Tuesday, May 4, 2010

How Bad Can the MBTA Get?

My car's in the shop this week, and I am using public transportation, rather than renting a car, in an effort to be a little greener.

I'm only 18-hours into my MBTA adventure, and it is already very, very lame. It's just as bad as when I was a student who couldn't afford a car, but now it's much more expensive, and my obligations are a lot more pressing.

Last night I took the T from Malden Center to Dean Road, Brookline. This was the "high point" of my experience so far. The Orange train arrived soon after I reached the platform. There were no delays, and the throngs of Bruins playoffs and Red Sox fans were happy and not obnoxious. I transferred to the Green Line at North Station and waited about 8-minutes, passing up a B train and boarding a C train. 75-minutes after starting my trip, I arrived at my destination. That's about 25-minutes longer than it would take me to drive on an evening with a Red Sox game.

The ride back on the green line was uneventful. Back at North Station, I waited about 10-minutes for the Orange Line. When a train pulled in, it was already pretty full. Everyone boarded. Now the train was completely full. But instead of pulling out of the station, the Operator announced we would be standing by for a few minutes.

Turns out, the Bruins game was ending (yeah, we won), and the MBTA thought a good game plan would be to make an already-packed train wait 10-minutes so that it could be completely over-stuffed with hundreds more riders, many of them both loud and intoxicated. Classic!

Finally the sardine can pulled out of North Station. Alas, the one passenger on the train wearing a Philly jersey is spotted by the drunkest, most aggressive Bruins fan on board. This Bruins-fan jackass, a total embarrassment to Beantown, spent the entire ride heckling the Philly fan (and his Bruins jersey-wearing girlfriend), more and more intensely.

By the time the train reached Malden Center (my stop), other passengers needed to intervene to keep the drunk Bruins idiot away from the poor Philly guy, who the entire ride had done nothing to provoke or encourage the drunk guy. I stopped by the security booth and asked them to have security meet the train at Oak Grove and make sure the Philly guy and his girl got off the train safely.

Does the MBTA really think that this is going to be an unusual scenario? Could it possibly be a bright idea to have some extra security on nights when Boston teams are in the playoffs on home turf?

Okay, so on to this morning. My daughter attends preschool 1.8 miles from our home. It's a bit of a long walk for a little kid, early in the morning. I went to MBTA.com and figured out which bus route we needed. The 108 - Linden Sq. to Wellington. We needed to reach the school no later than 9:00 a.m. The obvious choice was the 8:20 bus from Linden Square, arriving at Malden Center at 8:34 and reaching our destination at 8:39.

We really needed to catch that bus, so I figured the safest thing would be to leave our home at the same time the bus was starting out from Linden Square. Since we'd be boarding a couple of stops before Malden Center, that should leave plenty of time. Here's what actually happened:

8:20 - The 108 bus presumably leaves Linden Square. Simultaneously, my kid and I leave our home.

8:22 - We have a sight-line of the bus route. No bus passes.

8:24 - We reach the bus stop--several minutes before the bus could possibly arrive if it left Linden on time.

8:26-8:40 - We watch the 3 other buses that use the stop we are at come and go. Twice. There is no bench or covered area. It's hot and uncomfortable. I begin to despair of making it to school on time. I ask the driver of another bus that stopped whether there is unusual traffic on Salem Street. He said there is not.

8:41 - The #108 finally pulls up to the curb, already approximately 11-minutes late only 1.5 miles into its route, and having taken about 85% longer to reach us than it should have.

8:43 - We reached Malden Center.

8:54 - We reach our destination 15-minutes past the scheduled time, and 3-minutes past the time that bus was due in at its terminus. "Look on the bright side," I tell myself, "I won't have a long wait for the bus to go back home." Ah, still so naive, right?

At 8:59 I leave the school and begin walking back to the bus stop. I have a clear view of the bus route the entire time. No MBTA bus pass in either direction.

9:00 - An inbound bus back to Malden is scheduled to leave Wellington, reaching my stop 5-minutes later.

9:01 - I arrive at my stop, expecting a wait of 5-minutes, or so.

9:08 - Still no bus. Another person joins me at the bus stop.

9:10 - A 108 bus speeds past in the other direction, toward Wellington. That bus is apparently only 7-minutes behind schedule.

9:15 - A nicely dressed Jehova's Wittness from the Caribbean approaches and begins to proselytize to me.

9:20 - Still waiting, but at least I'm saved now.

9:25 - More riders waiting at the bus stop.

9:31 - Bus #0706 arrives for the 108 route. If #0706 is the bus that should have left Wellington at 9:00, it is 26-minutes late. If #0706 is the next bus--that should have left Wellington at 9:20, then it is exactly on time...but the previous bus either never showed up, or left Wellington a minimum of 5-minutes early. Either option is completely and totally unacceptable!

9:43 - My bus reaches Malden Center. The male driver briefly yells out the door to the female driver of another 108 bus that is sitting beside us (#0614 maybe, but I forget exactly), something about her being late.

9:47 - I get off at my stop.

My 3.6-mile round trip should have involved 22-minutes of riding time, 26-minutes of scheduled turn-around wait time, and perhaps 8-minutes of waiting at the start of the trip.

That's a total of 56-minutes, getting me back home at 9:17, and making it just barely worth taking the T, rather than walking the 3.6-miles.

Instead, I rode the bus for 26-minutes (about 18% over estimate), waited for 37 unscheduled (i.e. late) minutes, and arrived home at 9:47 (30-minutes late) for a total trip time of 87-minutes.

When you have to make a trip of a few miles, but it's still faster to walk than to take the T, that's when you know just how bad the MBTA is.

The MBTA seems anti-environment and anti-person. If this is how things tend to go on the MBTA, there is no way a sane person who can afford a car would choose to give up their car in favor of public transit.

As for those who cannot afford a car, and must depend on the MBTA to get to their jobs, do their shopping, drop their kids at daycare. Oh my goodness! I cannot imagine how much time in their lives is basically wasted, stolen, squandered...all because the MBTA, despite endless fare hikes, cannot get its act together.

I would say I want my fare money back, but I am sure the insufferable process to obtain a refund would cost me far more than the few bucks I paid for this morning's awful customer experience.

No comments:

Post a Comment