Thursday, March 20, 2008

Last of the MBTA Adventures

My adventures on the MBTA are winding down as spring break comes to an end. I have now explored four different combinations to get between Harvard Square and Lasell College. My latest route took under an hour. It included the walk to the green line at Riverside, and a transfer to the 86 bus at Reservoir. This was actually a fairly direct route and it only cost me $1.70. But two things turned me off to this option. First, there was an odor of gas on the bus which made me uncomfortable as I had my 9-month old son with me. In fact, I hopped off as soon as we crossed the Charles because of the fumes. The second thing that turned me off was how frequently the 86 bus stops. Does it really need to stop every 200 yards? It started to drive me crazy. They really need to pull some stops and have people walk a bit. They might complain at first but in the end I think everyone would appreciate a speedier route. The stop and go was exhausting.

So my exploration comes to an end. I now have an informed opinion of the different options and services offered by the MBTA. The MBTA has always provided an affordable means of transportation for residents of the greater Boston area. However, as energy costs continue to rise and global warming pressures increase, the MBTA needs to consider it's expanded role- providing a cleaner transportation option.

I believe people consider cost and time the most when making a decision on how to commute. For the most part, the T is very affordable with a few glitches as I discovered when trying to transfer from the commuter rail to the bus. Time is where the MBTA needs to focus efforts. How can they move people between points in a more timely manner? If this can be accomplished, I think more people will hop out of their cars and onto the buses and trains. The environment needs this transition to happen.

The express bus from Boston to Newton was my favorite mode. Once I was on the bus, I was to Lasell in under 10 minutes. No stops every 200 yards. It was great. I think too much focus is on our train system but the reality is that an efficient bus system is the way to go. It reduces costs and can move people in a very efficient manner. Some of the Columbian cities such as Bogota are great examples of this. However, a bus system with stops every 200 yards will not succeed in getting people to switch from cars to bus. Also, the system needs to take people to near where they work. True, lots of people work in downtown Boston, but what about all the people working in Cambridge or at our universities such as Harvard, MIT, and BU. There needs to be options for these individuals that is fast and does not require a trip downtown and a trip back out.

I had the fortune of going outbound in the morning on the express bus. I think if I was on the express going inbound, my opinion might not be the same. Traffic on the inbound side was essentially gridlocked in the morning, including the buses packed with commuters. Again, time is a factor. What can be done to keep the buses moving and prevent them from being locked in traffic? I have to believe that if people sitting on the MassPike every morning saw bus after bus go zooming past as they sat in traffic, they would hop on board.

Next week, I am returning to driving to campus. I value my time too much to spend it stopping every 200 yards. It is also very challenging to have to transfer several times with a baby. For me, the MBTA is an option if I need to get to work and my wife needs the car. I tried every possibility and I just can't justify the sacrifice of time.

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