom of a classic Bill Cosby comedy routine:
Never Challenge "Worse"!

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Announcement at St. Mary's to get off, signal problems. They didn't
"know" if there was bus service, ask the platform inspector. Platform inspector shrugged.

Hordes of people walking into/thru Kenmore/Fenway area. Saw three busses at the Construction Memorial Zone in Kenmore, but they were all marked "out of service."

Now the T is advising people to not take the T.

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It looks like my vow to swear off the overcrowded red and orange lines until the pig flu flies is paying off in spades!

I walked to/from the commuter rail today after biking the round trip yesterday. The commuting gods are smiling so far!

You better stop
Look around
Here it comes, here it comes, here it comes, here it comes
It's just your nineteenth service breakdown.

Oh, who's to blame
The T's gone insane
They just can't seem to make it work,
'Cause they don't care, they've got their perks!
oh please.

With apologies to the Rolling Stones who gather no moss because they are rolling, unlike the T.

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My train was leaving Hynes when the power went out. We crawled to Copley. Hynes had no emergency lighting and Copley had very little -- doesn't seem particulary safe in case there is an emergency.

On a positive note, the MBTA employee at Copley was doing a good job of guiding everyone out of the darkened station.

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Why doesn't anyone ever get fired for this stuff? What the hell is going on at the T?

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Why don't we wait to find out why it happened before we start tying the noose. :-)

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Some things are considered essential infrastructure, which should have a very low failure rate. With all of the other problems this week, one could say that FAIL is happening far too often at the T. Mechanical failures happen, but they happen far less when systems are properly maintained and systematically checked and serviced.

While it is good to look at the causes, there is a huge cause overriding all of it: the T doesn't consider customer service and reliability to be priorities. They have forgotten their most essential mission here, and completely forgotten who they are supposed to be serving. This is evidenced not only by the rate of FAIL but by the lack of planning for handling, directing, and transporting passengers when that FAIL happens.

I'm wondering what it is going to take to get a federal inquiry into to this subterranean [email protected]*k. I don't think the state government is at all capable of doing a thorough, let alone impartial, assessment.

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OK, when was the last time you saw the ENTIRE SYSTEM go down? A few decades??

This problem is most likely unrelated to all the other work and single-line problems they have been having.

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It chills me to see how unprepared the system is for oopsies, after all the money thrown away on "post 9/11 security" and cameras and fancy gates and CSAs who are now half-asleep greeters rather than half-asleep booth sitters.

it chills me to see how vulnerable the thing is to failure. chills me to find out that stations don't even have adequate emergency lighting. I mean, really, there have been laws on the books for DECADES about that. Oh forgot, the MBTA is exempt from just about everything the rest of us must obey, because it's the T.

and the problem may well be "unrelated" to other failures, but it is certainly related to the MBTA's extraordinary and apparently increasing un-reliability...

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was in late 2002 or early 2003, and took several hours to fix. It happened in the early evening, so it didn't get much press attention at the time.

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Is there a single-point-of-failure, or do multiple subsystems have to fail in concert?

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It seems odd that the entire system could have a single shared vulnerability. If it does, than the 'T is quite a bit at fault here, but if it does not (what I'd expect), then how did it all go down? Almost seems like it would have to be purposeful, because otherwise too many odd coincidences would need to hit at the same moment.

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If it is not, in fact, a single point of failure (which would be inexcusable in any operation this size), then I'd put my money on a cascade failure of some kind similar to the one that brought down the power grid for the entire northeast a couple of years ago. In other words, even though the individual systems are not inherently reliant on one another to work, certain types of failures can cause other systems to fail at the same time.

One way this can happen in a system that is as cash strapped as the T (and this is kind of what happened in the aforementioned wide spread power failure) is if they're relying on one system picking up the load if its neighboring system goes offline, but none of the systems really has the capacity to absorb the full load of its neighboring system, so instead it shuts down too. If the power grid were "smart" it would know better than to try to cover for a system that it lacked the capacity to cover, but instead it just blows a fuse and shuts down, and now *another* system has to try to cover for *both* of the systems that have gone down, and *that* one doesn't have the capacity for one additional system, let alone two, and so it shuts down, and so on, and so on...

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...is to spend some time getting around Hampton Roads, Virginia via public transit. When you get back to Boston, you'll think you're in heaven.

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Makes my hour and 40 minute commute on the Orange Line this morning cause of signaling problems, that usually takes 50 minutes, a piece of cake.

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How much does this kind of garbage cost the city in lost productivity?

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My train was stuck between St. Mary's and Kenmore for half an hour. (At first we were told, per usual, that the delay would be a couple minutes.) We got to Kenmore at 9:25--I'd boarded at Cleveland Circle about 55 minutes earlier--and were told it would be "very slow going" the rest of the way. Though I work in Government Center, I decided walking would probably be quicker and less frustrating. Made it in about 45 minutes--wonder if my fellow T riders are still onboard.

No shuttle buses anywhere...

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That'll teach us to not take away their cellphones.

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Union doesn't want cells taken away.

Someone from Union cuts power, giving opportunity to show why having cells on-person is important.

Yes! Let the conspiracy-theorists out of their cages! We've got a dandy here!

Suldog
http://jimsuldog.blogspot.com

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Little know fact:

For the past decade the MBTA has been running off of the ambient power of the cell phones of its operators. Take away the cell phones, and BAM lights go out. Every text sent from a phone created enough energy for 1 light bulb to stay lit for a minute.

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omfg under the current conditions and given recent developments, this seems entirely plausible.

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Just getting word that inbound E service is being terminated at Northeastern - Passengers are being directed to 39 buses to Copley.

Also just getting word that C and D branch service is being terminated at Kenmore.

It's gonna be a long day ...

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Q: How many Globe staff and correspondents does it take to lazily propagate a lie?
A: Three

Q: How can you tell if Joe Pesaturo is lying?
A: His lips are moving

http://www.boston.com/news/local/breaking_news/200...

By Noah Bierman and Andrew Ryan, Globe Staff, and Stewart Bishop, Globe Correspondent

"MBTA Spokesman Joe Pesaturo said at 10 a.m. that all subway lines would move with delays for another 30 minutes or so. None of the stopped trains had to be evacuated, said Pesaturo"

But reading the comments here and at the Globe, it's clear that the problem was much bigger.

Hey, lazy journalist-pretenders at the Globe, maybe take a few steps away from your chairs and go out into the world to have a look at what's really going on once in a while? I've been there and done that. It's really not that hard.

... or has ALL of Boston gone on a work-slowdown to protest management cutbacks?

Note: Another trick of lazy journalist-pretenders is to say "Well, we were just QUOTING. So it's Joe Pesaturo's fault." Boys, if all you do is take dictation and broadcast quotes without any fact-checking, how about we just give Joe a Twitter feed and eliminate you altogether?

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Well the Globe is in the same boat as the MBTA. One day we will wake up and the MBTA will not exist, and the Globe will not be here to report that...

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but unlike the T, the Globe making itself useless through sloppy practices leads only to the closure of the Globe and something will appear to take its place, eventually...

the T making itself useless hurts everyone's ability to function in Boston, which ultimately hurts its already damaged economy, and so on... and it's too dug in to be replaced by someone else's hard, smart work as the Globe will be

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took 45 min to get from Park st. to boylston on the green line. i ended up getting off of at boylston at 10:45 and walked to work, as did most of the train. We pretty much voluntarily evacuated because we were not moving much at all, and the T was giving us no more information other than "delays caused by switching problems".

considering it takes about 5-10 minutes to walk from park to boylston, and the T took 45 minutes, that's a little more than a delay. its a non functioning train. They should have just shut the T down instead of acting like they were fixing the problem and riders could continue to ride the train.

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Why stay on a train from Park to Boylston in the first place? It's on 440 yards, and it's the best day, weather-wise, we've had yet?

If you knew the train was having problems, why not just walk from Park to wherever you needed to go? It could not have possibly taken any longer than 45 minutes.

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We cant really blame the T here until we know what happened. A systemwide power failure like this doesnt just happen because of an incompetent worker somewhere. Shit happens sometimes.

The lack of shuttle buses is annoying but understandable. There arent enough buses or drivers to provide service to every single line in the system.

Yesterday, 1-95 into Boston was backed up for miles due to a car crash. Is anyone outraged that the highway people screwed up? No, shit happens. I dont get why the MBTA people are stood up to be shot every time theres a delay or incident, but we put up with traffic jams on the highways all the time.

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... and that it's not the middle of a frigid night in January, or more people would really be hurting right now

and there were probably many people on those trains who could neither afford taxis nor walk the distance home from wherever they were (and maybe right now, are) stranded.

this is more than an inconvenience - it's a threat to public safety and people's well being and the T's unpreparedness (the idea of stations that don't have proper emergency lighting is really scary...

Consider all the money WASTED after 9/11 on "security". Security isn't the end goal - public safety is.

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Read up on the general engineering systems concept of "reliability".

Sorry, but the "oh it rained ... it was foggy ... the sun was shining ... it was hot ... it snowed ..." doesn't cut it anymore.

Fool me once, shame on you ... fool me twice, shame on me ... lie to me over and over and blame gnomes and pixies and vengeful gods, just shoot me already.

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Amen...

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maybe people would be more sympathetic if there weren't power failures, disabled trains, signal problems, (am i missing anything? probably) several times a week. the T hasn't learned anything in over a century of operating. this system is an embarrassment to the city.

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Oh, hi, maybe you didn't notice the NINE FIGURE BUDGET GAP THEY'RE FACING!

Gee, maybe the reason the T is unreliable is because they can't afford to maintain it to the highest possible standards? NAH!

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...I actually thought it was an Internet joke.

Really. I was late going online this morning. I checked into UH before going to boston.com, and I wondered if this was a big spoof.

This is jaw-droppingly unacceptable.

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I was going to resume riding the subway today after a 3 week hiatus. I decided that the first 90 degree day and a Red Sox home game would not be the best day for me to do that (I'm a Greenliner). Holy cow did I luck out. That very rarely happens.

I extend my deepest sympathies to all of you who got stuck. Really.

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After being stuck between St. Mary's and Kenmore from 8:55-9:25, I got off the train and walked to Govt. Center. At least the operator told us there'd be massive delays the rest of the way, although he'd started out by promising only a slight delay. I bet it took me less time to get to Govt. Center than it took the folks on the T.

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Somone touched on this, but the msm will wake up and hit it harder.

Based on all of the reports I'm hearing (from you good folks), there seems to be inadequate/inoperative emergency lighting in many locations. Let us hope that no one like those who attacked the subways in London or Tokyo are paying attention to this, because if they are, I shudder to think that they may have acquired a new priority target.

In addition to being lucky for not having resumed my subway travels today, I am, all of a sudden, not feeling quite so much like a worry-wort for carrying a small flashlight in my bag at all times. Water too. Sheesh.

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Let us hope that no one like those who attacked the subways in London or Tokyo are paying attention to this, because if they are, I shudder to think that they may have acquired a new priority target.

Well, when MASSPORT was in such high failure mode for so very long, we all know what happened then. The terrorists who brought us 9/11 picked Logan Airport for a reason.

Excuses, poor maintenance, and lack of contingency planning don't make for safety and security. Nor do announcements that "safety is our number 1 priority". Nor do statements to the effect of "but this particular specific fail hasn't happened in x years" because it isn't specific failures but repeated patterns and high frequencies of failures that make a system vulnerable.

As we know from 9/11, only certain specific types of failures need happen once - and are likely to happen when and where there is existing widespread systematic failure.

This comment was very insightful, and it may be a way to get some attention and get the feds to investigate the system. I'm going to e-mail Markey's office now.

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The terrorists carried items that were legal to carry at the time, and did not even pass through security at Logan since they were connecting from another airport in Maine. So it makes no sense to me to blame Massport or Logan.

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So I had the same question.

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I think the fact that there were two airliners bound for L.A. (thereby loaded with fuel)at an airport close to NYC was more of a factor than Massport hackarama patronage.

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Mohamed Atta, the tactical leader of the attacks, and a fellow hijacker, Abdulaziz al-Omari, arrived at Portland International Jetport at 05:40 Eastern Standard Time on September 11, 2001. They boarded Colgan Air Flight 5930, which was scheduled to depart at 06:00 from Portland, Maine and fly to Boston, Massachusetts. Both hijackers had first class tickets with a connecting flight to Los Angeles, California. Atta checked in two bags, al-Omari none.[2] When they checked in, the Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System (CAPPS) selected Atta for extra luggage scrutiny, but he boarded without incident.[4] The flight from Portland departed on time and arrived in Boston at 06:45. Three other hijackers, Waleed al-Shehri, Wail al-Shehri, and Satam al-Suqami, arrived at Logan Airport at 06:45, having left their rental car in the airport parking facility.

The ones that came through Boston (and left a vehicle in the parking area) were carrying then-contraband items, too. Like box cutters.

Logan was widely known to be a very lax airport when it came to security - I personally had items flagged at other airports for a double check when they had gone through logan's scanners without incident. Flight attendant friends had similar experiences - repeatedly.

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My recollection is that the ban on these and other sharp objects occurred only afterwards.

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I used to carry a Swiss Army Knife on almost every flight I took, so I assume the ban came after.

Suldog
http://jimsuldog.blogspot.com

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The restriction used to be based on size, so small knives (Swiss Army knives, etc) were allowed. Box cutters would have been allowed if they were small enough.

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Maybe some of you should drive to work. Here's some news - there isn't a single subway system in the world of the same age that hasn't experienced signal delays, power outages, and the occasional f-up employee. I was delayed a hour coming into work, but I realize that a system so old and complex is going to break down from time to time. It's more a case of simple physics rather than institutionalized incomptence. I'd say I get to and from work on time about 90% of the time on a daily basis (I live in the city and don't have a car) - so on the whole, I'm coming out on top. It's better than sitting amongst thousands of idling cars belching out fumes while waiting for a a toll booth on a hot day. Perspective!

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If the London or Paris subways got hit with this, heads would roll and people would riot.

The T is devolving rapidly in to NYC 1980. But that's okay with all you apologists who prefer excuses to reliability data.

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The Paris subway is regularly shut down by strikes. I dont think a 2 hour problem would result in riots. Then again, they do like their riots in paris...

The only blame here should be for whoever is in charge of emergency lighting. Everything else is beyond anyones control.

I cant wait for someone to come in and propose that the MBTA have a backup power distribution plan in place, and then complain about the MBTA debt.

Again, when the highway is shut down almost daily due to a crash, no one bats an eye, but a once in the decade power failure, and there are calls for people to get fired?

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But now layer on top of that:

Green Line crash

Week-long massive delays on the Orange Line (still unreported in the MSM) due to, ta da, signaling problems.

People's memories of the day the Red Line came to a halt and people busted out of a train stopped on the Longfellow like war refugees.

Etc., etc.

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Don't get me wrong, the T can stand a lot of improvement as far as communications and co-ordination when an emergency occurs. Personnel and union issues are one thing. I'm just saying that it seems amazing to me that a 100+ year old system can keep the trains running all day for 7 days a week at all. The older a system is, the more likely it is to break down and harder to repair - I think more people should allow for that and not automatically put power failures down to a culture of incompetence (which may certainly be the case in other areas). It's true that London's system is older, but I'm pretty sure it's subsidized a good deal by nationwide taxes, not so with the T. Do the London trains even have AC yet?

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Some segments were active 100 years ago.
Others came on line much more recently
New tunnels have been built, old ones closed, bypassed, or "upgraded"

this is not a "100 year old system" that should be constantly struggling just to stay modestly off schedule... it's a living system that requires ongoing upkeep and upgrading. they claim to have been doing that. lies lies lies. don't fall for it.

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I agree the entire system is not 100 years old - but let's face it, a good deal of the infrastructure is. I can't help but wonder, if the 14.6 billion dollars used for the Big Dig were invested in public transportation, would we be dealing with all this? The T is running a huge deficit - where is the money coming from for this upkeep and upgrading you mention? It's not like they're doing nothing, stations are being overhauled left and right - Ashmont, State, Copley, Arlington, Maverick, Savin Hill, Charles...

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the holes, perhaps...

not the rails, not the power cables,n ot the safety gear, CERTAINLY NOT the brand new emergency lighting nor the circuit breakers...

absolutely not. you're dreaming!

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It's true, a lot of people here and at the Globe are posting as though nobody rides the 'T by choice. That's not at all accurate. I have a car, but I prefer not to use it for commuting. The 'T is cheaper, and usually faster. And the time I spend commuting is my time for reading. Try that in a car (unless you happen to be a certain bus driver)!

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I drive... unless you live on a rail line the MBTA is not all that great. They seem incapable to figuring out how to stagger buses as to not have someone wait an hour for a every 15 minute bus only to have four come down at the same time then have people wait another hour, and keep in mind all those buses are not full so its not a capacity thing.

The MBTA can not gurantee that I will get somewhere in within a 15 minute timeframe and that just is not worth my while. When I take the extended T I find myself getting places a half hour early because the previous time I got stuck on some bridge with the Orange line and ran into a meeting late.

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NECN reports the T is blaming a private company doing routine maintenance on the system. More to come in about 15 minutes, at a press conference, I guess (alas, no way could I get from Roslindale to the transportation building in 15 minutes).

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Can't get there that fast by the T?

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Gabrielle Gurley recounts her odyssey from Arlington (the town) to Back Bay this morning - with a brief stopover at the state Transportation Building to have a little chat with the T's Joe Pesaturo (one of the advantages of being a reporter), who does not think this will be Dan Grabauskas's version of Alan LeBovidge's Easter Sunday turnpike meltdown.

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Delays and such are *de rigeur* for the MBTA. I'd rather have an occasional failure like this, if I could otherwise have everything run well normally.

Unfortunately, I don't see a way out of having both occasional big failures and continuous smaller ones. We're saddled with quirky legacy infrastructure, and my random-person-on-the-street impression is that we don't have the huge gobs money (or even always engineering feasibility) to really fix it.

Myself, I've been making choices to make things in my life walkable.

Disclosure: I volunteer on pedestrian issues.

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I actually just LOLed (LedOL?) at a lolcat. Someone shoot me.

http://1smootshort.blogspot.com

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