Tag Archives: Boston

Plus ça change … “Horse Car, Trolley, And Subway”

Horse-car, Cambridge, Mass, c.1875. Cambridge Historical Society.

Horse Car, Trolley, And Subway | The Cambridge Historical Society.

Private vehicles versus public transit, c.1881:

“[T]he main theme of those who opposed the Charles River scheme was that street railways interfered with driving. Opposition on narrow Inman Street was particularly strong: “Grant the location through this street, and we cannot have a carriage stop at our doors,” said Theodore C. Kurd.  Magazine Street was wider, but L. H. Sanborn still protested : “I think the driving public of Cambridge and the vicinity should have a little show for themselves. … The driving public want one avenue to get out of Ward Four without any interruption.” H. Roberts said that Oxford Street was “the only avenue where there is not a track, and the only street, it seems to me, where we can really drive with any safety.” Linn B. Porter, editor and owner of the Cambridge Chronicle, said that the plan to put tracks on Mount Auburn Street “proposes to ruin the one long avenue to the cemeteries which is now free from obstruction; and whom will this line accommodate? … the poorest part of the population … where a street railway is about the only thing they don’t need.”

A sense of civic duty is injected:

“”The fair-minded Colonel Higginson, who lived on Buckingham Street and personally preferred not to have rails on Mount Auburn Street because of inconvenience in driving, made a balanced statement in the later hearing: “I think horse cars almost always injure a street…. But so few people own vehicles, and so many people travel by horse cars, that the convenience of the few in that respect ought to be sacrificed to the public good.””

The good colonel also takes a swipe at Harvard men:

“Higginson spoke of his experience coming home to Cambridge in the late afternoon when he was in the Legislature: “Of those one hundred days, be they more or less, when I rode out in a Cambridge horse-car, I never once had a seat; never. Not on a solitary occasion did I have a seat all the way from Bowdoin Square to Harvard Square. The pressure upon the cars was so great, and the natural courtesy of members of the Legislature towards ladies is so great, that somebody always had to stand up, and I found myself always that somebody. I noticed that the young gentlemen of the University were often wearied by their excessive devotion to athletic exercises, and were not able to stand up to make room for ladies; and consequently I, not being directly in the athletic line, was able to do it.””

Interesting: “A second life for the state’s highway overpasses”

Who knew?

Article: A second life for the state’s highway overpasses – Metro – The Boston Globe.

When I lived there, numerous overpasses had “additional support” from large timber beams.  It was really bad.

I see that they did a maintenance blitz  — http://www.massdot.state.ma.us/highway/HighlightedProjects/93Fast14RapidBridgeReplacementProject.aspx — and got some of the ones I used to cringe under … I mean drive under back in the day.   They have other bridge replacement projects on-going.

The article above is not about that, though.  While it’s even better when elevated roadways are taken down, like they did with the old Central Artery and are planning to do with the McGrath Highway (not to mention many others including OKC’s Crosstown), this at least makes them less ugly and/or scary.  That’s a good thing, IMHO.

“What I Learned Riding One of Those New Private City Buses – CityLab”

MBTA crosstown busBridj bus

Article: What I Learned Riding One of Those New Private City Buses – CityLab.

We’ve been through this before; they’re called jitneys.  The street railway companies fought tooth and nail against them 100 years ago because they were a direct threat to their business.  The jitneys went away, even where they weren’t illegal, but the street railways died anyway, since their real competition was the private automobile, which took away the passengers and clogged the streets.

OK, so jitneys didn’t have WiFi (because, for the most part, radio didn’t exist), and they didn’t have algorithms to predict where routes should go (because there were no good coders back then) , but they are still cream-skimmers in that they’ll be taking customers away from the MBTA.

Does that mean they should be banned?  Of course not!  If they can do the job better than the T then so be it, but the T is going to serve routes and populations that a profit-motivated service never will because the T’s motivator is (or should be!) moving people and not  profit.

The article mentions traveling from Brookline to Kendall Square in Cambridge and how, if you took the T, you’d have to take a trolley in to Park St and the Red Line out to Kendall/MIT whereas the private bus takes you there directly.

Amusingly, the Route 1 Mass Ave bus featured in the article (and reproduced above) almost makes that trip as it runs from Harvard Square along Mass Ave, and then thorough the South End crossing a number of rail lines.  But if you look at the T’s map, you’ll find a CT2 bus — CT for Crosstown — that makes almost the same route as described for Bridj passing through both Brookline and Kendall Square (well, a few steps away) without going downtown.

So if the service already exists what does that say?  It says to me that Bridj is more along the lines of a service that wants to serve passengers who don’t want to share a vehicle with those people.

Yeah, I said it.

“The Many Languages of Transit Platform Signs”


Article: The Many Languages of Transit Platform Signs – CityLab.

I’ll stipulate right up front that including the NYCTA in this is silly.  Four hundred and sixty-eight stations on ten lines served by 24 different services is seriously different from any other rapid transit system in the USA.  So just ignore it.

On the subject of WMATA’s DC Metro (which at least has different services running along the same lines going to different termini) I really don’t understand the move towards directional signage.  As the article says, their system isn’t cartesian, it’s more like spaghetti; what does “westbound” even mean?  And when you’re in DC’s CBD, you’re underground anyway.

Seems to me that pointing to a service’s terminal is the simplest way. If a passenger is trying to navigate, they can see where they have to get off (Quincy Center, say) by comparing where they are (Harvard Square) to where they need to be and then following that line to its end to see which direction they need to go based on the terminal.  Yes, this assumes a line chart or map in the station but you have to give a few hints.  So you go to the platform marked “To Braintree” and get on a train that goes to the same place (not on one marked Ashmont!).

Sometimes not enough attention is paid to wayfinding but I don’t see how moving from terminal names to directions is going to help.