Tuesday, September 26, 2006

VMB's Useless at Chelsea Station This Morning

Chelsea Commuter Rail Station (MBTA) - For the third time in a row, I was burned by "Early Reliable," the inbound train to North Station, stopping at Chelsea at 6:20. After being two minutes late this past Friday, the train went back to its usual time of 6:18, leaving me with nothing but lingering diesel smoke and distant horns as it glided, early, over the last Chelsea railroad crossings and over the Mystic River; meanwhile me standing on the platform at 6:19:10 with the most bewildered look on my face. So I had to drive in yesterday to get in on time.
Today was different from any other day: today the train was neither early or reliable, but as my title of this rant implies, I put most of the blame on the station's variable message boards (VMB's) which did nothing this morning but tell you that you were at Chelsea Station (useless information) and the day and time--slightly more than useless. Of course, at least they say something, unlike the ones on the Massachusetts Turnpike (MassPike) which seem to only be able to be blank, display "Testing....," display "Go Pats," or let you know in Framingham (inbound) of exit closings at Logan Airport (as if, even if I was going to the Airport, that I would need to change my travel patterns that far out from the City) . Oh yes, and some functioned during the Republican National Convention (RNC) to let you know of closed exits, detours and special detours for Hazardous Material (Hazmat, HC) commercial vehicles. No daily time and date and welcome to the MassPike, though. The point I'm getting at is they didn't tell you what the problem was--the train was approximately "25 minutes late due to earlier mechanical difficulties." Where is that quote coming from--me calling the MBTA at 6:32 and, after wading through only one level of touch-tone service, actually getting a pleasant shedule information person (a woman if you're curious) who came back surprisingly quickly with that info. I was, honestly, quite ready to yell at whomever picked up the phone to say "Well it ain't on the scrolling sign!", but instead, as she was very pleasant as aforementioned--though didn't apologize like I used to for delayed bus service when I dispatched for UMass Transit--simply thanked her for the info, hung up and then relayed it to the other weary passengers. They all walked towards 5th and Arlington Streets rather than up the hill to Heard Street and Washington Avenue for the 111 to Haymarket; I drove because by then it was 6:38, which meant I wouldn't be to Haymarket until at least 6:50, Sullivan Square until at least 6:55--and all this being generous as far as how morning service runs and assuming smooth connections (dream on). So assuming this all worked out I would have five minutes to walk from Sullivan Square to work; I'm getting faster at walking as I get back into the swing of walking after a 6-year hiatus in Western Massachusetts of not doing nearly enough walking, but I'm definitely not that fast.
So, all-in-all, MBTA: Get those VMB's to do something besides display the station name, the time and the date, preferably useful information such that, if people need to take "alternate routes" to work (a play on the T's old slogan), then they might actually have reasonable time to take them.

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