Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Things Learned on the MBTA

  • Bilevel coach cars are great. The extra few feet in height makes for a really nice view. I've ridden commuter rail before - Boston MBTA, Connecticut's Shore Line East, and New York City's Metro-North Railroad - but riding from Worcester to Boston was my first time on a bi-level car.
  • Back Bay station is weird. I got off from my train from Worcester and was greeted with no signs pointing me towards the rest of the station, with its other commuter rail lines and the Orange Line of the T. As far as I can tell, the only way to the rest of the station is by going aboveground, crossing a 4-lane street, and going in the portal. Sometime when I'm not in a rush to make the 4:00 train I will look further.
  • Between Newton and Auburndale, Interstate 90 and Interstate 95 / Route 128 cross. The rail line runs between them for 1500 feet before crossing under 90, then sharing its right of way all the way into Boston.

    In that 1500 feet, there's a mysterious rail line (google map) with a locked gate that disappears into the woods. It looks like some secret facility.

    Turns out it's just a back entrance, used for non-revenue transfers of traincars, into the rail yard at Riverside, the end of the Green Line D branch.
  • North Station is weird. More accurately, the T station is. On the lower level of the station are the inbound and outbound tracks for the Orange Line and the inbound track of the Green Line which carries the C and E branches towards center Boston and west (and to the B and D branches). The outbound track - which serves as the terminus of the C branch and carries E branch trams to Lechmere - is located directly above it, on a mezzanine level. To my knowledge, no other station on the T has tracks of the same line stacked vertically.

    Not to mention that you have to go outside to get from the T station to the Commuter Rail / Amtrak station. But that's another story.
  • If you go to the front car of a T train (Orange, Red, or Blue lines) and peer through the glass window, then you're looking into the driver's cab. The trains have pretty powerful headlights, so you can see what's ahead. You'd be amazed at how many stairs and crossover tracks and side tracks and other cool stuff is out there between stations, when all you see out the side windows is black. If you're lucky, you might be able to see the speedometer. I couldn't on the Orange Line train I was on, but when I was on the Washington Metro in July, I found that we went up to 45 mph.
  • On the corridor from Newton to Back Bay, when following I-90 into Boston, Worcester / Framingham Line trains go up to 60 mph. How do I know?

    The train I was on was a local train from Worcester to just outside Rt. 128, but once inside the beltway it was an express. The speed limit along the eastbound lanes of I-90 along that area is 55 mph, meaning that, this being Massachusetts, the slowest cars were going between 55 and 60 mph. Our train was just barely passing the slowest cars, so we were probably going about 60 miles per hour. Weirdly, there was no sensation of speed like in a car, just the normal track vibrations.
  • Orange Line train northbound through central Boston at 3:40 pm on a Friday: not very crowded. Orange Line train southbound through central Boston at 4:00 pm on a Saturday: same. Red Line train to South Station, ten minutes later: packed to the gills. Apparently everyone wanted to go to South Station. The train was so crowded that, had the doors opened on the opposite side of the train, I would not have been able to get out (except for the massive outflow of people). Too bad they don't announce which side the doors will open on like the Commuter Rail and the Washington Metro do.

1 comment:

The EGE said...

A few notes from a year later, after living in Boston for a while:

Back Bay station is still weird. The Worcester Line platforms are further west than the Northeast Corridor and Orange Line platforms - so far they're actually under Copley Place. So from the outbound end of the train, it's a long walk to the Dartmouth Street exit - and even further to the stairs to the station proper.

North Station is not in fact the only MBTA station with stacked parallel platforms. Harvard and Porter on the Red Line have stacked platforms, as does State on the Orange Line.

Most T trains now have automated announcements for which side the doors will open on.