Are there any transit systems worse than the T?

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Are there any transit systems worse than the T?

Postby ithjames » Fri Jan 14, 2005 7:07 am

There is all this talk about the T being a disgrace and how wonderful the CTA, NY Metro, Washington Metro and the Toronto transit systems are. Yes the T does have its flaws but it's not that bad. So anyway, are these any other transit systems worse off than the MBTA? I'm sure there is. Please railfans/transitfans, I want to hear from you on this.
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Postby Ron Newman » Fri Jan 14, 2005 7:55 am

There are lots of non-rail transit systems worse than the T -- systems that don't run on Sundays, or don't run on Saturdays either, or don't run after 6 pm, or run only at commute hours in the peak direction.

Even a few rail systems qualify as 'worse' in this way -- Shore Line East, Virginia Rail Express, MARC, and LA Metrolink come to mind.
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Postby ithjames » Fri Jan 14, 2005 8:39 am

Ron Newman wrote:Even a few rail systems qualify as 'worse' in this way -- Shore Line East, Virginia Rail Express, MARC, and LA Metrolink come to mind.


Yeah I've heard the LA metrolink is not very good. I heard no one really uses it and it doesn't go anywhere useful. I'm not sure whether it's dirty or nasty.
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Postby octr202 » Fri Jan 14, 2005 8:53 am

In terms of frequency of service, hours of service, and number and geographic spread of routes, there are few systems/cities taht are as good as Boston (keeping in mind areas like Chicago, NYC, or San Francisco Bay Area where the services are offered by multiple operators, while we have one authority here). In that sense, Boston is in an exclusive club with the likes of NYC, Philly, Chicago and perhaps the Bay Area, with numberous rapid transit, bus, and commuter rail routes that all run 7 days a week.

Note that a lot of the systems mentioned above (in particular, VRE and MARC) are very different creatures. They are essentially new startups (although MARC was a state takeover of existing RR-run commuter services), and while they offer limited service, they have essentially built up commuter rail from scratch in the last 10-15 years in their area.

In terms of quality of service, one abbreviation sums up the weakest performer out of the big transit agencies: SEPTA. Browse through the SEPTA forum here, or visit the Delaware Valley Association of Rail Passengers' (http://www.dvarp.org) for an idea of the mess that Philadelphia deals with. So, yes, while I've had some harsh criticisms of the T, I will readily admit that it could be much worse.
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Postby Mdlbigcat » Fri Jan 14, 2005 9:57 am

octr202 wrote:In terms of frequency of service, hours of service, and number and geographic spread of routes, there are few systems/cities taht are as good as Boston (keeping in mind areas like Chicago, NYC, or San Francisco Bay Area where the services are offered by multiple operators, while we have one authority here). In that sense, Boston is in an exclusive club with the likes of NYC, Philly, Chicago and perhaps the Bay Area, with numberous rapid transit, bus, and commuter rail routes that all run 7 days a week.

Note that a lot of the systems mentioned above (in particular, VRE and MARC) are very different creatures. They are essentially new startups (although MARC was a state takeover of existing RR-run commuter services), and while they offer limited service, they have essentially built up commuter rail from scratch in the last 10-15 years in their area.

In terms of quality of service, one abbreviation sums up the weakest performer out of the big transit agencies: SEPTA. Browse through the SEPTA forum here, or visit the Delaware Valley Association of Rail Passengers' (http://www.dvarp.org) for an idea of the mess that Philadelphia deals with. So, yes, while I've had some harsh criticisms of the T, I will readily admit that it could be much worse.



Although SEPTA has its flaws [and there are many of them] I find that SEPTA and the T have a lot of things in common [idiotic management, lazy unions, riders who are jerkoffs, politicians who treat it as a patronage haven], there are a lot things these agencies do well [like maintain a varied multi-modal system], that covers their metro areas well [in Philly, at least on the PA side. In NJ it's another story].

SEPTA's quality is quite well despite their obstacles. It could be MUCH better, but under the conditions, what we got on 2005 is miles better that what we got back in 1978-79 when the system was literally falling apart at the seams with the fleet breaking down every day, graffitti all over the place, and a sense that you are unsafe riding the system [from crime and accidents].

The transit fleet is in tip top shape despite the financial constraints. The Trolley cars look wonderful at 25 [and they are miles better than the PCC's looked at the same age], the BSS cars still look bright and new at 21 years, and the MFSE cars [at 5 to 6 years] still have the new car feel to them [except those AWFUL cloth seats]. The bus fleet is somewhat mostly brand new, and the older buses are kept up well [the old Neos still look and run good after 15 years- back in '78, our 15 year old GM new looks rattled so much that one of them hit a pothole, and something fell out].

SEPTA's problems is political[City vs. Suburbs vs. State] and financial [no dedicated funding, unfunded ADA mandates from the Feds, no Federal support, restrictive Federal rules] and it would take someone who has the time and effort to solve these problems. Maybe if you found someone like that in Boston, maybe the T can be the world-class transit network it can be [like SEPTA if someone has a vision for what it can be.].
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Postby Cotuit » Fri Jan 14, 2005 10:45 am

The T isn't as horrible as everyone here makes it out to be. Read the Straphangers forums to see the piles of gripes about NY's MTA. The MTA is often days one giant delay. Sure it runs 24/7, but if it often takes one hours to get home because of delays, then what good is 24/7 service?

I gave up on the subway towards the end of my time living in New York and relied on Express Buses for my commute.
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etc

Postby Noel Weaver » Fri Jan 14, 2005 11:15 am

Come on down to sunny, warm Florida. Broward County has a very
extensive bus system which is growing and service is being increased.
Trouble is that service is being increased from 30 minute headway to 20
minute headway, the buses get stuck in traffic and often are quite late,
connections are often difficult and sometimes missed as well and it
generally takes a long time to get somewhere if a transfer is involved.
We need a system like the Boston area has with trolleys, subways,
commuter trains and even bus lines with frequent service.
We have one commuter rail line north and south.
You folks want to trade what we have for what you have?
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Postby NellsChoo » Fri Jan 14, 2005 11:41 am

The T is bad? I am suprised any commuter railroad can function at all in MA given the politics and garbage here. Seems to me, (someone who sees but does not use), the T is a good system. It is managment and people living near current & proposed rail lines that cause grief.

I can be wrong, of course...
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Postby efin98 » Fri Jan 14, 2005 12:00 pm

Any system that runs buses at 30 minutes or less and rapid transit and light rail at 15 minutes or less headways 7 days a week outside of rush hour is a good system. Any system that runs rapid transit service 7 days a week DESPITE construction AND station closures is a good system. Any system that manages to bring together multiple counties and municipalities and even states in a select few cases is a good system. Any system that can manage to work closely as a tennant with private businesses for the benefit of riders is a good system.

The bad systems? Ones that can not do any of those.
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Postby RailBus63 » Fri Jan 14, 2005 1:03 pm

efin98 wrote:Any system that runs buses at 30 minutes or less and rapid transit and light rail at 15 minutes or less headways 7 days a week outside of rush hour is a good system.


That is a function of demand - if the ridership is there, the service is provided. It is not uncommon to find smaller bus systems running 20 or 30 minute headways on busy routes. Here in Syracuse, the busiest routes are the James Street and South Salina routes - service is provided on 20 minute headways middays, 35 minute headways on Saturday and hourly on Sundays from 6 am to 11 pm.

Any system that runs rapid transit service 7 days a week DESPITE construction AND station closures is a good system.


The MBTA disrupts train service by running night or weekend bus shuttles on a regular basis. They also shut down entire segments of lines for an extended period of time such as North Station to Lechmere. The MBTA is no different than NYC, Chicago, Philly - all older systems do this from time to time.

Any system that manages to bring together multiple counties and municipalities and even states in a select few cases is a good system. Any system that can manage to work closely as a tennant with private businesses for the benefit of riders is a good system.


Many transit systems both large and small do these things.

The bad systems? Ones that can not do any of those.


Just curious - which systems are you thinking of here?

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Postby efin98 » Fri Jan 14, 2005 1:52 pm

RailBus63 wrote:The MBTA disrupts train service by running night or weekend bus shuttles on a regular basis.They also shut down entire segments of lines for an extended period of time such as North Station to Lechmere. The MBTA is no different than NYC, Chicago, Philly - all older systems do this from time to time.


The last time a line was shut down for an extended period of time(longer tahn a weekend) was in 1995 when the Blue Line was shut down. The good agencies can manage to get projects done with minimal affect on other lines, the bad ones just shut the whole systems down for long periods of time. New York, Chicago, and Baltimore's systems have been guilty of doing that, with Baltimore currently doing it on their Light Rail line.

Many transit systems both large and small do these things.


On a wide scale though? There are some that have a hard time doing it(notably SEPTA) and some that have few problems(notably the MBTA) but what makes it key is how well they can do it without having a huge impact on service.


Just curious - which systems are you thinking of here?

JD
That's the thing, every one of the agencies out there is good AND bad. Each has an area where improvement is needed and where they excell beyond others of their size.
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Postby octr202 » Fri Jan 14, 2005 2:04 pm

That's the thing, every one of the agencies out there is good AND bad. Each has an area where improvement is needed and where they excell beyond others of their size.


Exactly. The best thing that can come from these comparisons is to remember that we (those that use, pay for, and work for the MBTA) are not the only ones facing massive challenges in providing mass transit service in 21st century America. A good, healthy inquiry as to why something that works in Chicago, or DC, or San Francisco can or cannot work in Boston is always a good thing. The grass may or may not be greener on the otherside, but its always worth a look.

Additionally, we should always take the comments of visitors as constructive criticism. For better or worse, all the cities of this country compete to attract businesses, jobs, residents, tourists, and college students. If somewhere else does do a better job, eventually people (and thus dollars) will flow away from the regions that aren't doing as good a job. Keeping on top of the MBTA (and all of our institutions) to improve is always going to benefit the city and the region. And give us rail/transit fans even more to be proud of.
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Postby octr202 » Fri Jan 14, 2005 2:14 pm

RailBus63 wrote:
The MBTA disrupts train service by running night or weekend bus shuttles on a regular basis.They also shut down entire segments of lines for an extended period of time such as North Station to Lechmere. The MBTA is no different than NYC, Chicago, Philly - all older systems do this from time to time.


The last time a line was shut down for an extended period of time(longer tahn a weekend) was in 1995 when the Blue Line was shut down. The good agencies can manage to get projects done with minimal affect on other lines, the bad ones just shut the whole systems down for long periods of time. New York, Chicago, and Baltimore's systems have been guilty of doing that, with Baltimore currently doing it on their Light Rail line.


This is a new trend, across the transit industry, that troubles me. Like Ed mentioned, a lot of systems, good and bad, ahve been guilty. The worst that I can think of are the Railworks project in teh early 90's, where SEPTA severed the ex-Reading commuter lines for months at a time in North Philly, the Green Line closure and reconstruction in Chicago, the Baltimore Light Rail double tracking, and the Lechmere closure here.

The notion that rail transit services aren't essential is troubling. No one, during the Big Dig, considered closing I-93 for a year -- its too "essential." I wish that the same notion applied to rail transit services. In our own local example, if a highway tunnel can be built under a city while everything remains open, there's a way to build a new subway tunnel entrance ramp without a year long closure. It requires the public/political perception that transit is of equal value and importance, and that transit users diserve the same treatment as highway users.

Please note that while I used the MBTA project as an illustration, this is a problem that extends beyond Boston.
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Postby Mdlbigcat » Fri Jan 14, 2005 4:49 pm

[quote]This is a new trend, across the transit industry, that troubles me. Like Ed mentioned, a lot of systems, good and bad, ahve been guilty. The worst that I can think of are the Railworks project in teh early 90's, where SEPTA severed the ex-Reading commuter lines for months at a time in North Philly, the Green Line closure and reconstruction in Chicago, the Baltimore Light Rail double tracking, and the Lechmere closure here.

The notion that rail transit services aren't essential is troubling. No one, during the Big Dig, considered closing I-93 for a year -- its too "essential." I wish that the same notion applied to rail transit services. In our own local example, if a highway tunnel can be built under a city while everything remains open, there's a way to build a new subway tunnel entrance ramp without a year long closure. It requires the public/political perception that transit is of equal value and importance, and that transit users diserve the same treatment as highway users.

Please note that while I used the MBTA project as an illustration, this is a problem that extends beyond Boston.
[quote]

In a lot of cases, shutting down an entire rail line for reconstruction may be the better option because the job can be done quicker and cheaper if is done all at once instead of doing it under traffic [in such cases could stretch a project to a decade or more like the Frankford El reconstruction].

When CTA shut down the Green Line, it had the Red and Blue Lines nearby to pick up the slack, and the Green Lines's passengers. The Lechmere-North Station reconstruction is rather short, and buses can handle the traffic, and Baltimore MTA's light rail shutdown shifted most passengers onto express buses, in these cases an alternative was available. In the case of the MFSE, there were the local shuttles to Spring Garden and the express buses via I-95 to Center City using Articulated buses. The night/weekend shutdowns basically impacted the weekend riders, and anyone riding at night, outside of the regular 9 to 5 commuters.

During Railworks, SEPTA had the Broad St Subway to pick up the slack since the rail lines paralled the subway in North Philly. SEPTA expanded express service [adding night and Saturday trains], and made the locals run more frequently. In additon they ran express buses to replace the R6, and ran shuttles from R7 CHE stations to CHW stations on weekdays. Also it confined the work to the warm-weather months, which inconvenienced as few passengers as possible. As a result of the shutdowns, the Railworks project saved both time and money.

That is the motivations for shutting down rail lines. In many cases systems can get more bang for the buck, and get the line up and running quicker. Now as far as I know, keeping I-93 open during the Big Dig was one of the many contributing factors to the EXCESSIVELY HUGE cost overruns the project suffered.
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Postby octr202 » Fri Jan 14, 2005 5:06 pm

In a lot of cases, shutting down an entire rail line for reconstruction may be the better option because the job can be done quicker and cheaper if is done all at once instead of doing it under traffic [in such cases could stretch a project to a decade or more like the Frankford El reconstruction].

When CTA shut down the Green Line, it had the Red and Blue Lines nearby to pick up the slack, and the Green Lines's passengers. The Lechmere-North Station reconstruction is rather short, and buses can handle the traffic, and Baltimore MTA's light rail shutdown shifted most passengers onto express buses, in these cases an alternative was available. In the case of the MFSE, there were the local shuttles to Spring Garden and the express buses via I-95 to Center City using Articulated buses. The night/weekend shutdowns basically impacted the weekend riders, and anyone riding at night, outside of the regular 9 to 5 commuters.

During Railworks, SEPTA had the Broad St Subway to pick up the slack since the rail lines paralled the subway in North Philly. SEPTA expanded express service [adding night and Saturday trains], and made the locals run more frequently. In additon they ran express buses to replace the R6, and ran shuttles from R7 CHE stations to CHW stations on weekdays. Also it confined the work to the warm-weather months, which inconvenienced as few passengers as possible. As a result of the shutdowns, the Railworks project saved both time and money.

That is the motivations for shutting down rail lines. In many cases systems can get more bang for the buck, and get the line up and running quicker. Now as far as I know, keeping I-93 open during the Big Dig was one of the many contributing factors to the EXCESSIVELY HUGE cost overruns the project suffered.


Cost is the driving factor in closing lines during construction. However, this has, in most cases, had very negative effects on ridership. It often takes years to build ridership back up to previous level, and it generates ill-will from the riding public. It took SEPTA several years to get its ridership back up after Railworks. The CTA decided that the Green Line closure in Chicago decimated ridership to the point where they kept the Douglas Branch of the Blue Line open during reconstruction.

Now, figuring out just what all made the Big Dig so expensive is beyond the scope of this forum, but a lot of it had to do with little or no oversight of private contractors.
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