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Suggested MBTA Commuter Rail Improvements

I’ve been riding the Commuter Rail every day for about 10 months now and I have noticed several improvements that the MBCR/MBTA could make for little or no additional cost, which would improve the entire experience, at least for me. Besides the usual gripes about on-time performance, etc., these are some little things that would make a big difference.

  1. Collect the fares. Nothing frustrates the core ridership paying up to $250 a month (and are looking at a fare increase) than watching people who don’t have to pay. A couple of people slipping by here and there is one thing, but I have ridden into South Station in the morning and not had the conductor collect a single fare in my car. Rediculous.
  2. Announce the destination and the stops. And when boarding at South Station, announce the destination at least three times before the train leaves.
  3. Here’s a really good one — if the equipment is sitting on the tracks, don’t wait until 10 minutes before departure to allow boarding. Let the early-birds get the good seats instead of unleashing the herd when the signboard lights up. The crew of the 6:10 PM Providence train from South Station are masters at this — they call the train the old fashioned way (by shouting “Providence”) 15 or sometimes 20 minutes prior to scheduled departure. Brilliant! How freakin’ hard would this really be? Is MBTA routing so f’d up that they don’t know where a train is going until exactly 10 minutes prior to departure? No way. My guess is that they have now conformed their process around the expensive announcement system that they bought rather than around passenger satisfaction. So I’ll bet that the system is programmed to display the train at exactly 10 minutes before departure and no one (other than the Providence crew) takes the initiative to overcome this limitation by telling people on the platform that the train is ready.
  4. Clean up South Station. I mean, would it really be so hard to take a pressure washer to the platform and wash the freakin’ chewing gum off?
  5. Change the lightbulbs. This is less noticable in the summer when it’s still light for the evening commute, but in the winter South Station looks derrelict. At least 1/3 to 1/2 of the light bulbs don’t work at any given time. There’s really no excuse for this. If it’s a money-saving scheme (and that would be just silly) then remove the unused fixtures. There’s no reason to let the place look like it’s half abandoned.
  6. Give the train engineers a uniform or at least a hat. Half of them look like the homeless guys waiting on the steps of the “smoking” area at South Station. Not exactly professional looking or confidence inspiring for a transit system that has had two kids crash trains and kill people in the last year.

There you have it. 6 things the MBTA/MBCR could do for short money to at least make a show that they care.

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