Archive for the ‘Mass Transit’ Category

Still Rolling Toward Bike Parity

August 6th, 2010

bikepieces

Predictably, the bickering and self-righteousness from numerous angles follows Bella English’s cycling column in today’s Globe. I say it will be decades, lots more cyclists on the streets, some legislative tweaking and considerable law enforcement until that discussion isn’t contentious.

The fact is that drivers, cyclists, pedestrians and cops each and all need to know more and act right. The bicycle czarinas of Cambridge and Boston (Cara Seiderman and Nicole Freedman) have longer, wider views than we cyclists who ride regularly and volunteer with bike groups. They say with great confidence that more cyclists will:

  • Make drivers aware that bikes are on the road and need accommodation
  • Force police to enforce low-glamor infractions like drivers cutting off cyclists or driving too close, cyclists running red lights, and jaywalking pedestrians
  • Decrease motor traffic, thus encouraging even more cycling
  • Lead to more and safer bike lanes keeping everyone healthier and happier on the street

English has an unfortunate lead graph. She undercuts her dramatic illustration of the risks to cyclists from irresponsible drivers by bringing in some judgment that a pickup driver was fat.

Tempting as it is, we should avoid the cheap-shot stereotypes. Some traits and appearances are still socially safe for ridicule. We can gratuitously insult, for a few examples:

  • Fat people
  • Bald men (but never women with alopecia or even thinning hair)
  • Southerners (lumped as hillbillies and rednecks to a one)
  • Cyclists and runners wearing snug athletic shorts (Spandex® stigma)

If you’re holding forth on something important, orally or in writing, remember how those silly asides can trivialize you.

Yet in the main, this is a welcome column. She has the obligatory share-the-blame citations of reckless drivers, wheelers and walkers. Yet, she points out laws and facts that too many drivers don’t seem to know or ignore.

With the championing by Mayor Tom Menino, Boston is slowly imitating Cambridge’s more share-the-road reality. Yet, there’s tons of education to be done at the same time.

Drivers for the key group need to know that our laws make cycles vehicles, with access to most streets and roads (with exceptions like limited access highways, with those no horse, no pedestrian, no cycles cartoons). They need to drop the pretense that they are too important to pass safely (also legally required) or wait a few seconds or even a minute for a cyclist to turn safely. In that, they have to admit to themselves that they feel and exhibit the same impatience and sense of entitlement if a motor vehicle delays them. The issue there is not specifically a biker, rather than we share the roads with others.

Drivers also need to avoid trying to justify reckless endangerment claiming it’s always a cyclist fault, that they all run every red light and disobey every other traffic law. Legally, they are required to claim a lane if they need it for safety, as any slower motor vehicle driver must.

There’s the enforcement rub. Given our natures with strong self-interest, much of the behavior by all three road using types won’t change until people know the rules and cops enforce them. When we, cyclists, pedestrians and drivers, get tickets and pay fines for our cluelessness or recklessness, we’ll start acting better.

We should all be able to understand why the police don’t want to commit to real street safety. There’s little glory or excitement in writing a $1 jaywalking citation or grabbing a light-running cyclist knowing the maximum penalty is $20 (both of those fines should get big hikes). For drivers in many municipalities, the no-blood/no-ticket rule guides. Anyone opening a door into traffic without looking or j-hooking a pedestrian or cycle should get the fine and insurance bump. Those are meaningful.

Yes, more citations mean more paperwork and court appearances. Itty boo. Safety is police work too.

I’m very sure that if cops crack down on all of us for three our four months, the word of mouth alone will have terrific positive effect. Then police can go back to pretending they are all detectives ready to pursue murderers and other evil doers.

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Cycle Sensationalism

April 9th, 2010

Finally, thought I, good discussion and perhaps action had to come out of death of one Boston cyclist and near death of a second a few days apart. The 15 minutes of media coverage for the injury dropped into more like 15 seconds.

Instead of fundamental transit improvements as a possible result of these two horrific wrecks, we are left with unanswered questions and crazy bluster. Consider:

  • We don’t know whether dead biker Eric Michael Hunt slipped under a 39 bus’ wheel or the driver followed him around the corner and ran him down.
  • The T wants us to believe it was another clumsy cyclist and witnesses say Hunt was obvious as he pulled his bike from the track and was plowed into.
  • The ever-absurd Boston Herald comment crew left mostly the predictable I-drive-I’m-important-get-those-damned-cyclists-off-my-road slurs on the subject.
  • Coverage of the second wreck quickly disappeared off paper and broadcast stations, pages and sites and surely won’t return unless this one dies as well.

Instead of something meaningful to come from this death and crushing injury pair, we are left with the slow and good-intentioned efforts of the usual suspects. Those would be the city’s cycling effort under the leadership of Nicole Freedman and the support of Mayor Tom Menino, with cheers and some aid from MassBike and so forth.

They are churning right along. Their pace seems to terrify atavistic car and truck drivers and annoys those of us who cycle as well as walk, ride the T and drive with inching progress. Begrudgingly and impatiently, I admit and agree that Freedman’s efforts are obvious and steady, including painted bike lanes, street and bus racks and more.

Yet the huge discordance between cycling supporters and detractors defies the education effort so far. Hate and contempt are not too strong to describe many motorists’ attitudes toward Boston cyclists. Those are so ingrained in many that I have seen and heard them describe all cyclists as crazed scofflaws who deserve, well, injury and death.

We also-cyclists tend to idealize ourselves in contrast. We are one-fewer-car each trip. We are non-polluting and quiet. We take up far less road and make traveling quicker and easier for drivers as a result. The two to five seconds a driver may wait to pass us in town is negligible, required in overtaking any slower vehicle, and possible in contrast to a car that takes a full lane. We much more rarely hit or come close to pedestrians and other vehicles. We don’t take up parking spaces that shoppers and tourists want. Oh, and we’re staying healthier. To us, we’re so wonderful and wise.

That’s quite a disconnect and it needs education. This dreadful pair of wrecks was a clear, but blown, opportunity for the media to talk it up.

Freedman’s folk do what they can on their page, in public meetings and at places like schools…within their resources. That’s clearly not enough.

Part of this has to come through the municipal and state police. Enforcement all around would be great to begin. Drivers who pay a minimum of attention would see, for example, a huge percentage of their fellows running red lights, as well as stop and yield signs, not giving way to pedestrians in crosswalk, speeding and other infractions — often many offenses per trip. Fantasies of the stereotypical terrorizing cyclist aside, imagine the calming effect if Boston drivers were ticketed for even a tenth of their crimes. Cops might be doing little else if they enforced the laws and regulations, but wow, would that make a change for the better.

They should follow Cambridge’s lead and enforce against cyclists who blow lights and such as well, but let’s get real about where the offenses, dangers and damage are. If 100% of cyclists got tickets for 100% of their transgressions, we wouldn’t begin to see the change to a major extent.

I have the advantage of serious size and muscle. I don’t hesitate to tell a reckless driver when he or she has disobeyed laws as well as norms of common sense and civility. Many honestly are amazed to hear that they have violated one or more state laws. Far too many don’t know, for example:

  • Of primary importance, law here gives cyclists the same rights and responsibilities as drivers.
  • Cyclists must ride in the road and for forbidden from sidewalks in business districts.
  • With few exceptions such as limited-access highways, cycles belong on the road, as drivers have such exclusions as ped/cycle paths.
  • Specific law requires drivers to pass a cyclist slowly and at a safe distance, as well as make sure the way is clear before opening a door into traffic when stopped.

Search our general laws for bicycle for even more.  Most drivers would be surprised, as they would be shocked if a cop wrote them a surchargeable ticket, with its fine, points and insurance penalties.

Instead, drivers would be far smarter and better off if they understood these laws before picking up their keys.

I call shame on the Boston Channel, WBZ, the Globe, the Herald and the rest of them. These distressing wrecks give them a great chance to do their jobs and help us all.

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Wheels of Health, Wheels of Death

April 8th, 2010

HuntingtonTurnPremature and ignominious death can visit us suddenly, cruelly and diversely. Surely there are even worse forms than being hit by a city bus. Dying under the wheels of a garbage truck comes to mind.

Yet, a 22-year-old Bostonian dying when being run over by a bus is awful enough.

Update: The Herald reports that the cyclist was Eric Michael Hunt of Mission Hill, which is the area where he died.

Police and the T have not named the cyclist or revealed his other details. We know more about the 29-year-old bus driver (only two years service, but a clean record). The BostonChannel site has the available info.

Commentary, including the requisite all cyclists/drivers are incompetent cowboys, appears at Universal Hub. That URL is likely to carry any updates as well.

I’m intellectually and emotionally invested. I bike almost daily. I’ve been hit twice by inattentive drivers (one car and one truck in a little over 20 years) who were disobeying laws as well as safety and common sense. Plus, I know that dangerous Huntington/South Huntington intersection well.

Click the thumbnail above for a closer view on the Google map. Those arcs are the trolley tracks implicated in the fatal wreck yesterday.

While I have an old mountain bike, I almost always use my thin-wheel (23mm tires) road bike in and around Boston. I find that particular intersection dangerous for cars and extremely so for cycles. The tracks make cars and trucks slide over the lane and would catch all but the fattest bike tires with the slightest inattention. Turning left heading north to west there requires a dance of exquisite timing to cut at sharp angles over the tracks while watching traffic and lights from three directions for the very short opening of green lights — assuming motor vehicles do not run the reds as they often do. It’s a heart-pounding event every time.

While drivers don’t seem to know or may forget, cyclists invariably lose in a collision with a car, truck, trolley or bus. Oddly in the inevitable I-hate-cyclists comments on websites and in public, that injury, dismemberment or death reality can translate into, “Those damned cyclists better stay out of my way!”

Boston Beserker

I see versions of that frequently in Boston. Just yesterday, leaving the West Roxbury Y, heading south on Centre to turn left in one long block onto Lagrange, I was tailgated by a foolish woman blowing her horn all the way. Consider:

  • She had been stopped at the light above where I entered the road, so she had to speed to get up to me anyway.
  • I was in the left lane as required by law, making my left signal as required by law, and entering the left-turn only cut at the Lagrange light.
  • Those pesky laws require anyone approaching any other vehicle to use care and slow as necessary for safety.
  • The Lagrange light was red and she had to stop anyway.
  • There was nowhere for a cyclist to disappear to regardless of the indignation of a driver who resented sharing the road.

She used her car and horn to threaten and scold, not for any safety considerations. She made an awful face and gesture, despite her being totally wrong. She did not hit me, just, it would seem, hated me.

With the obvious exceptions (think bike paths and turnpikes), cycles and motor vehicles have the same responsibilities, rights and road access. The bike haters forget the rights part. They too often remind me of bigoted Southerners I knew in my childhood. Those folk loved to tell stories of lazy or dishonest Black people they claimed to have witnessed or heard about as proof it was OK to defame or distrust the lot of them.

Who Loses?

We cyclists are too aware of who’ll lose in a collision. Moreover, lax law enforcement and laxer obedience of traffic regulations and laws by drivers mist every ride with the scent of danger.

For yesterday’s death, initial reports are that a bike tire jammed in the trolley track and as the cyclist tried to dislodge it, the bus drove around the corner and crushed him. Even in Boston’s notorious no-blood-no-ticket environment, the likely outcome would be no charges against the driver, assuming he could not have stopped in the estimated 150 feet he had.

Of course, we can surmise that an attentive driver operating at reasonable speed would have seen the adult standing in the road and been quick enough to stop. That is merely a surmise though and it seems police and judges are like most citizens, identifying more with drivers than cyclists and erring on the motorist’s side given a choice. That’s not likely to change until we are more like an Amsterdam or other cycling cities where cops and judges bike as well as drive or instead of driving.

I remain a shameless promoter of cycling. It’s healthy. It’s fun. It’s far more scenic. It’s vastly quieter and cleaner than driving. It decreases congestion too.

I am also a claim-a-lane guy. I do stop at red lights and octagonal signs, but if I need the lane to travel safely, I take it and the driver may have to wait two to five seconds for a place to pass. Too bad, but it’s safety, it’s courtesy, it’s common sense, it’s the law.

For that infamous intersection, I’d prefer the tracks disappear and that trolleys stop at Brigham Circle, putting passengers on buses a few block earlier. Watching cars skid at that intersection and knowing the risk to cyclists tells me this needs fixing.

Meanwhile, I’ll watch for details on that dead cyclist and for any outcome other than the predictable Boston Police one of “unavoidable accident.”I expect reports will eventually clarify the initial ones of the cyclist hitting the back driver side of the bus. If the cyclist had been in front of the bus, which came around the corner and overtook him, then the bus hit the cyclist, not the other way around. The first go sure sounds like T parsing to shift responsibility.

I’m heading off today on a pretty long ride through Boston, Brookline and beyond. I expect to make it home, but it’s always an adventure.

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Dukakis Calls Transit Fixes

March 2nd, 2010

The Duke feels strongly about mass transit and intercity rail. Speaking with us on Left Ahead! today, he was delightfully candid and brimming with specific fixes.

Click the player below to hear the whole show. Head to Left Ahead! or iTunes to download the mp3 file.

Among his analysis was a solution to the crippling debt of our MBTA system. The legislature and previous Republican governors had linked our mass transit’s fiscal health to a supposedly endlessly growing sales tax cut. That failed and was a terrible blunder, according to former Gov. Mike Dukakis.

He said he desperately need a workable mass transit. “If you want a first-class public transportation system, you got to pay for it,” he added. His more rational solution is adding 6¢ to 9¢ to the long stagnant gas tax, devoting it to the T and commuter rail.

In addition to stopping the every-few-year rises in fares and garnering the huge environmental and other obvious benefits of fewer cars, he sees another huge plus. Maintaining and expanding the various rail systems would create thousands of good-paying jobs at at time we need them most. He cited the 10¢ gas tax bump when he was governor. His administration, he said, “turned it into a jobs bill, which it was.”

Listen in to hear what he likes and dislikes about the current efforts. See also his co-authored piece on transportation reform that appeared in the Boston Globe. He has a very different take on the best way to manage it all, which he explains in the podcast as well.
Cross-post note: I’ll duplicate this at Marry in Massachusetts.

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Kind of Getting There from Here

November 5th, 2009

The charm quickly peels awayfrom Boston’s atavistic transit system. Like the crappy Pennsylvania Turnpike, we have the hemisphere’s oldest subway. It seems like it.

Series note: This is part of the Rail-Volution inspired post set.

At the weekend’s conference, I was surprised and pleased to learn about the Fairmount Corridor from two key players. Marvin Martin, who drove this city-train revolution as executive director of the Greater Four Corners Action! Coalition (no website) and Gail Latimore, who heads the Codman Square Neighborhood Development Corp., spoke.

I had sort of paid attention, but not enough, to the news over the years. This has been percolating for nearly two decades and is happening as we speak. I’ll post details in a few days. However, the key concept it that Martin led largely African-American Bostonians between lower Hyde Park and South Station in indignation. A perfectly good commuter-rail line zipped through their neighborhoods, making the trip in 8 minutes. Read carefully to be fully aware that it made two stops on the way (Morton Street and Uphams Corner). In fact, there were no other stations for it to stop at over 8 miles, by design, where most people lived.

The bus or bus/subway alternatives for this large swath inhabited largely by lower-middle, poor and middle class residents of color was different. It took an optimum 45 minutes and more likely 60 to 90 for the same trip from where people live to where they work. There are four stations (New
Market/ South Bay, Columbia Road, Four Corners, Talbot Avenue, and Cummins Highway) \in the works in an activists’ effort that started in 1987 and has continued relentlessly.

pigI must be a typical American. I paid attention when it meant something personal. Moving to Fairmount Hill in Hyde Park after 21 years in Jamaica Plain, I was pleased to hear from the previous owners here that the Fairmount line at the bottom had a commuter rail. In a pig’s eye it does.

Until the Indigo line is complete and the MBTA keeps its promise to increase trips, it is still a white commuters’ line. Specifically, inbound, four trains are scheduled for Fairmount between 6:38 and 8:28 a.m. Likewise, outbound, there are four from South Station from 5:10 to 6:30.

Throughout the day, a few may stop if the conductor notices anyone flagging the train from the platform. The last possible train from South Station leaves at 9:30 p.m. and will stop to discharge only if passengers ask the conductor and that conductor remembers to tell the driver.

Weekends? Forget about it!

Moreover, this in unlike a real city transit system for pricing. With a Charlie Card fair of $1.70 for subway and $1.50 for bus, the irregular and inconvenient Fairmount is $4.25 each way, with no provision for transfers, even to buses.

I figure to go to Mike Capuano’s function Monday at the Park Plaza from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. That should be a good time to see how to get from here to there and perhaps even back.

First, note that the MBTA trip planner truly stinks. On Universal Hub and numerous blogs, they have depressing examples of being routed absurd ways to go short distances. In this case, I also found the T doesn’t use fuzzy logic and requires silly specifics to find the most basic locations. For example, it can’t find Back Bay Station without its ZIP code added, and it knows Milton Ave., but not Milton Avenue, but again only with a ZIP and not just the neighborhood. Lame.

For giggles, I asked about getting to and from the event. By the bye, the number 24 bus through Mattapan Square and up to Ashmont stops a half block from my house. The T doesn’t seem to know that.

The T would have me spend $5.95 each way, with trip times from 63 to 97 minutes. Those using the commuter rail also indicate a flag stop for the train, which I don’t trust from previous experience seeing trains pass vigorously waving potential passengers.

future Indigo Line

I know from a son who commutes to Latin Academy that a shank’s mare version is quicker. A 10 or so minute walk to Cleary Square get a 32 bus in a minute or five, for $1.50. I gets to Forest Hills in 15 to 20 minutes. Then the Orange Line thumps to Back Bay Station in a similar time, for $1.70. So, for $3.20 and under an hour, I’d be done each way with a vastly more flexible schedule than any of the combinations the T suggests.

Were I still on crutches from my leg operation earlier this year, I’d do the 24 close by. I could take it from very close to Ashmont, then the Red Line subway to the Orange Line and get off by the hotel. That would be maybe 90 minutes, or T time.

In other words, it’s expensive and slow, practically mandating a car trip with a pocket of quarters and driving around Back Bay for an open meter. That would be when people are leaving so it wouldn’t take long.

That’s not as significant as the many thousands who live between the Orange and Red Lines with no viable commuter rail. It is inconvenient and unnecessarily expensive.

I think of the much larger, longer, wide and more stop-filled NYC subways. In Manhattan alone, you can travel the 14 miles from the Battery North to Washington Heights local or express and get damned close to where you want fast. The city fare is $2.25 and trains go from where people live to where they work and play. All lines run all the time, frequently and on weekends as well.

Back to Boston and down to earth, we’re never going to be a 24-hour city or have a fast and frequent subway system. However, we can do better.

Through the efforts of Martin and the CDCs, the Indigo Line is coming. I remain to be convinced that the schedule will be convenient. I’d love to be able to go into town day and night on a convenient line.

There’s no reason other than inertia or indifference by the T that we don’t have real urban transit. There’s also no reason other than arrogance why its zone system puts so many parts of the actual city of Boston in zone 1 at $4.25 for what should be the same as a $1.70 subway ride. Absurd and provincial.

Of course, for the upper middle and upper class commuters, these are not problems. The trains run at to- and from-work times. They buy commuter rail passes so they don’t feel the per-trip cost. All the rest of the riders subsidize them and make do with the few off-rush-hour trains.

I see a parallel here with computer software. Most of it requires that the users be programmed for the quirks of the applications. We had to learn absurd commands and procedures to do basics. Likewise, T riders are supposed to adapt to the T’s edicts and caprices.

We oldsters and early adopters recall illogical Ctrl-k sequences for Word Perfect and such. Here, we’re accustomed to transit that just stops at night, trolleys that can’t operate over fallen leaves, and commuter rail that doesn’t accommodate where people live or when they want to arrive.

That future post will discuss how a indefatigable set of activists changed that for the Fairmount Corridor. At Rail-Volution, attendants from around the country could not stop raving at how sophisticated and effective that effort has been. It gives a Bostonian hope

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Invisible Bike Rack

November 2nd, 2009

almost disguised bike race at Boston convention center

I surely make too much of this, but it is my nature to expect much from those who promise much. Where are the bike racks for the snazzy convention center at Ft. Point Channel?

In its very subtle way (click thumbnail for large squint), there is one, one short one for the entire center plus the gigantic Westin adjoining it. They’re a package deal, don’t ya know, but they better not have more than 10 cyclists at a time anywhere around.

It’s amusing and disappointing because:

  • Boston has a nifty program under bicycle czarina Nicole Freeman to plant racks wherever they will be useful and encourage cycling. This includes an interactive map of where the city has planted racks.
  • The conference I went to at the hotel and center was about transit, specifically about non-motor-vehicular transit.

Yet, in a typical room, when the speakers asked who was from the Boston area, about half the hands went up. While Rail-Volution is annual with a thousand or more attendants, it invariably pulls in more local wherever it happens to occur.

One might expect with hundreds of folk likely within a dozen miles of the complex that a bunch of us would, well, show off transit cred. I was the only jerk who did. I rode the 10 miles from the bottom Hyde Park through some of the town’s densest traffic to and from the conference three consecutive days.

I checked the convention center and hotel websites. Neither said anything about racks or any biking accommodation. Check the Westin amenities in the above link — cribs, check; pets (under 75 pounds), check; valet parking (cars), check; Starbucks, check; and wait, there’s more. The hotel folk knew nothing about bike racks. I tried the afternoon before at the center, but the switchboard shut down at 5 p.m. and I was out of luck. Then I located one on the city bike-rack map at the shared address of the Westin and center.

The next morning though, I didn’t see one at either the center or the hotel. I asked uniformed minions, first at the hotel, but they didn’t know. Then one of the center’s red jacketed lads said he thought there was a rack behind the trees over there.

I had pedaled by and didn’t see them. I did again and didn’t again. Then I removed my sunglasses and in the figurative mist, there it was.

Sure enough, it was a Ribbon Rack. Yet unlike the standard, which is black, this is gray against a gray sidewalk and gray wall. The kind word is subtle. Cloaked is more like it.

Likewise, the rack is fully exposed, which became important in the rain on one day. I did remember to tuck in a cloth to wipe down the seat, frame and rims where the brake pads hit.  This is even more peculiar than hiding it by color. The convention center (see the image in the link above) has a huge roofed overhang with vast unused space underneath, ideal and standard in bike-friendly areas.

In short, folks, likely from both the city and convention center had decided to hide this rack. Like the envelope in Poe’s The Purloined Letter,  the rack was hidden in plain sight, this time camouflaged by color and placement. They had also placed it where the bikes parked there would not be weather-protected in the slightest.

The twist is that for three days mine was the only bike in the rack, as in the image above. so the question comes whether if you provide it they will come or if there is so little demand that only a single cyclist used the rack, isn’t one anywhere around a major convention center adequate?

I bet it’s the former. If Nicole’s elves put two or more racks in colors that contrast to their background under the overhang, cyclists will feel encouraged and when they attend event at either the hotel or center, some will leave their cars or SUVs in the driveway.

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Rail-Volution Posts Coming

November 2nd, 2009

Lever pullers, keyboard punchers, paper shufflers and tool users alike tend to short horizons. We have deadlines and uncertain careers, thinking in terms of days or months. Alternatively, I swam deeply from Thursday evening through Sunday morning with the long-view folk who attended Rail-Volution.

Those involved in big transportation issues and projects necessarily cross over into government funding, housing issues and public approval or comment. The design phases alone are often in many years, as are the implementation ones. The rest of us are living practically new lives when these folk are just finishing one thing.

This transit conference has been perking for 15 years. This was my first, although I’ve been attending the Massachusetts Moving Together conference for pedestrian/motor vehicle/cycling for seven years. There’s an overlap, but as its name suggests, Rail-Volution loves its trains.

I’ll post several times here and cross-post at Marry in Massachusetts about what I learned down on the waterfront in the Westin. That will include a book review and a surprising link to my new neighborhood at the bottom of Hyde Park in the bottom of Boston.

Posts include:

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Wonder Woman’s Paper Boxes

November 18th, 2008

oldbox.jpgThe old Pez-container newspaper boxes will soon be gone from the T, says Boston Phoenix/stuff@night Circulation Director Jim Dorgan. I was way off on the meaning of the deli-counter-style clear plastic versions I’ve suddenly seen at the Forest Hills T stop. He was kind enough to fill me in.

 Pix Trick: Click a thumbnail for a larger view. If it opens in the same window, use your browser back button to return.

So, I imagined that:

  • The freebies’ circ staff found a cheaper or sturdier box type.
  • Heavy traffic Forest Hills would be a logical test location for weather and door-slammer durability testing.
  • They wouldn’t go on the street locations until they proved themselves there.

It turns out that it’s no test, nor is it a cost-saving effort by the Mindich crew.

Instead, we’ll be seeing and seeing through many of these and the Phoenix/stuff team is only an early adopter. according to Dorgan, the MBTA is requiring that all publication boxes on its property be easy to check visually — basically transparent. He said that this is an outcome of the Democratic Convention when cops and Homeland Security folk realized how easy it would be to high nasty devices in the ubiquitous dispensers.

newbox.jpg

The idea is that a security sort can walk by a row of these and scan them for evil objects from a distance.

He asked what I thought of the new boxes. As a former biz-mag type, I noted immediately that the branding was an issue. I knew that orange boxes were for the Dig and red, tall, rounded-edge ones were for the Phoenix.  He admitted that was a concern, but noted that the MBTA will permit putting a copy in the front-door clip for customer convenience. Also, the box bases are subtler, but still distinctive. The Phoenix one, for example, has that wonderful garish red I associate with it.

He said that this is an added expense for his papers and not any cost saving.  The old boxes will be used on the street, either in new locations or as replacements as needed.

They just began putting them in T stations a week ago, but will sweep the area very soon. Expect the same from the laggard pubs.

Follow-up on 12/8/8: The Association of Alternative Newsweeklies links here in its 12/5 posts and reports that “Boston Phoenix circulation director Jim Dorgan tells AAN News that the policy goes into effect next Friday, Dec. 12. He says that, as a result of the new regulations, the Phoenix and its related publications had to purchase more than 200 new boxes, which each cost $85 more than a regular news box. He also says the MBTA is requiring the boxes be chained, and that 12 inches of space separate each box. The Weekly Dig‘s Jeff Lawrence tells us that while his paper will eventually buy some clear boxes and put them in MBTA stations, for the most part, distributing outside on city streets is still cheaper and the best strategy for the Dig. “