Seth wrote -----
"Public transit is good in Boston, although not as extensive as New York, by comparison. One could certainly live a full life in Boston without a car (make sure you bring a bicycle, though), although having a car in Boston couldn't hurt, so long as you're willing to pay for a parking spot or endure Boston's insane parking regulations and lack of adequate street parking."
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I had an appointment at the Boston Medical Center yesterday. I left our church (working on the heating system) at 1:10 PM and arrived for my 2 PM appointment at 3:10. It took two hours to go about five miles. This is all too typical of the Boston public transportation system -when you are forced to take the buses in Dorchester. The Red Line trains run on time and the schedule is frequent -- every ten minutes usually. Buses are another matter entirely. In Cambridge and the more affluent places around Boston the buses are probably OK - but NOT in Dorchester.
I could get to the Medical Center in about 10 or 15 minutes on a bike as an alternative to Boston's incredibly bad bus system -- but --- some years ago I happened to find a funky ten speed at a yard sale - it cost me 20 bucks. The bike had Italian gears and brakes. - and the frame was painted white but was very light and strong. I took it on the T to a bicycle coop in Cambridge to get it tuned up. The guys said it was a very expensive bike and did the work. My first trip was the mile or so to our local medical clinic. The first thing I experienced - in this brave new world - was the incredible pot holes and broken glass, etc. on the road sections that one has to ride through in Dorchester. The second fact of life is that Dorchester drivers will actually try to run you over and leave the scene - on a bike or anywhere in the street, you are somebody's idea of a virtual reality game. Generally speaking, a significant number of Dorchester Asian drivers are out to lunch, some PRs are extremely aggressive behind the wheel and some AAs don't like white folks. As far the Anglos - "You don't have to be crazy to live here -but it helps." If the cops set up a roadblock on Dot Ave. or Columbia Road the courts would be full of cases of people driving without licenses and with no insurance - which is usually why they leave the scene after they run somebody over.
We are told that Boston car insurance rates are the highest in America. Poor people can not afford insurance and they drive without it - and sometimes without a license - and often with absolutely no common sense.
I got to the clinic and chained my new old bike to the bike rack by the door. I was inside for a half -hour eye appointment. When I came out, the heavy chain was cut and the bike was gone. That was my first and last bike-ride in Dorchester as an adult. The cops at Station Eleven thought I was hilarious to suggest that they could recover my bike. Bicycle theft is big in Boston - but I hardly ever see anybody riding a bike except downtown and in Cambridge. The kids who ride up near our church often have body parts missing or metal plates in the their heads. It's not easy to find an old-fashioned bicycle store in Dorchester. There is one in Fields Corner. They have a skull and cross bones over the door. "Abandon All Hope - Yee Who Exit Here."
I know this is off-topic post, but I want to jump in here.
I can't say I have taken many Dorchester buses, but I think systemwide performance is a tricky issue. I totally agree with you about the poor speed of bus service in general, and about the relative OK-ness of rapid transit.
However, the more affluent areas (except for notably Beacon Hill, the Back Bay, the South End, etc.) are less dense and can't support small headways on bus routes. My bus route, which serves a middle-class area, supports a 50-minute headway on Sundays. That's not very good.
A problem I have heard from an MBTA operations planner working on the Annual Service Plan is that people who take Dorchester buses are used to the small headways of, say, the 28. When they then try to use a route with a longer headway, they don't look at the schedule and end up waiting a very long time for a bus. If the rider is making a simple trip with few transfers, then the rider is really not doing a good job of looking at the schedules. I guess that if someone using the very dense Dorchester network of buses tried to do a completely complicated itinerary using many buses, they would wait a long time for some of the routes. But I can say that the Cambridge routes such as the #1 or the #77A are on ridiculously long headways for the corridors they serve. If you are insensed that affluent areas have more frequent service, you might relieve your fears by looking at the #68 schedule.
I heard that there are some serious gripes that can be made about crowding on some Dorchester bus routes, but on the other hand there is at least one route that has weekend service up the wazoo and is wasting money (I don't remember which).
Adam said --------
"A problem I have heard from an MBTA operations planner working on the Annual Service Plan is that people who take Dorchester buses are used to the small headways of, say, the 28. When they then try to use a route with a longer headway, they don't look at the schedule and end up waiting a very long time for a bus. If the rider is making a simple trip with few transfers, then the rider is really not doing a good job of looking at the schedules."
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Adam --- I carry a # 10 and #17 schedule in my back pocket. My plan was to catch the #10 at Andrew at about 1:40 leaving me 8 minutes room to connect. As we arrived on the #17 about ten minutes late the 1:48 #10 was pulling out and crossed our path at Andrew Square. The next scheduled #10 was 2:18. It didn't show up. The #10 scheduled for 2:48 came at about 2:55 and took 15 minutes or so to get to the Boston Medical Center - 15 minutes instead of 10. It's no great mystery that if the buses are one half hour apart and one doesn't show, that the wait will be one hour. That is the all too usual situation in Dorchester. The schedules don't mean much, making coordinating a trip impossible and the service is often non-existent. There is NO ACCOUNTABILITY for any of this.
To get an idea where the MBTA is at all one has to do is visit the Red Line stops in Dorchester - Savin Hill - Fields Corner -- and Shawmut. These stops have been dangerous travesties for decades while the Cambridge equivalents are modern with up to date handicapped access and good bus connections. I dread facing old age in this sort of a corrupt society.
Had I known that it would take an hour until the next bus, I would have taken the South Bay shuttle and walked the 15 minutes to the BMC -- but I had an injured foot and couldn't -- and I didn't have the money to pay ten bucks for a two mile cab ride -- if I could have found a cab :-)