It's just this little chromium switch, here... (derspatchel) wrote,
It's just this little chromium switch, here...

Ask an intelligent question, get a stupid answer

Forgot to write this one on Monday, but it's still as pertinent today as it was yesterday.

The Bostonians among us have recently had, thanks to the Metro newspaper (recommended by four out of five fishmongers) the weekly chance to ask questions of both Mayor Tom Menino and Dan "No Commuter Rail for me, I'm driving in today" Graubaskas, the head of the MBTA gang (and sometimes I think his pal Joe "The Mouthpiece" Pesaturo gets in on the action too.) Unfortunately all three officials take great pains to ensure the questions that You, The Readers have sent in are not answered, and take even greater pains to not answer the questions in the most arrogant and roundabout way as possible. To do this takes great skill: Recently Hizzoner was asked a question about Boston violence and he rambled on for nearly an entire column's worth of words, addressing absolutely none of the points the question raised. It was almost as if he was trying to answer a completely different question. He deserves an award for that kind of talent. If this mayorin' gig doesn't pan out, he's sure got a future as a Press Secretary.

Monday's Metro paper had the usual Ask The T Guy Something You Won't Get Answered column, and it featured one real nugget of joy. You can read it straight from the Metro site if you don't mind their crazy proprietary reading software (right hand side, page 9) but for the rest of you smart people, here's the question from Nicole in Chelsea:
I recently moved to Chelsea and noticed a problem. When I work 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (meaning I catch the bus between 9:15 and 9:30 am) the 111 bus does not come every 5-7 minutes as posted. In fact, I am lucky if it comes within 20 minutes, and by then it is so packed that I can't get on! It used to pass by, not pick anyone up, and there were days when I waited an hour or longer for a bus to come and stop. The fact of the matter is, this bus line is busy enough to need to come every 5-7 minutes, and when it doesn't [sic?], people aren't able to board one.
Okay, Dan, have at it! I'll just chime in whenever I damn well feel like it.
I should start by reminding you that the MBTA, like all other transit agencies, has separate schedules for peak commuting periods (morning and late afternoon rush hours) when ridership demand is greatest and non-peak periods (the mid-days and nights) when passenger volume typically decreases. If you look closely at the posted schedule for the Route 111, you'll find that bus service is to operate every 5 minutes between 6:40 a.m. and 8:40 a.m.


Beginning at 9:17 a.m., the buses are scheduled to depart every 12 minutes (not every 5 minutes).
Dan, you ignorant slut:

I should start by commending you on your completely condescending opening. What a way to put a question-asker off! Even if Nicole doesn't know from commuting (but from the looks of it, she's smart enough to realize overcrowded buses equals MAKE PUT MORE BUS ON RUTEZ KTHX) she surely doesn't deserve a goddamn lecture about it. You make it sound as if Nicole had but closely looked at the bus schedule, as you so passive-aggressively put it, she wouldn't have to ask about why she has to put up with long waits and crowded buses that simply pass by when they're full, because she'd know they're just adhering to the schedule.

Oh! Of course! It makes a lot of sense, don't it? Just tell yourself "Oh, I see, it's because they leave every 12 minutes at the time when I want to ride. Guess the schedule knows best! All those other people waiting for the bus and all those people crammed into the bus, they must be silly geese who haven't bothered to look closely at the bus schedule either."

What's that, Mr. G? That's not what you meant? Well, that's what we had to infer, son, cause you weren't exactly generous with the elucidation-droppin. What are we supposed to glean from your shining pearls of wisdom, other than the fact that -- oh! Wait, folks, wait, The G-Man does make one obligatory attempt at some kind of solution:
I have instructed Cheryl Hinton, the MBTA's Director of Bus Operations, to assign another monitor to the Route 111...
Another monitor? What's wrong with the first one? Is it not accurately monitoring ridership levels? Maybe it's unplugged. Did you think of plugging it in? Even if it is a human, did you think of plugging it in?! And what is this mysterious "monitor", anyway?

The hell if I know what a monitor is in this context and I bet Nicole doesn't either, and probably most of the Metro readers. For all we know, it's MBTA code for "panacea." But let's humor the poor fellow here. Okay, Dan, this monitor. Is it gonna watch the numbers and figure out if maybe the route needs a few more buses? Let's see what Cheryl Hinton is gonna have that monitor do: ensure compliance with the posted schedule.

So, let's sum up, for our own benefit as well as for those who didn't read behind the cut:

Nicole from Chelsea, a bus commuter, asks the General Manager of the MBTA why the buses on a certain route take so long to arrive in the morning and how come there aren't enough buses on the route, because when one actually does arrive, it's often so full that it passes by new pickups. This leads to waits of over an hour some days for a bus that she can actually board. Nicole suggests that perhaps the route is busy enough that it warrants a bus every 5-7 minutes during daily operation.

Drivin' Danny G. condescendingly tells her to look at the schedule more closely because the schedule clearly says the buses arrive every 12 minutes when she wants to ride, not every 5 to 7 minutes like she thought, because Boston has these things called "rush hours" that apparently begin and end when the MBTA says they do. Nothing is said about the packed buses, the ones that pass by stops, and no acknowledgement is made that maybe Nicole has a point (admitting that would be a sign of weakness and the T can't show any weakness, no sir.) Instead, Dan's gonna make sure the buses adhere to their clearly inadequate schedule and run on time.

So cheer up, Nicole from Chelsea. Instead of waiting 20 minutes to see each crowded bus pass you by in the morning, you'll only have to wait 12! Just think of the time you'll save! But if you'd prefer the direct translation from the GM's lips to your ears: Suck it up, baby, and thank you for riding the T.

(Yes, I know I'm being extremely rude and caustic here and boy do I know this is totally sock it to them fatcats -- no, not really. But if the GM of the T wants this column to be a great customer outreach program, perhaps he'd better figure out a friendlier way to, well, reach out to the customers. If the highest-up in the place believes condescending answers make for good customer service, what does he expect of the employees below him who have day-to-day contact with the riders? Mull that one over, Martin.)

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