Friday, July 22, 2011

The MBTA Could Soon Be Going Green

The terminal is located in Red 
For those of you who ride any line out of North Station, the BET or the Boston Engine Terminal is a very familiar site. The terminal, which is home to the MBTA's commuter rail maintenance facility, was completed in 1998 at a cost of $170 Million. It boasts a total of 380,000 square feet, 80,000 of which is administrative and employee facilities for the MBCR and an enormous eight-acre roof which is shaped, humorously, like a T.

Currently the MBTA is the largest consumer of electricity in Massachusetts, spending about $21.6 million  in fiscal year 2010. Currently they pay about eight cents per kilowatt when the market rate is only five cents per kilowatt. To save money, the T has been heavily researching way to incorporate renewable energy in and around the system.

They have been approached by a solar power company (which has yet to be identified) about the possibility of installing solar photovoltaic arrays on the eight acre roof of the BET, the Readville Yard, and Billerica's Iron Horse Park. 

The T will officially put out a bid request for third-party solar instillation firms around Labor Day. 

The T was originally planning on building their own solar panels on top of the BET but they were unable to acquire USDOT TIGER funds for the project. Currently they are looking at a few business models for the project. They include leasing the rooftop of the BET for about 25 years at a time to a power company.They are also thinking about maybe engaging in a land lease while simultaneously purchasing the solar power to run the facility that houses the panels.

The MBTA is also in negotiations to pursue a new power contract for fiscal year 2012. Currently the T has a contract, which expires in December 2012, with Florida based NextEra Energy. The Company, which operates the Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant in New Hampshire, has been under scrutiny recently because many people feel that the plant is unsafe and out of date. 

With a new contract the T hopes to save the Commonwealth a total of $4.7 Million in fiscal 2012. They're hoping to come to an agreement with a new company to allow them to blend their current price with the market price to average around 6.5 cents per kilowatt hour. This would reduce their bulk energy cost to about $16.9 Million down from $21.6 Million. The T hopes to have bids starting to flow in by August.

Although the T is trying to become a green transportation authority it is going to take quite a bit of time and money to get them where they need to be. Hopefully in the next few years we will see solar panels and wind turbines showing up all over the system, but we will just have to wait and see.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Field Trip!: New York City!!

That's right, I took a field trip! Two weekends ago my family and I headed out on our annual family vacation. This year our destination was The Big Apple! We have been to New York a few times over the past few years and each time we discover something new and exciting. This year, just like I expected, was full of those wonderful discoveries.

The Solari  board at Route-128 Station
Just like in years past we took the Amtrak Northeast Regional right into Penn Station in Manhattan. Personally, and not just because I love rail transit, I believe this is one of the most convenient, and stress free ways to get into the city. Well other than Mega Bus and Fungwah  (YEAH RIGHT!). We purchased Business Class tickets ( I get a 15% discount with my College ID!) and departed at 6:30 am on Amtrak Regional # 95 out of Route-128 station in Westwood. You're probably wondering why we chose not to go out of South Station. Well other than the fact that it is a little cheaper its also a bit more convenient, driving wise, from Lowell. A quick side note about the Route-128 station, it is one of only ten stations in the United States that still has an operating Split-flap Display departure board manufactured by Solari Udine (More info about these miraculous boards from Tyler at iRIDEtheT)!
It was a little rainy on the way in

Now back to the trip! The train ride into the city is about four hours and twenty five minutes but it truly does not seem that long. Before I knew it we were rolling right into the underground tunnels of New York's Penn Station.
My dad trying to figure out
how to buy a Metro Card

Inside a "Blue Bird"
After we got to the hotel and unpacked (we stayed at the Marriott Marques Hotel right in the center of Times Square) we all headed out for our first stop on the trip, The New York Transit Museum in Brooklyn! We caught the 2 train at 42nd Street station and took it to Borough Hall in Brooklyn. The museum, which displays artifacts and pictures of the New York City Subway, commuter rail, bus, bridge, and tunnel systems, is located in the now defunct Court St. Subway Station in Brooklyn Heights. My favorite part of the entire museum was how many restored subway cars they had on display. The museum has 18 cars displayed on the their two functioning subway tracks. They also have a total of 32 cars in their collection. The museum also features two cut out busses, plenty of subway wall art, and hundreds of fair collection machines. Overall, the museum was an incredible experience!

Automated stop display on the 2 train
The rest of our trip we rode the subway to a bunch of different parts of the city. We went to Little Italy, Chinatown, and SOHO! Riding the subway in NYC is a great experience and is also nice break from the T. Although I did not ride the entire system (man that would take days!) the lines I rode were clean and I was mostly met with their new fleets of trains. Like the T, the MTA has automated voice announcements, but there are neat differences between their announcements. The announcements for approaching stops are done by a woman and the commanding announcements such as : "no smoking please" or "Please stand clear of the closing doors" are done by a man. The MTA did actual research on this and came to the conclusion that most people respond better to a man commanding them and a woman giving them the next stop.  One other neat thing on the new MTA fleet in service is the automated stop displays that show the next stop all the way down the line. I feel that when the T finally starts to replace the Red and Orange line fleet or even the commuter rail coaches they should implement these displays. It would make it so much more easier for commuters, especially tourists, to figure out exactly where their going.

On a quick note, that Sunday my mother and I went to see a musical! This year we chose to see the revival of "Anything Goes!" which starred Sutton Foster and Joel Grey. I have been in and seen dozens of musicals and this BY FAR blew them all away!!

Rush hour in Penn Station
Well, anyway, on Monday we got in a cab around 5 and made our way back to Penn Station to catch our 7:30 train back to Boston (just a bit early). I was a little bit glad that we got there early though because it gave me a chance to explore the station. I got to see a bunch of New Jersey Transit, Long Island Railroad, and Amtrak trains come and go during the evening rush. I also got to see the Amtrak Vermonter which was very neat!

Well I hope you enjoyed my ramblings about my family vacation. If you want to see more pics from the trip I have a bunch posted on the blogs Flickr!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Breaking News! Amtrak Downeaster collides with tractor-trailer

This morning at about 11:00 am Amtrak's Downeaster, which runs multiple times daily between Boston and Portland, was traveling at a smooth 70mph when it collided with a tractor-trailer at an at-grade crossing on Route 4 in North Berwick Maine. The crash left the driver of the tractor-trailer dead, a half dozen train passengers injured, and a locomotive scorched.

Downeaster Loco #821 at North Station 
Loco after crash can't even tell this is part of Amtrak fleet
The train had 112 passengers and three crew members onboard when it collided with the truck. Fortunately, no life threatening injuries were reported. This is thanks to the Amtrak engineer's quick thinking. Right after the train hit the truck the engineer jumped out of the burning locomotive and separated it from the four passenger coaches. He then proceeded to get back in to the locomotive so he could move it a safe distance away from the coaches. The fire, which left the locomotive gutted and charred was said to be bellowing at least three stories high. One witness stated that "It looked like somebody dropped a bomb. The flames were shooting higher than a three-story house... it brings tears to your eyes".

A few witnesses did reported that the flashing lights and crossing gates at the grade crossing on Route 4 were working at the time of the crash but the tractor trailer did not stop on time. According to Maine officials there were about 200 feet of skid marks leading up to the crossing and one of the gates was clipped by the trailer. The driver of the tractor-trailer was Peter Barnum, 35, of Farmington, NH, and he was driving for Triumvirate Environmental. His trailer was full of trash that was being brought to the incinerator in Biddeford Maine.

The passenger coach 
This accident comes at a time when both companies have already seen their share recent of incidences. Triumvirate which operates out of Somerville MA had a recent incident when one of their drivers had a heart attack while driving his tractor-trailor and killed four people. Amtrak had to deal with a similar incident last month when a driver of a semi-trailer drove into the side of a passenger train in Nevada killing six people. Amtrak is currently suing that trucking company.

Amtrak officials have assured passengers that train travel is still extremely safe. The Downeaster is expected to continue it regularly scheduled departures starting tonight when its 11:20 p.m. train departs north station. No delays are expected for tomorrows morning rush.


Monday, July 4, 2011

Forget the shuttle bus...Lets take a walk!

When I saw this I couldn't help but start laughing!!

So apparently its takes the same amount of time to walk to Science Park as it is to take an MBTA shuttle bus. 

Finally the MBTA has realized that their shuttle bus service dose not run as well as it should!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...