Thursday, September 14, 2006

When the MBTA experiments... run out of the lab... fast!

If you go on the T's website, you will find a short snipped on its new "experiments"; I wish to talk about two which I have witnessed recently: the "new" subway maps and the new seats on the Orange Line.

Let's start with the latter. Seeing is believing and rather than comment on how I first heard about the new seats being "tested" starting the week of the 20th of August on select trains on the Orange Line watching Channel 7 news and read of it since on the T's website as aforementioned, I was going to wait to comment on it, as I have in an earlier blog entry about the ripped seats, until I actually sat on one. So I finally did today. The train I rode on, for all you railfans, is the one with 01255 and 01254 as first and second car heading to Oak Grove; 6th and 5th, respectively when heading to Forest Hills. The seats--well, they're not exactly what I expected--a little too hard--but they get the job done if you don't mind about a 15% loss in comfort over the old seats. The best way to describe them is a is a dark-ish multicolored office rug that will hide dirt and grafitti, which is key. There's no padding, just fuzzy, slighty buoyant material that will surely be worn thin from use in less than three years, but is very hard to tear or cut up and will even hold up better to people digging their heels into them like this teenage girl sitting across from me this morning who felt the need to ride sitting across three seats, digging her heels into one of them (ah, the students are back!). After I shook my head at her, she straightened out.

Now, as for the "new subway signs. Let's begin with a brief history of my interest in the MBTA and NYCT subways. I've been collecting maps of both systems since I was very young. And one of the things that has always baffled me is how the MBTA has yet to offer a complete map of the subway system at any of the stations across the rapid tranist network, yet at each of NYCT's approximately 3.5 times as many stops there is. Furthemore, for years NYCT has been giving away at Grand Central Terminal and the New York Transit Museum (note: not some non-public transit-accessible museum in Kennebunkport, ME) full-sized maps of the the entire subway system, with the entirely of the Metro-North system on the reverse side, including services via New Jersey Transit, as well as full-sized maps of bus service in each of the five boroughs. The T meanwhile has been giving out, with no consistency, at Park Street and random other locations, bus-schedule-sized maps that depict the entirety of the Blue, Orange, Red, D and E lines, as well as a complete Commuter Rail map on the reverse side, yet lacking all but major stops on the B and C lines south of Copley; Silver Line stops on the Roxbury side matter while stops in Southie only matter if they're actually within the "Seaport District" or they rhyme with "Logan Airport" or "Courthouse," (which everyone, including people from far away countries are supposed to read and go "oh yeah, the Courthouse). And bus map availability--dream on. The only way to get a full-sized, complete subway map or a bus map at all is to buy one at your local map store or bookstore, if they're in stock.

But forget about personal maps, because the T apparently hates itself anyway and can't even stock buses with schedules for fear people without Internet access might want to know when the next bus is coming (the 111 bus this morning, 0366 did have bus schedules, not bad). For this blog entry let's delve into the new "stick-on" maps appearing on trains and buses and how they compare to the T's standard less-than-a-map map:
  • Stops on the Silver Line are the same. Apparently local stops in Southie still don't matter. If you look at the map, you'd think, "Hmm, maybe there's no room to put the names"--Maybe the transit lines don't need to be so thick! As a tradeoff to crap-tastic "bus rapid transit" along the Washington Ave Corridor in Roxbury, the residents continue to get a map with complete stop listings. Same with the Mattapan High-Speed Line, which has recently gotten a full-stop listing... just before the entire line was taken out of service for renovations (bus replacement for the next half-year).
  • More local stops on the B and C lines matter--we're still not seeing a complete map!
  • The E train terminates at Heath Street, with no bother to even mention Arborway. No, MBTA, we won't forget how you messed over--to use nice language--Jamaica Plain by stealthily paving over the much of the tracks south of Heath Street and/or taking down the catenary, thus conveniently ending by reason of "we don't care" a long dispute over reopening the Arborway extension.
Aside from the maps still not being complete, my other major beef is placement--slapped in, sloppily in some spots I might add--into the ad holders on trolleys, buses and subway cars. What?! You would think such an (apparently) cash-strapped system would want to use the space to--I dunno--sell advertising. What a concept! But I definitely find their placement on the buses the most insulting. Got to New York--there's a bus map on the buses in that spot (of whichever borough the bus chiefly runs in). Why do I need a rapid transit map while I'm riding the bus?! What are you (T) people on?!

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