I and my wife recently moved to Boston (April 2013) from what is often referred to as our sister city Philadelphia, and we LOVE it here. Boston is a glorious town. I don’t need to go into details since anyone who has been here for two weeks knows that. Notwithstanding, there is a serious, a VERY serious shortcoming, and I dare say, an obvious one — MBTA, specifically the T trains, more specifically the Green line — and most specifically the E line, and its accompanying #39 bus.
What is going on here? So much of Boston works so well and is so well maintained (again for space considerations specifics need not be elucidated here), yet, the transit system here is… hmm, how should I say this… ah — deplorable!
As I mentioned I come from Philadelphia where things, generally, in spite of the city’s Public Relations Department output, are not very good. One of those glaring inadequacies is the SEPTA (Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority) system which is a sprawling conglomeration of buses, trackless trolleys, an amazingly simplistic subway (a simple criss-cross north/south/east/west only), various subway-surface trolleys, light rail and regional rail systems which is divided three ways: city transit (buses, subways, subway-surface, trackless trolleys), suburban (buses, light rail) and regional rail (commuter trains). Since Philly is bigger than Boston, one can only imagine how monumentally difficult hodgepodge SEPTA is to manage. Yet, somehow they do it. Don’t get me wrong, Philly’s SEPTA system has Herculean problems, and its executive structure still needs an overhaul so that the board realistically reflects how the system is actually used and represented. Notwithstanding, rather in spite of its disjointed nature and problematic executive board structure SEPTA happened to be managed well enough to win the “Outstanding Transit System 2012” award.
Why am I saying all of this? Because the MBTA simply by its design and configuration should be so much easier and more efficaciously managed than SEPTA’s sprawling, much larger system. But in simple fact, it isn’t. Not even close, a fact of Boston, in light of how so much of this town I find so much more desirable, I find most distressing. I love this town. Ever since my wife and I moved here in April (yes, during Marathon Week), we have simply enjoyed it for way too many reasons to cite here — except for one — the MBTA and its disastrous Green Line E-Train and its sister the #39 bus. Allow me to concentrate on those two lines, since they probably exemplify what is so wrong with the MBTA system.
The concept of schedule is a joke; and, as I far as I can see, the reasons are twofold:
1) the lack of common sense planning and experiencing reality. How many MBTA board members, state or local politicians have used the system — again those two lines in particular — if at all? None of these people have any real idea of the difficulties the E-train has once it is above ground. The #39 Bus has similar difficulties primarily because of the parking and traffic nightmare known as Mission Hill.
2) At this point (much of it is caused by the above) the operators of the T and 39 bus don’t feel as if they can even come close to being on schedule. Nevertheless, that should not be an issue with the other bus lines; however, there is obviously no, I repeat — NO — enforcement of the bus schedules. But, then again,why should the drivers care? Since they get no support from the MBTA or respect from the public who use the system, the natural reaction, understandably, is not to give a damn. They are frustrated and, as a result the ridership becomes immensely frustrated.
OK, enough of the complaints. Solutions. Solutions to the MBTA are ridiculously simple, and (God forbid!) cost effective:
1) The E-Train, after Brigham’s Circle, loses its designated line, and on the street parking is suddenly allowed causing traffic to bottleneck constantly every day. This makes positively no sense. Therefore, the designated line should be extended, at least, until after the turn onto South Huntington Ave. (Riverway).
2) Of course, in order to accomplish this that would mean extending the ban on parking on Huntington Ave. past Brighams’s Circle as well. Moreover, opening up that lane would then allow for the 39 bus to travel more fluidly and even follow the schedule (What?!). This would restrict auto and truck traffic. Now, for you car drivers who will piss and moan over such a restriction, I say (and I’m sure I’m not the only one) so what! Park your car and use either the transit system or ride a bike. Get your confounded car off the street! It simply does not make sense to allow on the street parking on Huntington Ave. at any point; it is a major thoroughfare all the way into (and including) Brookline. I’m sure that these two proposals are new. But then maybe that’s the point: that some one such as myself and my wife, who are still relatively new to the city can see such obviously simple solutions to such a niggling problem, then it is pretty evident that they need to be addressed.
So far I have not heard any of the mayoral candidates address this issue (or the issue of reestablishing the extension of the E line past Heath Street, whether it’s up to Hyde Square or all the way back up to Forest Hills/Arborway). In fact, from what I’ve seen the needs of JP despite it burgeoning population diversity and economic growth in recent years seems to have been largely ignored by the mayoral candidates.
Anyway, transit is not a trivial issue; the quality of public transit in Boston — like any major metropolis — affects the vitality and quality of life for all of its citizens. It goes beyond maters concerning fossil fuel consumption. An efficiently managed and operated transit system attracts investment and invites the people who come with that investment to park, or even sell, their cars, since there would be no need to have one. Nevertheless, that is only contingent upon the MBTA and the new mayor waking up and doing something about the pathetic state of public transit in this region. Fixing the E-line would go a long way to getting there.