spatch: (Typewriter Guy)
1. THE WINDUP.
Quote from anonymous flathead on the Universal Hub:
Too bad there aren't cameras on everyone greenline train. It would help in situations like these, as well as stop you douchebags from throwing your copies of that shitrag the metro around.
2. THE PITCH.
Just the thing the T needs to spend money on.

METRO NEWSPAPER SURVEILLANCE SQUAD! )

what

May. 13th, 2008 03:10 pm
spatch: (Corner Gas - NO)
There's ads all over the Red Line for one of those popular brands of cheap American "lite" beer which only gives you a buzz after the fourth pitcher or so. Each one has a slogan on it and such, only this time around they're not superfluously labelled with the city name to earn points with the locals ("Always cool in BOSTON")

However, the two I saw next to each other on the train this morning went like this:

NEVER FILLS YOU UP
NEVER SLOWS YOU DOWN*

and I thought oh my god, the train is trying, and failing, to rickroll me. Only now I do have the song in my head, so, like, does that count? Who's keeping score here, anyway?

And then I thought oh shit, don't say that out loud, some ad dude is gonna hear this. Dammit! No! What hell have I unleashed upon this world? Auigh! Bring back the sperm donor ads, Red Line! We don't need this plague right now!



* Yes, I know the TV slogan is "Won't fill you up and never lets you down", but that's what it says on the poster ads. Maybe it's "Wears you down". Anyway. It's not "lets", that much I know.
spatch: (Default)
Q. DEAR ANSWERING GUY, I live in Boston and I take the T to work from Davis Square every day. Every day for the past week or so the trains have been late due to one reason or another, and every day we stand on the platform waiting like fools for one southbound train while two or three northbound trains go merrily on by. The thing is, there's only one stop after us on the north end of the line, and that's Alewife. Today was the actual worst, though, as we waited for one single southbound train from Alewife while no less than five, count 'em, five trains went by northbound to Alewife. What the hell is going on, and where did all those northbound trains go?
Signed,
Someone Who Is Not The Author
The Answering Guy has been answering questions since before you knew what a question mark was.
A. DEAR SOMEONE WHO IS NOT THE AUTHOR, the Answering Guy is very pleased you asked him this question instead of trying the MBTA, for they will not tell you the truth even if you pumped them full of sodium pentathol, gave them a twenty, and then asked nicely. Now the Answering Guy is certain that you know there are two platforms in the Alewife station and both of them send trains back southbound to your Davis stop. You may have already come up with some theories as to how all those trains could have fit, possibly imagining extra track behind the platforms which the trains use when they're backed up, or even theorizing that the trains back up before they even reach Alewife. But none of these answers is correct.

The real explanation is that there is a freak rift in the time-space continuum in the train tunnel and it is centered directly underneath the northbound tracks. Trains travelling northbound don't actually reach Alewife, you see, for they fall through the rift and end up in the lair of an ancient Eldritch horror so arcane and powerful that the mere sight of its full name will cause any mere mortal being's head to explode. In fact, Answering Guy cannot even attempt to spell its name lest too many of its dangerous alphabetical symbols combine to cause even a small explosion, so we shall refer to this being as (') since the apostrophe represents a guttural stop and we're safe enough with that.

At any rate, the northbound trains travel through the rift and find themselves facing ('), who apparently looks like a thousand eyeballs clustered together and each eyeball has a mouth full of sharp sharp fangs and there are also tentacles and possibly demon wings, the Answering Guy is not too sure. As terrifying as it may be, (') actually really likes choo-choos. In fact, it likes the choo-choos so much that it envelops each one as it arrives, absorbing all its choo-chooness as well as all the people inside, ripping apart each soul and dooming it to float in ancient torment until the Eighth Melting of Shu'Maru. (This event, is has been said, will only happen if both Kurt Russell and Wilford Brimley ever find themselves in Antarctica at the same time and that's not going to happen any time soon because the Answering Man is pretty sure Liberty Medical won't deliver diabeetus testing supplies there and honestly, they'll have more important things to test for while in the frozen wastes.)

Do you feel slightly better about your crappy commute yet? I mean sure, you're late today, but at least your soul hasn't been devoured by an eyemouthed creature which has lain in wait since before the separation of Good and Evil.

It doesn't stop there, however, because you'd think the MBTA would notice a few missing trains and, after a while, they do. Up in the Master Control Center, which is this super-cool Quonset hut just off the Pike near the Weston tolls, a big red light starts blinking. The red light has "TRAIN MISSING" written on it and you can't miss it if you're looking in that direction. Eventually Phil, one of the three men in charge of train operations, looks in that direction, but only because he just lost a game of "Made You Look".

"Hey, there's no unicorn over there!" Phil says indignantly to Barry, the winner of Made You Look, who is now doubled over with laughter. "But there is a red blinking light. It says TRAIN MISSING. What do you think that might mean?"

"Hmm," says Pat, who was a third-party witness to the game of Made You Look. "It probably means there's a train missing somewhere. Press the button and see." Phil presses the button and a big friendly map pops up with an arrow and blinking lights and stuff.

"The arrow's pointing to northbound tracks near Alewife," Phil says. "Oh, I bet it's (') again." However, Phil only gets the first two syllables of the True Name of (') out before he vaporizes in a puff of foul-smelling incense so he doesn't get to the word "again", much less the guttural stop. But Pat and Barry know what it means.

"Get the Wee Train-Making Elves on the horn," Pat says to Barry. "We need a replacement train southbound out of Alewife ay ess ay pee. And you may also want to call in for a replacement Phil while you're at it."

So the Wee Train-Making Elves are called into action and begin to build a brand-new train right at the Alewife platform in front of commuters who'd be astonished if they hadn't been atrophied to dull complancency due to the inordinate late times. And before you know it, they have cobbled together what looks for all intents and purposes to be a Red Line train, only you pedal it down the tracks and there's no working heater in any of the cars. The Alewife commuters all smush in and away the train goes southbound towards Davis, where you'll be sardined in next. Satisfied with a job well done, the Wee Train-Making Elves decide to call it a day right then and there and instead of maybe making more trains to help, run off and spend the next three weeks getting completely crunk off of morning dew and making passes at passing pixies. And that's why you're late today. Sorry there's no official record of this on MBTA.com, by the way, but your boss wouldn't have believed you anyway.

Q. This sounds like a load of hogwarsh to me. What's the deal?
A. Well, do you hear the T giving you any better explanation?
Signed,
The Answering Guy
The Answering Guy can be reached if you are within arm's length.

EFFORT!

Jan. 10th, 2008 08:59 am
spatch: (Default)
The MBTA/MBCR/Dog-And-Monkey Show that is Boston's commuter rail system is notorious for consistently late trains, unexplained service delays, trains with windows so scratched and element-worn that you can't see out of them (well, that part is being fixed in some of them) and just overall poor and frustrating customer service. These problems are further compounded every time some spokesman comes out and says "Yay for us! We're doing better than ever! Look! Here are some numbers and graphs!" The commuters waiting an extra half hour in the rain to board a late train that's already packed to the gills have declared they indeed know where the spokespeople can put their numbers and graphs.

So it's no surprise that a commuter would be so disgruntled as to scrawl a friendly invective-laden message to the MBTA on one of the trains. The graffiti in question politely requested that the transit authority "FIX THIS SHIT".

And it's no surprise that the transit authority would not want this message going around on its rolling stock, right? First, it's profane, okay, can't have the Tiny Tots looking at those words, and second, it's the train's equivalent of writing "WASH ME" in the dust on the back of someone's car. It's embarrassing to have that message follwing you around, though it may provide the impetus for you to actually go and spray your car with a hose. Perhaps our friend who wrote "FIX THIS SHIT" on the train was hoping it'd work on the same principle.

But the message just could not stay on the train. The transit authority proactively made the decision to save face and dispatched one of its finest maintenance workers who, with bucket of gray paint in one hand and brush in the other, set out to remove the offending message.

Here are the fruits of their labor.

I can't say anything else. This pretty much sums up the entire commuter rail issue in Boston in one fell brushstroke. Or maybe they took the time to actually apply two.
spatch: (Default)
Write Ur Numbah Here
Red Line train. Back of the cah.
Below were several numbahs: 1, 5, and foah.
spatch: (MBTA Quarter)
Last week when I uncovered THE MYSTERY OF THE GIANT HONKIN' SKULL at the Kendall Square station, I noted that two out of the three pieces of the Kendall Band aren't working. The Kendall Band is an interactive set of music-making apparatus (apparati?) strung up between the two train tracks and crank-operated by people on both platforms. It was installed in the 1980s after the Red Line was expanded and Kendall Station renovated.

One piece is a series of tubular bells with mallets in between. The cranks start the mallets swinging, and if you cooperate with the person on the other platform cranking at the same time, you can get the mallets going pretty fast and the bells chiming all over the place.

Similarly, there's a giant metal ring with a Mallet of Damocles poised over it; your cranking ratchets the mallet up, further and further, until it's released and gives the metal ring a mighty wallop. If two people are cranking, the mallet rises faster. There may also be two mallets involved. I can't remember.

The third piece, which is the only piece left working, involves a large piece of flat sheet metal. Each crank flexes one side of the sheet, so again, if you and that Whoever on the other side work together, you can shake the sheet and get the thunder sound effects from it.

So why aren't the first two working? The Glob helpfully helps us with an answering answer: Because the artist who created them can no longer keep them running by himself. This artist, by the way, is Paul Matisse, grandson of Henri Matisse, so our Kendall Band has one mighty fine pedigree. But Paul Matisse is in his 70s and cannot keep the schedule that the maintenance demands (especially since it means fixing the things late at night after the T closes.)

Oh, yeah, and there's a lack of funding to maintain the project. It is officially MBTA property and although they coughed up some cash for repairs recently, it's pretty clear they can't budget anything more. So, in the best MBTA tradition of dealing with things they just don't feel like maintaining anymore, the T has pulled an Arborway [1] and quietly removed the controls for the two non-working pieces. And unless Paul Matisse can find a benefactor not only financially but mechanically, the Kendall Band may just be forgotten into oblivion.

Well, actually, I'll bet you dollars to donuts that since they have just removed the controls, the T won't bother to remove the rest of the apparatus if new upkeep providers can't be found. Removal costs money. Ruins can stay up for free. That way for years to come folks will stare at a giant metal ring and wonder what statement the artist, whoever he or she is, was trying to make. Of course, they won't even be getting half the intended effect. It'll just engage one sense instead of three.

It does worry me about the state of the MBTA's mechanical aptitude when people in the Glob article are quoted as doubting the T could perform adequate maintenance, but frankly, I'd rather see people with money and mechanical expertise take over and fix up the installation so it's all out of the MBTA's hands. The Authority(TM) is cash-strapped as it is, and I'd rather see them spending more money on overall improvements and repair, as idealistic as I realize that sounds (hey, Graubaskas needs gas money so he can drive to work. Budget that in.) And I'd rather see people who care about the piece, people who would care as much as Paul Matisse has for twenty years now, get the chance to do their thing for it as opposed to some guy who just knows his jerk of a boss told him to go string that wire up around that ratcheting pulley thing what the hell is this and where does he get off tellin me to string wires around ratcheting pulleys anyway?

Boston's was the first program in the country to install works of art in public transit systems. And how many of those pieces captivate or confound us on a daily basis? There's the fun ones, like the Kendall Band, the thought-provoking ones such as the bronzed workmen's gloves on the Porter Square escalator and platform, the poignant pieces of verse carved into the Davis platform bricks, the David Lynch-Meets-Tim-Burton crazy jumble of floating objects above the Broadway station staircase, the neon rods over the Alewife berth (the ones that glow are the ones which haven't been covered in dust or soot yet), the Park Street Station frieze/mosaic/mural/whatever constructed entirely out of found railroad objects...

Art's everywhere on the T.

Over twenty-five years ago a bunch of people thought it'd be a great idea to put accessible works of art in a place where they'd be seen, for free, by thousands of people on a daily basis. These works of art are seen, discussed, enjoyed, even laughed at -- but they're noticed. Most importantly, they make each station unique and provide something special, something to help you enjoy what might otherwise be another dull, boring, soulless commute.

Unfortunately, the planners made one crucial mistake: in granting MBTA ownership of the artwork, they presumed the T would always be a system that would have the funds and the workforce to maintain them. Our current bloated, monolithic transit entity can't afford to accomplish much these days.

Who can step up to help the Kendall Band?


1. The MBTA likes to just close or discontinue things and then pretend like they never happened. Ask Watertown -- or, better yet, ask Jamaica Plain. In 1985 the MBTA announced a "temporary 11-week closure" of a section of the Green Line's E branch running from Heath Street to Arborway. Today, twenty-two years later, the E branch still terminates at Heath Street, making this closure the longest 11 weeks in recorded history.
spatch: (Typewriter Guy)
000. Why are there larger-than-life construction cereal factory workers cheerfully shoving inordinately gigantic spoonsful of cereal in my face all over South Station? Yes, I understand, it's an advertising campaign, something about the people who work at the magical Post Cereal Factory so proud of their made-in-the-USA cereal that they want to share it with everybody, okay, fine, at least it's not Oompa-Loompas or nothing. Yet I do consider it slightly ill-timed to shove cereal at commuters once they've actually left home and have slogged around on trains a bit.
CEREAL LOOMPA: Hey, look what you coulda had this morning!
COMMUTER: Yeah, whatever. I got people shovin newspapers in my face already, I don't need cereal to go along with it.
CEREAL LOOMPA: Get some today so you can have it tomorrow! I'll also remind you later on this evening when you're going home, in case you're doing the shopping tonight.
COMMUTER: Will you get out of that cereal-shoving pose if I do?
CEREAL LOOMPA: ...no. I'm an advertisement, not an actual person.
COMMUTER: Maybe I should eat the newspapers instead.
I wonder how the people who make the actual cereal feel when they see their media dopplegangers, the blue-collar Central Casting folks dressed up in colorful factory garb that looks like it came straight out of Bob the Builder. Probably the same way I feel when I see or hear phonemonkeys in commercials. The worst was working roadside assistance and waking up to an OnStar ad on the radio. Coming out of a nice dream to hear "Yeah, hi, I'm stuck on the side of the road with a flat tire" over a phone filter, when you're heading over to your job to hear "Yeah, hi, I'm stuck on the side of the road with a flat tire" in your ear for eight-plus hours a day? Oh, yeah. Wonderful encouragement to get outta bed, I tell ya. Might as well go back to sleep! Apparently someone on the radio's doin the work for me today!

001. BotsonNow!, the newpspaper that's bloger-drivin and totaly errer-free, is already trotting out a New York Post-esque "WIN A THOUSAND BUCKS!" game promotion to hopefully drive up circulation. That quickly? I thought you were supposed to do that in your third, maybe fourth month. This soon in the game, you should be offering free Little Orphan Annie Ovaltine Mugs or something.

On the other hand, the promotion helped one of the paper hawkers outside South Station come up with nifty rhymes such as "BostonNow! Win a thou! Read it later, get it now!" I liked his style. Didn't grab a paper, but I liked his style.

010. I am amused by the Davis Times Square news ticker over the Monkeysex Savings Bank (and a tip of the lynch lid to [livejournal.com profile] tikva for that one.) It's clearly grabbing headlines off someone's RSS news feed to display in between local announcements and tips on how to report graffiti, but more often than not the headlines it grabs aren't full headlines, more like the sub-headline blurbs which don't often include enough context. For instance, yesterday, one of the messages it displayed in Blue State Square was "FALWELL CHANGED U.S. POLICY." Well, sure, maybe he did. Thanks for sharing, big bright orange sign! It's pretty clear that statement was one of several headlines concerning the reverend's death, such as one out of a cluster of headlines CNN likes to throw up in sidebars next to main stories, but it was so strange to see without context.

Though my all-time favorite sign message was the set of headlines which were displayed in this fashion (and paraphrased to the best of my abilities):

SENATE VOTES DOWN FOO BILL... SENATE TO VOTE ON FOO BILL


Davis Square Orange News Sign! Bringing you next hour's news now!
spatch: (Default)


There's an explanation behind all this, but really, d'you reckon it'd help things?

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