Two MBTA complaints for the price of one

By | March 5, 2008

This morning’s complaint:

Subject: MBTA Bus Route 501

Ms. Dubose,

I am writing to complain about an extremely unpleasant trip I just had on route 501, bus number 0222, inbound, arriving at Lincoln and Beach Streets at 8:38am this morning.

First of all, the bus was painfully overheated; the temperature was literally sickening.

Equally sickening was the driver’s jerky, heavy-on-the-brakes driving which caused the bus to lurch continuously for most of the trip.

For some reason, the driver kept pulling over during the trip. Sometimes the engine would shut down and be restarted, sometimes not. Was there something wrong with this bus which was causing it to stall? If so, then why was it in service? Not only does this make for an unpleasant and slow commute, it’s certainly a hazard to the people in the bus and to other drivers when a bus stalls on the Turnpike! And if there was nothing wrong with the bus, then why did the driver keep pulling over and shutting off the engine?

But by far the worst part of all was that for some inexplicable reason the driver got off the Turnpike at Copley Square rather than all the way downtown, thus increasing the length of the commute by 10-15 minutes and treating all the passengers to a jerky, lurching, stop-and-go ride down Kneeland Street to get back on-route.

I just checked SmarTraveler and it shows no problems between the Allston tolls and Logan Airport, so I really can’t imagine why the driver felt it necessary to exit the Turnpike in Copley Square.

It’s almost 20 minutes since I got off the bus, and I’m still feeling sick from the ride.

Experiences like this are a major contributor to why so many people hate the T.

  Jonathan Kamens

This afternoon’s complaint:

Subject: Published bus schedules are a big lie

I just waited at the corner of Foster and Washington Streets for 27 minutes for an outbound 57 bus.

This, at a time of day when the bus is supposed to run every 10 minutes or less.

This is the rule, not the exception. I rarely wait during the week for less than the amount of time printed in the schedule.

How the hell are we supposed to use the routes recommended by the trip planner on your Web site, if we can’t rely on the buses to actually come when the planner says they will? I arrived at the stop fifteen minutes before the time specified by the planner, and I still missed my connection to the 504 bus at Watertown Yard.

When I complained to the driver about the fact that I had waited 27 minutes for a bus that’s supposed to come every 10 minutes or less, he informed me that a bus was off the line. That’s absurd. There are buses off the line every single day. You should have stand-by buses in reserve so that broken down buses can be replaced on the routes, and your published schedules should take into account the possibility that not all buses will be in operation on any given day. Independent of that, if there’s one bus off the line then the remaining buses should be spaced evenly apart, such that the gap between buses increases only marginally, not from less than 10 minutes to more than 27 minutes. Even if that’s not possible because the missing bus broke down too recently to have adjusted the other buses’ schedules, I should not have had to wait more than 20 minutes, i.e., twice the scheduled time, to account for the one missing bus.

When I pointed out to the driver that I should not have had to wait for more than 20 minutes, he rudely informed me that the bus was slowed down because of all the college students on the route getting on and off the bus. Again, that’s absurd, because the published schedules should take into account the volume of riders on the route, and because if a single bus gets slowed down by many passengers getting on and off, there’s no reason (short of the T not actually having enough buses in service to provide the level of service promised by the published schedules) why you can’t dispatch an extra bus straight from Kenmore to Packard’s Corner to bypass the college student volume.

If it were just every once in a while, I wouldn’t be so angry. But the fact of the matter is that delays lasting longer than the published schedules indicate are the norm, which means that the schedules are just a big fat lie, a lie which the T knows about and keeps on telling.

Your schedules and service are a joke. I wonder why I’m not laughing.

  Jonathan Kamens

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2 thoughts on “Two MBTA complaints for the price of one

  1. kate

    Bus 57 works?! very strange schedulethen, was waiting for h alf an. hzour…at 6 p.m to get a bus today when the weather is soooo cold. Could anybody support le and start thinking about people around…then we have flu and cold epidemic, really.?! Not surprised!

  2. Jen Gordon

    Has Seth ever told you about his “” idea?

    Anyhow, the unreliability of the 57 is why, back when I was working at MIT, I chose the un-green option of driving my car and parking it in Cambridge rather than taking the T. Not only did it come far, far less often than the scheduled frequency, but for a bus that left from Kenmore, it was always jam-packed, no additional space by BU Central. With two in the car, MIT’s parking fee was less than even the subsidized cost of bus passes.


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