Hi! I'm Martine Powers, transportation reporter for the Boston Globe and boston.com. In the last year, I've been covering everything from the T's late-night service plans (http://b.globe.com/18CpN97) and bike safety (http://b.globe.com/NKlIXl) to controversial highway detours (http://b.globe.com/1f33nOr) and, in today's paper, a Valentine's Day story on parking permits' effects on budding romance (http://b.globe.com/1kGgfOz).

I’ve been in Boston for about three years now, and transportation-wise, I’m an equal-opportunity employer: I carry my CharlieCard everywhere (with particularly loyalty to the Red Line), I drive a manual transmission Toyota hatchback, and I ride a Jamis Coda hybrid bike. I’ve also been known to use cabs, Hubway, Zipcar, Uber, Hailo, Lyft, RelayRides, Amtrak, BoltBus, Megabus, pedicabs — you name it, I’ve probably tried to get around this city on it.

I may not have all the answers, but I'm excited to hear your questions, thoughts, and story ideas. I'll take some questions now, and be in and out all day long!

Proof: https://twitter.com/martinepowers/status/434348266822434818

UPDATE: I need to go off for a bit and do some reporting. Back later today. And yes, this is the official thread.

UPDATE: Back to answer more questions!

UPDATE: Thanks for all the great questions, guys! I'm signing off for now, but feel free to send me a ping at martine/dot/powers/at/globe/dot/com if you ever have a story idea or an item for Starts & Stops! boston.com/starts

Comments: 252 • Responses: 41  • Date: 

ampliora35 karma

What role, if any, has the taxi lobby played in implementing/preventing late night T service?

martinepowers34 karma

Good question that I don't think I have much of an answer to. I think some folks in the taxi industry would actually argue that late-night T service actually might have a positive impact on taxis ... right now, it seems like most of Boston shuts down after 1 am, and late-night T service encourages late-night business, which encourages people to go out late at night, and some of those people will decide it's too cold/they're too lazy to take the T, and will grab a cab to go home.

But I'm sure not everyone thinks that.

ortcutt22 karma

Correction: Most of Boston shuts down after 7:30PM.

martinepowers13 karma

hahaha word.

a3voices27 karma

Why isn't there a T stop at Union Sq. in Somerville? I never understood that.

martinepowers35 karma

Transit advocates have been battling for this for years -- even filed, and won, a lawsuit against the T. It's coming! http://greenlineextension.eot.state.ma.us/

thejosharms17 karma

Re-posting from the /r/boston thread:

Do you see any potential solution to make East Boston accessible by bike without having to route through Charlestown/Everett/Chelsea?

To elaborate, while East Boston has been seeing some development lately it's still not viewed as a desirable neighborhood despite low rent, amazing food and short commute via train to downtown. The feeling I get from people is that it just seems too isolated from the rest of the city. Many people enjoy walking or biking to their destinations and like to avoid the T or cabs which is impossible from East Boston. It's also prohibitively expensive to get back out there at night if you don't make the last MBTA ride and many cabs won't even take the fare. I feel like better development of bike lanes in the neighborhood, pedestrian access to downtown and late night T service would really open the area up.

martinepowers6 karma

Eastie's great. A few friends of mine have recently moved out there, and they totally love it. I agree that it's pretty much gotten short shrift when it comes to bike facilities ... since it's hard to bike between there and downtown Boston, I think it's assumed that people don't really bike around the neighborhood, which isn't true. (Hence no Hubway in Eastie.)

Not sure I have any answers on bike accessibility between Eastie and the rest of the city ... ferry service sounds interesting to me, but I haven't heard any legislators or officials pushing for that. Or are you thinking a lane in one of the tunnels? Or a bridge? Curious to hear more.

MoreThanSummerParts14 karma

Can we get a monorail down Route 9 from Worcester to Boston? Maybe up and down 128 while we are at it?

Speaking of 128, is it really a large social experiment in anarchy?

Why is the 95/93 intersection just allowed to stay horrible?

What is your preferred method of punishment for those who don't wait for ramp traffic and cut in at the last possible moment, creating an obstacle in the travel lane?

What were the people who designed the Route 2 / Alewife intersection smoking? Is it some civil engineering "in joke"?

Why is it taking so long to get EZ Pass accepted in all lanes on the Pike? I commonly get off at Natick during rush hour, and the toll lanes are empty (and we are paying for people to twiddle their thumbs) while the electronic tolls are backed up.

When are we going to see realistic speed limits set anywhere on the highways?

martinepowers4 karma

Ha, I'm going to assume that some of these are rhetorical questions ...

EZPass will become all-electronic on the Pike by 2016 ... they have to do the whole Pike at once, so it takes time for all the technology/construction.

Is your thought that speed limits (65) is too slow? We're generally in line with the region, though slower than NH and Maine. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:US_speed_limits13.svg) But State Rep. Dan Winslow agrees with you ... http://www.boston.com/yourtown/news/norfolk/2013/09/rep_dan_winslow_wants_to_raise_speed_limit_to_70_mph.html

MoreThanSummerParts8 karma

Some were a bit flippant, but have underlying issues.

Regarding EZ Pass, I have no idea why they have to do it all at once. They don't shut down electronic tolling if one station breaks, so why can't they add them at each booth? Perhaps I expect too much, perhaps these readers are like Christmas lights where if one goes out, they all go out. :)

Speed limits are indeed too low, as evidenced by the fact most highways start at ten over and go up from there. Especially for 495 and the Pike past 495, it's too low.

The monorail questions speak to the problem that it's easy to get to and from Boston, but reality shows us that there is a lot of growth along 128 and route 9, and the only option is to drive. We have a hub and spoke system, but economic development has happened all along the 9 and 128 corridor and the traffic congestion has grown.

The 93/95 question is very serious. It constantly ranks as one of the places with a high number of accidents, the delays are horrendous every day, and the "fix" is kind of like nuclear fusion -- 10-20 years out. I've lived in the area more than 15 years, and as far as I can tell, nothing's happening.

Se7en_speed3 karma

they have to do it all at once because the entire tolling scheme is going to change. Instead of tolling at the exits/entrances there will be electronic tolling on the pike itself.

martinepowers4 karma

oops I forgot the 93/95 question -- Canton Interchange! MassDOT just voted to approve $80 million to redo it (http://www.massdot.state.ma.us/Portals/0/docs/infoCenter/docs_materials/cip_FY14_FY18.pdf -- pg. 16). Check out this site, which has lots of pretty pictures about how it will (or might) end up a lot better: http://www.mhd.state.ma.us/cantoninterchange/

I haven't heard anything on a construction start date or a project completion date, though.

ScipioA11 karma

Any updates on the Boston Harbor ferry grant? It was federal money to study, buy, and launch a Charlestown->Eastie->Seaport->Downtown ferry, but I haven't heard anything on it for a while.

martinepowers6 karma

I haven't heard anything for a while, either. Good question, will put it on my list of things to ask.

ViciousCycle10 karma

Copypasta of my story suggestion from the original thread:

Here's a story idea: know that sign at the front of MBTA buses that says something to the effect of "no riders allowed forward of the yellow line, $250k fine"? Guess what, MBTA buses frequently commit egregious violations of this rule.

Try taking the 57 from Kenmore square at 6pm on a weeknight -- some bus drivers will allow people to pile onto the bus until it is dangerously, illegally, cattle-car full. This then compounds the problems with buses bunching up, because a full bus has to take more time to let its riders squeeze past each other to get on and off.

In a recent article I read, someone at the MBTA said that they simply don't have more buses. The fact of the matter is that the MBTA operates in an illegal manner, and my hope is that by making a huge stink about this, some government entity with the power to do so decides that it would be a better option to acquire a sufficient number of buses so that the MBTA can legally fulfill its mission of transporting people in a timely manner.

martinepowers10 karma

This is a great idea. I've seen it, too ... also on the Green Line, I think. I'm always afraid someone will go flying through the windshield.

Good news, though -- they just scrounged up some more money to buy new buses! By ... 2019. So, it'll be a while. http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2014/02/13/after-public-outcry-massdot-allocates-money-pay-for-new-buses/nQorCRrWyL61m9pWwkUMTK/story.html

ScipioA9 karma

Are you answering questions in http://www.reddit.com/r/boston/comments/1xwl09/iama_a_reporter_for_the_boston_globe_covering_the/ or should r/boston come over here with questions?

brendanjkearney4 karma

It looked like it started there but was then moved here.

martinepowers9 karma

Sorry, Reddit was wonky for me earlier today and I ended up with two threads. Let's make this the official one.

Bostonian6259 karma

Is there ever going to be a direct connection between North and South Station? That would be incredibly convenient.

martinepowers3 karma

People are always talking about it, but a N-S connection has gained basically zero traction when it comes to political machine that drives transportation investment. Transpo Secretary Rich Davey didn't put it in his "Way Forward" plan last year that's supposed to serve as a blueprint for the next couple decades of investment, so I wouldn't hold my breath for anytime soon.

But it would indeed be incredibly convenient.

nopuede9 karma

If you had a billion dollars to invest in Greater Boston transit/infrastructure/etc. how would you allocate it? Where do you think we need improvement and what needs to be expanded? Anything new you would bring to the city that you've seen elsewhere?

P.S. Stick Toyotas are where it's at. I miss mine.

martinepowers14 karma

Yes! I love my little Toyota. It was kind of a trial-by-fire experience of learning to drive manual transmission ... definitely a character-building experience.

Not sure I have a magic plan of "what I would do with a billion dollars" -- you should ask urban planners and transportation engineers who are way smarter than me and much more adept at thinking about smart investment -- but I think it's exciting to hear about DMUs (diesel-multiple units) that are basically like small trains that can run on commuter rail lines. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diesel_multiple_unit) So many possibilities to have subway-like service on existing rail lines! I live in Dorchester, so I usually take the Red Line, but I live close to the Fairmount commuter rail line but never take it because service is so infrequent. If they had a smaller train running every 5-10 minutes ... voila, it will be my new most-used line to get into downtown! My colleague Shirley Leung has also written about DMU service between Seaport and Back Bay ... http://www.bostonglobe.com/business/2013/09/05/state-begin-innovative-rail-service-between-seaport-district-and-back-bay/oHUinYj30lzOV6KNCQUMEJ/story.html It's probably more complicated than it sounds, but that seems like a pretty cool investment to me.

And, as everyone knows, we desperately need new trains and buses. Riders are frustrated that the Red Line screws up (seemingly every day in the winter) and I think if you talk to folks at the T, they're incredibly frustrated, too, because they feel like they're working with equipment that has just run out of mojo. So it seems to me a good idea that money has been set aside for that.

cjhilinski8 karma

If you could pick one street that sums up the cultural diversity, history, past, present and future of Boston, what street would that be?

martinepowers13 karma

Y'know, I'm sure there are a lot of streets in Boston that fit that bill, but one street that I take often and find super-interesting is Dorchester Ave., down in Southie + Dot. It's totally historic/traditional Southie (think: the Sugar Bowl) but also has this really great burgeoning scene of boutique stores at the intersection with Columbia Rd., becomes a largely Vietnamese community further south (with a ton of cyclists and pretty clearly-marked bike lanes, I might add) and runs all the way down to the Neponset River. If South Station expansion forces the Post Office to move, then they might open back up the part of Dot Ave. that runs along Fort Point Channel ... which would provide a direct route from Dorchester right into the heart of the city.

mapmonkey966 karma

Can you offer any insight into the delay in the new schedule for the Framingham/Worcester Commuter Rail to expand usage of the new Yawkey Station? My understanding is that the State Reps from Natick (Linsky) and Wellesley (Pleisch) are not satisfied with the evening service to their respective communities, but it seems like nit-picking to me. I'd like to know more about how candidate schedules are vetted; who gets to be involved in the process; how long does it take?

martinepowers2 karma

Wish I had a better answer on this ... but haven't reported much on the issues with the Worcester line. Last I heard was that the T had to wait a little longer due to construction issues at Yawkey Staion platforms, as well as the fact that the T is "taking under consideration some schedule changes suggested by customers and local officials." That's all I know ...

scarletorthodontist6 karma

  1. My wife and I use the Commuter Rail frequently. It's always packed and runs a sparse schedule. Is there anything in the future about increasing the frequency of the train schedule? 45min-1hr each train is pretty long during the commuting hours.

  2. Why are the subway cars and stations in such poor condition compared to comparable (if not larger cities) with public transportation? DC comes to mind.

  3. Why can't we use NFC in our smartphones and tablets as a replacement for the Charlie Card?

  4. Can we stop calling the Silver Line the "subway"?

  5. What can be done to make the Silver Line more consistent and on time? My wife misses her commuter train home because her SL is always late by 15-30 minutes... meanwhile two SL4 "trains" (come on they're BUSES!) are right behind one another when it (they) finally comes around.

martinepowers5 karma

--the best hope of increasing frequency on the commuter rail is DMUs: smaller trains that can provide subway-like service on commuter rail tracks, since they are more efficient to run. The T is planning on buying some of these guys to try out, but it could be 10 years before they're implemented.

--our cars are wicked old, because no one wanted to fork over money to pay for new ones. but we're getting some new ones on the Red and Orange line in 2019, possibly Green Line in 2021

-- not sure if this is something the T is looking into ...

-- lots of people agree with you!

-- state transportation officials are trying to push signal prioritization (allowing traffic signals to give buses right of way) but it's complicated bc it involves working w the city of boston

dedtired6 karma

Here on Long Island, a county legislator basically said that no one should ride bikes ... at all (see this thread). Do you find that reactions like this are still common, in particular in suburban areas?

martinepowers8 karma

I heard about that. Honestly ... yeah, you get these reactions in a lot of places. Here in South Boston, at a meeting about bike lanes last summer, people straight-up declared that they felt people riding bikes were asking to be killed. It's actually surprised me as the one issue that gets people most incensed. As a reporter, I am pretty open-minded and see things from all kinds of different angles, and generally believe that most people have justifiable reasons for their beliefs. But people flat-out declaring that biking should be illegal ... that just seems really unreasonable.

beiber_hater_baiter6 karma


martinepowers3 karma

I've just started to learn more about driverless cars, and they're TOTALLY fascinating. The New Yorker did something great a couple months ago: http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2013/11/25/131125fa_fact_bilger?currentPage=all I HIGHLY recommend reading it if you're into this stuff.

What I think is really interesting is that, at this point, they're almost as safe as humans -- but we're so resistant to the idea of being driven around by robots, that the technology has to prove itself to be significantly better than humans before we can even think about them becoming mainstream.

In the more near-term, car-to-car communication seems like it's really gaining momentum. And, on a smaller note, bike-to-car communication. Can you imagine? Your car tells you "hey, there's a cyclist ahead, be careful"! That could save lives.

BaconTerminator6 karma

  • What do you think about the spike in pricing?

  • Do you it's fair for fares to hike and have crappy transportation. The subways such as the orange line and green line are outdated.

  • do you see the MBTA making a change and getting new equipment?

  • is there corruption? Are people pocketing money. I know the MBTA makes thousands a day.

  • I hater the MBTA but I have to use it. The employers are shitty people and don't care if you are 5ft away from the door. They'll close it in your face. Buses break down all the time.


martinepowers2 karma

Re your first three questions: It's kind of a chicken-and-egg question, right? Fare hikes feel unfair because service is deteriorating as trains are getting older. But at the same time, we can't buy new trains without more money. The MA legislature passed a law last year that is giving the T more money to be able to buy new trains that will hopefully improve service (http://www.boston.com/2013/10/22/gov-patrick-details-transportation-goals-hints-new-bedford-rail-service-may-get-cash-boost/CXnSzcj9pK7gO9Gm9oRihP/story.html) but they added the stipulation that the T has to start making more money on its own. So, they've decided the fairest way to do that is a 5% increase every 2 years. For me, that's a pain and kind of irritating because it feels like we JUST had fare increases, but at the same time it will still be a lot cheaper than most of my other transportation options (except for bike) which probably increase by more than 2.5 percent in cost per year.

People are naturally very, very skeptical of the government and of corruption -- especially here in Mass., where we have the legacy of financial mismanagement during the Big Dig.

I have had very positive and very negative experiences on the T as a passenger. There's nothing more infuriating than getting stuck on the train not moving for 20 minutes for no apparent reason. But that also happens to me when I'm driving -- stuck in infuriating traffic that I don't understand, cut off my evil drivers. And sometimes I find the T a lot more pleasant than driving. But only sometimes. Pluses and minuses.

undercoverballer5 karma

Hi Martine! As a young female, what do you think is the safest way to arrange a ride-share to a nearby urban center (Hartford/NYC)? I saw some posts on craigslist but am hesitant to contact a stranger for a ride. However, I am extremely fond of shared transportation conceptually for a variety of reasons including economic and environmental efficiency. Busses can be expensive, and I am sure there are local drivers making the same trips as me. Thanks!

martinepowers3 karma

Not sure ... never tried to arrange a ride-share on craigslist. Maybe try to get a friend to come along ... safety in numbers? You could always get a background check on the driver, but that would probably cost as much money as a bus ticket to NYC. Wish I had more advice, but certainly let me know how it works out ... could be an interesting story!

undercoverballer2 karma

Thank you for the response! The buddy system sounds like a great idea, at least the first time or two. Ride sharing could certainly be a good story, though hopefully my experiences won't be TOO interesting... I'd rather stay out of the police reports :D

martinepowers2 karma

yes, please do stay out of the police reports!!

robhall4 karma

Favorite day-trip via commuter rail spot?

martinepowers10 karma

I love the Peabody Essex Museum, so the fact that you can just jump on the commuter rail and step off and you're basically across the street ... talk about a simple way to get away!

ConstantStomachPain4 karma

What's the deal Government Center? Is it really closing for two years? What are they going to do during those two years? The construction on the street has been going on for months and it doesn't seem like they accomplished a single thing except putting up Jersey Barriers.

Second question: How did the experimental Cape service go?

martinepowers4 karma

It is indeed closing for two years. I don't know a ton about the project's progress right now ... as the March 22 date closes in, I'll def. be turning my attention to that so you can expect to hear more details (at least from the Globe) closer to then.

Cape Service was wildly successful. (Though there are some folks who live along the tracks that have been annoyed with the increased train traffic.) Folks are thinking of making the service year-round.

flatballer4 karma

Local business owners around Roslindale have really felt a decease in foot traffic due to an aggressive rash of ticketing this past month. Store owners observe that the officers of the Boston Department of Transportation (BDT) stopping by seem to justify their ticketing citing increasingly minor offenses (e.g. 2-3" too far into the street - largely due to snow buildup).

My questions are: Have you heard anything about this? Do you know why the BDT is ramping up its ticket collection in particular areas? What do you recommend local business owners / residents do about it?

martinepowers2 karma

This is the first I've heard about this, but it's really interesting. Have you contacted BTD about this yet? If you do, I'd be curious to hear how they respond. Could be a story!

cfpyfp4 karma

Hi Martine! Have you gotten to speak at all with the new(ish) GM Beverly Scott? If so, what is your personal opinion of her and how does she compare to Davey?

As a 5x a week round trip rider, I find it frustrating that we riders don't see or hear much from her when Davey was constantly making press statements and I could even talk to him daily on the green line. Is she a figure head or is she actually working to get shit done?

martinepowers2 karma

I have gotten the chance to speak with GM Scott quite a few times. (An aside on commuting -- she usually takes the #55 bus, and she's started to take the Ride, apparently ... http://www.boston.com/news/local/blogs/starts-and-stops/2014/01/31/beverly-scott-becomes-first-mbta-chief-use-the-ride/WpZJsuVrgs0TFgvnWdywlI/blog.html)

I think Dr. Scott has gained a lot of popularity simply because she's a very outgoing, effusive person -- that's less of an opinion and more of a fact, simply because anytime you meet her she's giving hugs and talking to people in a tell-it-like-it-is kind of way, which I think is pretty unusual in the world of gov. transportation administration, generally known to be kind of staid and buttoned-up. I remember a woman at a recent MassDOT meeting who was complaining about something T-related (the details are hazy now, thought in my notes) turned to Dr. Scott, and was like "I really don't like your policy, but I like you." So I think her candor can be pretty disarming and effective. She's certainly been very involved in a lot of recent big decisions (rollback of the Ride fares and Keolis as the new commuter rail operator) so I wouldn't call her just a figurehead. But she's only been here for a little more than a year, so time will tell how she fares ... she's said in the past she only plans on being at the T for a few years, and it seems like much of her legacy will likely rest on how late-night T service turns out, as well as how Keolis turns out as our new commuter rail operator. If they end up sucking, it will look bad for her.

As for Sec. Davey -- he really took on the role of a politician in the last year of pushing for funding for transportation improvements. (I wrote a story about that: http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/2013/03/23/for-transportation-secretary-patrick-bill-means-going-into-campaign-mode/NHqjjqcXSIl1VhlFvHbAQP/story.html) So I think the fact that you've seen him constantly in the press and as the face of the agency, perhaps more so than Dr. Scott at times, is an intentional choice.

Blanketsburg4 karma

I live in Brighton right on the Allston border (if there really is such a thing), and frequently take the 57 bus. Brighton Ave recently has experimented with the right lane being a shared car/bike lane, as opposed to having a designated bike lane. Can you speak on the efficacy of this "test" road, and what furthers plan there are for safer biking in the city?

martinepowers2 karma

The Brighton Ave. experiment (I call them "sharrows on steroids") is supposed to guarantee cyclists more space without actually having to take away space from cars when there are no bike-riders around. http://www.boston.com/news/local/blogs/starts-and-stops/2013/11/20/boston-bikes-debuts-sharrows-steroids/PXrtrx9c1YO6T0JOCn3vFJ/blog.html Eventually (in the spring, I think) they're going to be painted lime green, for more visibility. The city's going to keep records on whether this increases ridership on that road, but they're not done yet. They might put the "sharrows on steroids" on other roads

circles_concentric3 karma

What are your favorite subway/bus apps?

martinepowers5 karma

There are a bunch of great apps out there, and I certainly haven't tested them all. I generally use Catch the T for my basic "when's the next train supposed to get here" queries. I've also written about ProximiT -- it always pops up on my phone every time I pass South Station or JFK/UMass, which is cool, but I don't often use it for the "how long do I have before I need to walk to the T station, because I usually know that by heart.

bananapoet3 karma

What do you think of the plan to sell station names to companies? I really don't want to take the 4:00 Taco Bell to Dunkin Donuts station. I view it as us selling the last of our dignity to the corporate elite.

martinepowers2 karma

I doubt it will be something so crass as Taco Bell station (at least I hope not!) and I expect that naming rights will be tacked on to the start or end of the name, so they may just be the "official" name but not used in daily parlance. (For example, it's officially "New Balance Hubway" but no one really calls it that.) So maybe something like Liberty Mutual Downtown Crossing Station?

KwantsuDudes3 karma

Do you think they'll ever build a system that goes around the city without having to go through it?

martinepowers2 karma

Ah, the famed "Urban Ring." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urban_Ring_Project_(MBTA) http://futurembta.com/theurbanring/

Alas, that idea stalled quite a while ago ... but I think people are talking more and more about re-starting talks on some elements of that proposal. For example, Silver Line extension to Chelsea is part of this idea of trying to get people around on transit without going through the core of the city.

So, as a whole -- doesn't look likely in the near future. But parts of it -- possibly.

Osama-bin-sexy3 karma

Do you think the decision to have the t run later will be good for the city or bad?

martinepowers2 karma

Am I overly-optimistic if I say good? Obviously, I'm biased -- I'm young, I like to go out at night, I like to not have to worry about driving and I don't have the money to take cabs all over the city. I also have a lot of coworkers at the Globe who work nights and race to catch the last train so they can get home.

But who knows. There will probably be bad stuff, too -- crime, late-night debauchery, etc. We'll have to wait and see.

christopherq3 karma

when the hell is the T going to stop shutting down at 1/2am so I don't have to park in the god damn city anymore?

martinepowers4 karma

Like the other commenter mentioned, weekend late-night service is coming in 1-2 months. But I hear you. Was just talking to a friend who now lives in NYC who said hands-down the primary reason she left Boston was because she was tired of worrying about the T closing at 12:30 and how she was going to get home.

dick_wool2 karma

Would you like to work for Chris Christie?

martinepowers3 karma

Hahaha. Heck no. But it sounds like the Bergen Record -- the newspaper that first broke the story -- is doing some fine work! http://www.poynter.org/latest-news/mediawire/235612/for-bergen-records-reporting-public-records-requests-are-the-go-to-tool/

trout_daddy2 karma

the orange line smells like the exact same farts every day during rush hour. is it a collective smell of everybodys' farts at that time? or is there something else happening?

gtgug82 karma

What are your thoughts on the sharing economy and companies like uber/lyft?

martinepowers6 karma

I find sharing transportation services super-interesting, and in a lot of ways, indicative of the future. (Side note: My mother just discovered airbnb last night and it blew her MIND.) Obviously there are a lot of concerns about employment fairness + passenger security. I see both sides ... I think that the liability issues with Uber/Lyft/Sidecar/RelayRides are very real (http://techcrunch.com/2014/01/02/should-car-services-provide-insurance-whenever-their-driver-app-is-open/) but at the same time, I do think there are some real advantages, both in terms of cost + convenience, as well as the ability to track cars on your smartphone so that others can know where you are. So ... it's complicated, and there are pros and cons. Like most things I cover :-)

AssuredlyAThrowAway1 karma

Who is your favorite reporter at the Globe and why?

martinepowers1 karma

I basically idolize all the reporters at the Globe and am constantly flabbergasted by their skill and deft approach. Honestly, some days I just can't believe that all these people are my colleagues and friends! But, for the purpose of this Reddit, I'd like to give a shout-out to Shirley Leung ... she's a business columnist who has really gone in hard when it comes to writing about transportation, because she sees how much transportation issues are linked with business and economic development. And in my book, that's really cool.

boston_shua1 karma

What changes do you expect, if any, now that John Henry owns the Globe?

martinepowers4 karma

I'm crossing my fingers for free Red Sox tickets ... none have landed on my desk yet, though :-)

tommyleeboners1 karma

Is there a reason that the MBTA or Amtrack doesn't go through from North Station to South Station and vice versa? I remember reading somewhere that there is a tunnel that exists with layout for tracks. It would reduce a huge bottleneck in public transportation, seeing as how one cannot make it from the north to the south shore without getting off at North Station and walking/taking the bus or subway to south station.

martinepowers1 karma

North-South Connector is something that a small but very vocal crowd of folks has been pushing for. It makes sense, convenience-wise. Mostly, it's wicked expensive. Politicians around here seem to not want to even touch it, at least not for the time being.

InfiniteBlink1 karma

Can you please advocate for more motorcycle/scooter parking similar to newbury/boyslton street. Im going to be working in the financial district again soon and need a place to park without having to be shady where i put my motorcycle.

martinepowers1 karma

Unfortunately (for your request), I am not an advocate, I'm a journalist! But you could try talking to the folks at LivableStreets Alliance ... maybe they could help you out!

SpaceBasedMasonry1 karma

Hi Ms. Powers,

I generally hear that the MBTA is looking at new subway cars by 2019. Why so long? Is that pretty standard in terms of getting new equipment? As someone who knows nothing about the acquisition of rolling stock, I'm curious if that estimate could actually occur earlier (or later).

Also, what's the deal with the new commuter rail cars? Are the malfunctions as bad as they sound?

martinepowers1 karma

That actually is pretty standard. You can't buy train cars the way you can buy automobiles off the lot ... they have to be custom-made. So you have to come up with a design for them, then put a design out to bid, then choose a manufacturer, then the manufacturer makes a sample car so you can OK it, then they go back and have to manufacture, deliver, assemble, deliver, test-out all your cars. Add in the slowness of government bureaucracy in general and you have 5 years.

It was the same for the commuter rail cars ... purchased in 2008, started arriving last year.

http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2014/01/29/problems-plague-new-hyundai-rotem-commuter-rail-cars/0WOOTVM6DWMty4nXvUtnpL/story.html Continuing to report on the issues with the new cars, so stay posted!

BaxterStabbington1 karma

I'm somewhat of a data analysis and visualization guy, and while waiting in the cold for a 47 bus or watching packs of 77s zoom by nose to tail I've been blue-skying about an analysis that uses the NextBus realtime tracking data to analyze and present the overall efficiency, schedule accuracy, and general timeliness of MBTA busses. I've never really put much thought to a possible venue for it, but you seem like someone that might be interested. Any thoughts on a collaboration to use real time data analysis to spur the MBTA into better bus service?

martinepowers1 karma

Neat idea -- give me a holler at martine/dot/powers/at/globe.com, curious to hear more!

MoreThanSummerParts1 karma

Is the MBTA looking into adding bike carriers on buses, commuter rail, etc? I've seen plenty of other cities that have bike racks on public transit vehicles, which opens the effective radius for committing since the bike is more efficient than walking.

martinepowers1 karma

Not that I've heard of. But you can bring your bike on the T -- I do it all the time. Just not during rush hour. http://www.mbta.com/riding_the_t/bikes/

could_be_me1 karma

How has the all-winter Hubway experiment in Cambridge been going from your perspective? At this point, does it look promising for a full-system year-round attempt in 2014-15?

Do you Hubway in the winter?

Would you encourage the prioritization of all-season access to Hubway, or increased density of Hubway stations?

martinepowers2 karma

The folks at Hubway say it's gone well ... Interesting to see what usage has been like in the past weeks: http://www.hubwaytracker.com/status.php

Not sure how interested the surrounding towns are in putting in the extra effort to maintain year-round service, but the fact that Cambridge is working (and especially that there have been no signif. accidents, knock on wood) helps the case.

I have not yet Hubwayed in winter ... I don't live in Cambridge, and usually just take the T to get there, but I think I would probably use Hubway in Boston in the winter just to spend less time out in the cold as I walk from the T station to my home or between shops on Boylston St.

But that's just speaking as a person who rides bikes -- obviously, Hubway has financial issues to deal with, and I'm not sure how the added costs of year-round service throughout the system would affect their bottom line. Maybe it's just too unsustainable if the number of riders decreases during the winter.

As for density -- that's also a good question. With a finite amount of money, do you increase the density of stations to make them more convenient for people who already have access, or do you put those stations in places that are currently without any Hubway access at all, like Dorchester/Roxbury/Mattapan? Hard question to answer -- thankfully, it's not my job to answer the question but to ask it!

AndrewSeven1 karma

Do you still have Bixi bikes in Boston?

Are they losing large amounts of money like they do in Montreal?


martinepowers3 karma

We have a similar bike-share program, Hubway. But are program does not receive municipal subsidies, and so far, it's broken even. So, yeah ... we're not anywhere near the same position as Bixi.