Bus Bunching

I often get complaints about bunching and related gaps in service on MBTA buses.  Sometimes you’ll see 4 buses go through together and sometimes you might wait 30 minutes for a bus that is supposed to come every 5 or 10 minutes.

Bunching is a perennial challenge for MBTA bus operations, especially on the trolley lines (71 and 73) where buses cannot pass each other.  I recently sat down with senior bus operations managers at the MBTA to get an update on their efforts to keep service properly spaced.

Current technology is a major barrier to addressing the bunching problem.  Other than the farebox, everything on the bus is run by a system originally procured almost 20 years ago called “Transit Master.”  Transit Master keeps records on who is driving the bus, displays the route signs on the bus, provides radio communications, makes the stop announcements, counts passengers and, most importantly, tells the driver in real time whether the bus is ahead or behind schedule.

When the driver sits down in the bus at the start of their shift and logs in to the system, a schedule is loaded for their whole shift.  That schedule doesn’t change dynamically to reflect traffic conditions.  Congestion is built into schedules, but traffic is not entirely predictable and when traffic is especially bad, buses fall behind schedule.   Even if a bus is running behind schedule and the trailing bus has caught up, the trailing bus driver is being told by the system to keep pressing to stay on schedule, even if that means staying right behind the lead bus.

For the foreseeable future, the MBTA is married to Transit Master.   And it does not seem wise to add a second independent system that the drivers should look at – safety is always the top priority and we don’t want drivers looking in multiple places.  So, for now, the drivers themselves cannot help much to solve the bunching problem.

The dispatchers in downtown Boston have an overview of the whole system.  They can see bunching emerge, but they have dozens of lines in front of them and they can’t see the local conditions causing bunching and so they are not likely to directly intervene. 

Inspectors are dispersed around the system and the T is rolling out new technology for them so that they can see the overview that dispatchers see.  This should better allow them to revise schedules dynamically to manage bunching, but like the dispatchers, they have a lot of balls in the air and it may be hard for them to intervene consistently.  For example, the single stationary inspector at Bennet Alley in Harvard Square has roughly 10 bus lines to watch.  That inspector has to make sure that drivers are showing up for their routes and are ready for service.  There are other roving inspectors in the zone, but they tend to focus on solving problems out on the lines – mechanical failures and special traffic problems.

Possibly compounding the technological and personnel limitations, the MBTA’s principal performance metric is whether buses and trains are “on time” – not more than 1 minute early or 5 minutes late.  That means that dispatchers and inspectors who have authority to hold and release buses from the endpoints of their runs have some disincentive to enforce rational spacing.  Holding a bus for spacing might be the best thing for riders down the line but could make that bus technically late and hurt performance stats.  The metric is under review, but there is no timeline for a new metric that would better suit high-frequency bus lines.

To me, it looks like adding inspectors would create capacity to manage spacing more aggressively and that speaks to the general need for more funding for the MBTA.  I am hopeful that the legislature will be able to substantially increase the MBTA’s operating budget in this cycle to address field management issues like bunching, as well as fundamental gaps in safety inspections, resiliency planning, and capital planning.

As always, I appreciate feedback at 617-722-1280, William.brownsberger@masenate.gov or willbrownsberger.com.

Published by Will Brownsberger

Will Brownsberger is State Senator from the Second Suffolk and Middlesex District.

83 replies on “Bus Bunching”

    1. Why not eliminate electric buses? Not only for bunching but a host of other problems with that type of service

  1. I’m in favor of increased funding as long as it doesn’t go towards their scam pensions. This was a big frustration when I would take the 66 bus as I would be working midnight to 8am, would arrive at the bus stop at 11pm, wait, wait, and wait, then sometimes would see 4 buses leave on the other side, 3 of which would be completely empty. Fifty minutes later the same 4 buses would come and pick me up.

    Another instance I remember is waiting for the 66 at Harvard Square for about 30 minutes with at least 20 other people. A bus finally arrives, the driver gets out lights up a cigarette and says it will be 15 more minutes. Examples of terrible customer service which has been a constant throughout the decades and now I avoid taking the mbta as much as possible but am willing to bet out of every 10 rides of buses or any subway 8 of them will get terrible customer service. I like Charlie Baker, but if he could send his workers without identifying themselves pretending to be regular passengers and not Deval Patrick type photo op, am positive will experience the same type of horrible customer service.

  2. Thanks Senator B for a concise explaination of one of the many difficulties facing the MBTA and especially, as you noted on the street “trolley” lines…as I have stated before; being the son of a city “railroader” and a life long public transit user; traffic congestion in a compact city like Boston and its’ environs (as opposed to, let’s say NYC) exists because there is just not that much room for error or layover for buses and trains. The ultimate solution, since we cannot magically create more real estate, lies in when we eliminate the one passenger/one car automobile overload that that folks seem to take for granted. Even in your excellent presentation today on the overall issue, commuter auto traffic is not mentioned. Whenever buses or trolleys are “bunched up” look around you outside…what do you see..too many single passenger autos packed all around you, no…?

  3. Thanks for looking into this, Will. It is frustrating when you’ve just missed two buses bunched together and need to wait 20 minutes for the next one. Knowing some of the reasons helps a bit.

  4. Thanks for acknowledging and raising the issue, Will. I think you left out the elephant in the room though: dedicated bus lanes. The reason the buses are stuck in traffic is because of all the private cars around them. We already know that, even in their frustrating, bunched state, the 71 and 73 carry as many people along their respective corridors (Mt Auburn and Belmont/Trapelo) as cars do. An equitable street design would give them equal space — and we’ve seen how incredibly well that works in the small Mt Auburn St pilot. If these trolley lines had dedicated, uninterrupted bus lanes along their entire length (and there’s more than enough width in the right of way to accommodate them), all these bunching problems would evaporate into thin air. Trips would be much faster, and the T could run more frequent service — which in turn would enable more people to decide to take the bus, as a faster and more reliable option than driving.

    Without bus lanes in the picture, we’re talking about fixing the windshield wipers on a car with a missing wheel.

  5. I have observed bus bunching in other cities, especially in Manhattan where I lived 5 decades ago. It happens to cars on freeways too, even when traffic is moderate. I think it is close to being a law of nature. It’s a physical consequence of a slowdown happening somewhere, which can be caused by any number of things. As Mr. Carbone says, it can only be cured by reducing congestion. Fewer cars, better managed intersections, and a synoptic overview of traffic and transit will all help, but it’s inevitable IMO.

  6. Bunching is most predominant on radial systems. The routing of the 71 73 is a legacy plan from the 1880’s. It would behoove us to consider a grid plan for the transit system phasing out the hub and spoke concept as a matter of public policy. I was fortunate in the 1970’s going to college in Boston to have 3 independent routes to get home. From Lexington center take the bus to Waltham Ctr, then to Watertown sq. trolley to Kenmore sq. Or take the 62 bus to Arlington Hts. then to Harvard sq redline. greenline to kenmore. Or commuter rail Lexington to north sta.

  7. As always, Senator, a thoughtful and useful inquiry into the chronic bus problem (true for the 66 and 57 as for the trolleys). But I fear you inadvertently reproduce a central problem with the MBTA, namely managerial inertia whose only solution is ‘more funding.’ Inflexible automated system? The T is “married” to it. Counter-productive performance metrics? Maybe, but no changes are in view. By all means let’s make capital improvements and supply adequate funding, but please, let’s not encourage the T’s management philosophy that boils down to ‘that’s just how it is.’

  8. Thank you very much for investigating this issue, Senator. Your explanation of how the pressure on the trailing bus driver to be on time results in an empty bus right behind a late overcrowded bus is fascinating. There should definitely be a way to override the schedule when a lead bus is running late. Additional human inspectors with that authority is probably the only answer.

  9. Hi Senator. Thanks for this information. It confirms a lot of what I suspected (outdated technologies and practices). I think inspectors will really make a huge difference. One thing I noticed during the work on the Harvard busway was that bunching was seemingly eliminated (in my experience). There was an inspector who was observing in real time how the wait for each bus has been and would fire off a bus for the line that had been waiting. It was pretty fantastic. Removing the stop within Harvard (so the buses didn’t have to loop around and sit through Harvard Square traffic) also probably helped significantly.

  10. Will — thanks for looking into this. In some ways bus bunching is inevitable even in normal traffic, especially on the trackless trolley lines. Buses with more passengers will be slower to load/unload, and may not be able to skip stops to make up time. But it seems like the metrics are contributing to the problem. The headways are what are really important to bus users at peak hours — I don’t mind if a bus is not on schedule if I know that I only have to wait a predictable amount of time for the next one. And the longer the headways, the more people the bus will be picking up and the slower the bus will go and the more likely it is the bus behind it will catch up.

    The on-time metric even incentivizes bunching to some extent because the following bus counts as a success under the metric, even if it leaves from Watertown Square (for example) moments after a bus that was running late. That bakes in bunching for the length of the route!

      1. Thanks Will. It seems like getting the right metric in place is by far the lowest-cost, quickest thing that could be done to improve this situation.

  11. Will: can you explain why changing the “on time at end point” success metric cannot change? Have they looked at “most appropriate number of passengers on each bus for n time of day” goal or a “every x minutes bus passes the midpoint” goal? What other goals or metrics have they considered?


  12. Thanks. It is helpful to understand what the underlying problems are with bunching. I notice the problem when I
    commute to Harvard Square to attend classes at Cambridge
    Adult Ed. You do a great job, and that is really appreciated.

  13. Until very recently, I rode the 66 bus every day. Bunching was a major issue and it was caused by bottlenecks in the route. The first being on Huntington Ave where it has to contend for space on the road with cars and the E-Line during rush hour periods. The second being on North Harvard Street, where two lane/two-way street leads to a two-lane/two-way bridge that lets out on a two-lane/two-way street that intersects with Memorial Drive. I really don’t see how adding inspectors is going to alleviate that problem. Delaying the release of the buses at Dudley or Harvard is only going to add to the already unmanageable bus over-crowding problem along that line.

    The bottom line is that the city’s infrastructure is not designed to support the number of people on the road. As others have mentioned, the solution is really to reduce the number of cars on the road. The MBTA alone can’t solve this problem and their role in the solution isn’t fixing the bus system. It’s fixing the train systems so that people have an incentive to use them, rather than driving.

    For instance, now that I am a B-Line rider I often find myself opting to Lyft/Uber in the mornings because the B-Line is either behind schedule or too crowded to actually ride. If the MBTA could make the B-Line more reliable and sufficiently sized to meet demand, there would be less need for ride shares that congest the roads. Equally, I work with several folks that live near the commuter rail but do not ride it because it is unreliable and has limited and/or unfavorable schedules.

  14. On the Routes # 71 and 73, have the bus lanes and bus jump lanes reduced bus bunching, decreased actual travel times during congestion, and increased capacity?

    Maybe we should have built the bus lane continuous from Watertown Square to Harvard Square. At 7AM, I found over a few week days only 15 cars parked inbound from square to square.

    1. Anecdotally, yes, the bus lanes have improved things on the 71, because the travel time is more consistent, both day to day and throughout the peak hour of one day.

  15. What about alternating trolley buses with regular buses so there is less bunching behind the trolley buses?

  16. If the leading bus in a “bus convey” could just pass the first several stations without stopping and let the following bus pick up the passengers, the spacing would dramatically improve. Also, if they are all bunched up at the starting point, e.g. in Harvard Square, they should just start several minutes apart and not at the same time. This seems like it would be easy to implement without changing any systems. It sounds that it would require changing the on-time performance metrics, so please push for that. Thank you.

    1. Skipping stops is probably also recorded in Transit Master, like lateness is, which is probably why they can’t skip stops. It’s incredibly inefficient and short sighted, but it sounds like Transit Master is also incredibly inefficient and short sighted.

    2. This is a quick fix that can be implemented immediately. It both gets 1st bus riders to their destination quicker and better distributes the load to the two or more buses in the convoy. All it takes is the lead driver glancing periodically in the rear view mirror to notice a following bus.

      Perhaps another fix would be to empower DRIVERS to take certain actions when they see a situation unfolding. From the
      conversations with drivers I’m left with the sense that they know much more than anyone else about how the system works in practice, and could play a leading role in making things work better. Top down management is not the only option.

      1. Of course, the people on the lead bus who want to get out at one of those missed stops might be a little inconvenienced… Oh well, I guess some sacrifices need to be made.

      2. There are some drivers who are up to that sort of responsibility and some who are clearly not. There was a problem several years ago with drivers leaving Watertown Square before their scheduled departures late at night, in order to get off shift earlier. Obviously, this could cause problems for passengers. Bus ops solved this problem with random stake outs.

    3. I see this problem on the 73. When outbound buses are delayed, several can show up at Waverley at the same time. Then they leave close to each other. The lead bus picks up people at each stop, which of course has more people waiting because the buses are delayed. Boarding gets delayed and the bus gets full. Meanwhile the 2nd bus catches up and is nearly empty. Both buses are now going slowly because of the crowding on the first. It seems that only when the 1st is really full does it start skipping stops. Drivers need to use more common sense.

  17. “When the driver sits down in the bus at the start of their shift and logs in to the system, a schedule is loaded for their whole shift”.
    Maybe this needs to change. For example, when several buses are parked at Waverly – it does not make any sense that two of them would leave almost at the same time. It seems obvious that one of them should wait for a certain amount of time.
    Also, it would be nice if there was a reliable APP to follow the buses and plan accordingly (if there is one, please let me know!). It is very frustrating when getting off a crowded bus in Belmont and seeing three empty buses behind. It seems like an easy thing to fix without any extra funding – it is called communication.

    1. The “Transit” App is great on the iphone. But the information is not perfect. All the apps use the same feed from the MBTA and if the feed is wrong, as it is some times, you get ghost buses. One of the issues is that has been no easy way for Inspectors to alter the feed when conditions change. I understand that they have recently or will shortly link the Inspectors’ tablet to the feed.

  18. The MTA in New York, when this problem occurs, will tell a subway driver to announce “This train will be an express to _______. There is another local right behind me for others to use. Sorry for the inconvenience of having to get off and on.”

  19. The MBTA purchased a system, “Transit master”, without a) making a plan to update it as technology and trends change, and be b) without ensuring that the contractor that sold it to them would update it with new features. In the year 2000, we knew technology was changing at an incredible scale, and still our state government signed a contract without thinking about how this would impact transit. It’s ridiculous.

    Let’s not forget to mention that traffic and bus bunching was an issue 20 years ago when they bought this system. Government needs to hold their contractors to a higher standard – if they can’t keep up with changing technology and the rest of the industry their contract should be voided.

    There are so many things wrong with this entire situation.

  20. Holding a bus might be a mixed blessing. One advantage of buses is they have scheduled time of arrival.

    The drivers have some ingenuity and initiative I think. One of the few times I’ve seen bunching on the 86 the lead bus driver told me I shouldn’t wait the short time for the next bus because it was a new driver who was slow, while he’d be booking it. You also see drivers communicating to each other when they bunch.

    I’m saying I wouldn’t discount on the ground initiative from drivers. Just today my C line stalled and seemed down for the count but one of the drivers had the knack and got it started again.

    So in addition to more money for the T more focusing on retention is a good goal, not just for the managers and planners but also for the ones actually driving and fixing equipment. And maybe it’s counterproductive to threaten to privatize things and otherwise antagonize the T’s labor force.

  21. I see bunching primarily on the 77. When I look out the window, I often do not see much auto congestion on Mass Av., especially in the inbound direction outside rush hour. I have often waited a half-hour for a bus scheduled to arrive in 5 minutes, even though Mass Av had scarcely any traffic at all. The result is that I rarely use the 77 to get to the Red Line, even though Google Maps considers it the best option. You just never know what will happen. Sometimes I walk, which wouldn’t upset anyone; but often I get a ride to Davis from a family member, which I suppose would. If the headtimes on the 77 were in reality what they are supposed to be, I would ride it regularly. I am not sure what in your thoughtful account explains this pattern of performance.

  22. Thank you for laying out the parameters so clearly. Here’s a low tech solution that could be implemented – especially if the T had just a little more resources in field management as you suggest. It requires a protocol that is simple and shared widely.
    Solutions that entail holding a bus back to alleviate bunching not only hurt the measured performance, but will hurt the actual performance. It just looks better. So changing the performance measures in this case would not result in actual improvements. Since no bus can go faster than the first and since that bus is further slowed down because of backlogs at stops, they need to find a way to speed up the first bus.
    They need the capacity to declare an adhoc designation for an express bus. With established protocols that identify to drivers and riders “express stops”, the driver of the first bus of a bunched set or perhaps an inspector could trigger an express route. This will move the first bus through the route more quickly and allow it to make up time. The second bus would automatically space itself further behind . If this tactic is employed, riders passed by the express bus, would know that there was another bus for their stop shortly. Riders who experience long waits could hike over to the express stops.
    This may not require much more than a new route designation in Transit Master ( I have noticed that many bus lines have different configuraitons for the same line) and an established and well communicated protocol. It sounds like the system has the ability to detect a bunched situation either by the drivers or inspectors – maybe automatically.

    1. This, or some variation of this, actually happens in practice on the buses today. I ride the 73 bus to and from Harvard Square every single day and it’s common for buses to pass stops, even if there are people waiting, and even when the bus isn’t full. (Of course when the bus does get full they pass stops for obvious reasons).

      Now I’m not sure how well coordinated this is, or what the net effect is, but it does happen.

      Keep in mind one difference between express trains and the idea of express buses is that if you turn a bus into an express you still have to stop if people want to get off. So it’s not quite as efficient as it is on a subway.

      It’s common to see two buses bunched up but more rare to see 3, at least on the 73. Earlier this week, in the morning, I saw three 73’s in a row heading to Harvard Sq, not too far from Waverley. I’ve only seen three in a row one other time, on a Sunday. I’ve never seen four in a row, I can’t imagine what would case that.

    2. Yes. I like the express bus approach. Bus operations says that the problem is effectively communicating to people boarding at Harvard. Apparently communication problems do happen and riders who are going further than they want to do get outraged.

      1. I agreed completely, Deborah. This seems to be the best, easiest and cheapest solution to the problem. If communication problems exist there has got to be some solution. The T never does anything overnight, so 2-3 months of notifications should be sufficient for people to know that express buses can happen and that certain stops are going to become “priority”. And communicating (the express status to people on the bus in this case) didn’t use to be a problem; don’t the buses have PA systems anymore? I seem to recall they used to.
        From my perspective, most of the bunching happens inbound and relatively few people are needing to get off before Harvard.

  23. I can’t help but notice that this is one more instance of where a problem is acknowledged but the end result is that nothing can be done to fix it. As usual none of the staff, not the drivers, inspectors or various levels of dispatchers can be asked to change their behavior, software can’t be updated, performance metrics create disincentives to better performance and can’t be modified, etc. I know you mean well, but I fear you might just be co-opted into being the explainer and excuser of a dysfunctional system rather than the change agent you would like to be.

  24. I tend to agree with the comments by Alan that the bus drivers generally seem to have the best sense of what is happening and how to fix the situation. Inspectors, dispatchers et als seem to have too many other things on their plates.

  25. As everyone else is saying, the simple solution is express busses. A simple computer check: IF ThisBus is more than M minutes late, AND NextBus is less than N minutes behind it, run express until NextDesignatedMajorStop. Everyone who needs a local stop, get on the next bus. The trains do that sometimes already…
    Also, I’ve noticed that part of what causes worse bus bunching is that the fuller the bus, the harder it is to load. Simple solution- if you’re more than X minutes late (or more than Y% full), open both doors and stop collecting fares! Yes, you lose some money in fares, but you speed it up fantastically.
    For very frequent bus lines, intentional express lines would be great. I would walk 2-3 stops away (or rearrange my commute to catch a twice-an-hour bus) if I knew that I’d only make a quarter or less of the stops.

  26. Thanks for this info, Will. Experience told me the issue was more complicated than it seemed. Now I know why. However, it still puzzles me that apparently no one at MBTA has in all this time (20 years) seen fit to device and try different pilot programs. If so, what were they? And I wonder what solutions other transit systems here and abroad have tried and/or implemented?

  27. The fact the T is married to a particular management system is troubling and this would be one of many good reasons to “cut up the T” into a multiplicity of independent RTA’s I think the section with electric trolley buses be in their own RTA. With autonomous funding and planning. The MBTA should be “steel wheels on steel rails” divesting the rubber tire railroad to others. If one RTA fails or screws up, it does not take the whole system down.

  28. The MBTA Transit Master software constantly tracks each bus/train location, speed, and how early or late it is, so the data for sending corrective instructions to each vehicle already exists. Thus, the relevant questions now are:
    1. How much did Transit Master cost so far (purchase, usage, maintenance)?
    2. When does the contract end?
    3. How much money is yet to be paid?
    4. What is the cost to add an anti-bunching module?

  29. While I understand that technology is difficult to change, in my experience KPIs and performance metrics are much easier and can have a huge impact. I often take the 77 bus out of Harvard square. When bad weather coincides with the evening commute I’m among 100’s of people waiting for a 77 bus. Because of the KPI structured around start and stop times, a driver who is late in starting their run is incentivized during delays to not pick up passengers at Harvard, since picking so many people up will delay them further. As a result you regularly see empty 77 buses leave the Harvard station while 100s of people are left behind for an hour or more. An adjusted KPI focused on people transported on time, rather than empty buses transported on time, could benefit the people using the buses.

    1. Also known as “Transit Signal Priority” (TSP) — lights go green for buses and light rail (Green Line). TSP is being slowly rolled out at several locations on the Green Line and on some bus lines.

  30. Bus bunching keeps us from getting the kind of service that we pay for.

    I agree with many of the solutions posted above, but in particular, with the idea that human beings, empowered with tracking information and the authority to make schedule adjustments are essential. The idea of running lead buses express with limited stops should be implemented. Extending bus only lanes and giving buses priority at signals would also improve our service.

    But also, there are certain drivers who are the lead bus in a bunch nearly every day. These drivers seem to have no sense of urgency about getting their passengers home. Chronically bunched drivers should have incentives to perform better.

  31. I don’t know enough about what’s in place that can be enhanced, but it seems to me that the opportunity for the drivers to take on more responsibility, and be rewarded for it, would help enhance the whole system. Adding more inspectors telling them what to do when they can see for themselves what is happening in the field might just add more resentment and frustration for the drivers.

  32. Will,
    As always – you are THE champion for positive change in our transportation system. While we are all grateful to have you, I think that such passion about the issues should be coming from MBTA and DOT.
    I see that you have made up your mind about spending more time on operations at MBTA. While this is might be right, we need to put safeguards in place as this organization has a history of gross abuse of the taxpayers’ money. We are in a situation where an MBTA bus driver makes more money than a teacher and easily double what a bus driver in private company is making. I am not convinced that they have fully mobilized their internal resources before asking for significant additional investment.
    On the technology issue: the software must be supported by a vendor and the vendor should be asked to provide updates along the lines of what we need. We are in 21st century and we are expecting to solve more problems through technology – not people. Once we hire the extra people, we are stuck with them even if the software vendor comes up with a new version within a year or two.
    I agree with Douglas Hood that mixing diesel and electric buses will help the bunching issues without adding more people (inspectors). If MBTA needs to acquire more buses – this might be cheaper than adding more people on their payroll and at the same time create more value for the riders.

    1. Thanks, Nikolay.
      FWIW, I think the current management team shares your concern and is being about as aggressive as they can be on controlling personnel costs — to the point where we are understaffed for field bus management, not to mention safety inspections.

  33. I always wondered why bus drivers couldn’t take the initiatives to spread themselves out more if the need arises; the lead bus runs express or stops at every other stop and the next one stays behind for 5 and then hits every stop. Forgive my language, but this strict adherence to “Transit Master”sounds rather anal; there should always be room for autonomous decisions.

  34. Whenever I see the app message that there is a delay due to “traffic” I have to roll my eyes. Once a bus does come and we get on the road I never see any traffic in either direction, ever.
    Also, the story I always hear is that the T does not buy new busses easily; they only get as many as they will need to replace those that are retiring/coming out of service permanently. And not one bus more!

  35. Hi Will! In my younger days I worked on the busses where I lived in the UK. Inspectors in those days (and in that system) were given a lot of discretion (they were not micromanaged from the top!) and could hold busses from departing at the ends of routes even if that made them technically late or later. The idea was to service customers as best as possible with a regular, spaced service, rather than by several vehicles all showing up at the same time followed by huge gaps!

    The inspectors could adjust the timing between vehicles as they were dispatched. For example, if the schedule was for a 10 minute service, the inspector would dispatch on a 7 or 8 minute headway to reduce bunching, until the operation finally got back on to schedule.

    The problem not solved was that the first bus coming along after a long gap is mobbed with waiting passengers and is slowed down with boarding and descending passengers struggling to get on and off the vehicle, further contributing to bunching. Occasionally, our inspectors would send two vehicles along together so the first could sail past the stop with waiting passengers knowing that right behind the next vehicle would pick them up.

    BUT what was crucial here is having an inspector on the spot capable and allowed to make decisions without waiting for approvals from on high. Flexibility is key, and this requires respect of lower and middle management (plus the actual operating staff) by those in upper management. I think that may be lacking in the MBTA?

    1. I think the inspectors do have the necessary authority. My impression is that there are just not enough of them. They have their hands full with the basics, like making sure all drivers are ready for service as needed, etc.

  36. Will,
    Sorry for posting twice, but here’s another idea:
    Why don’t we use the opportunity and revolutionize our approach to transportation? Why don’t we limit MBTA to do carry the heavy burden of the commute – rail and strategic bus lines. Once done, use the rest of the money to give to the communities (cities and towns) the right to design their own transportation systems. They can pool resources with other town and design routes that work for their residents. They can contract bus companies. These towns will have direct oversight of routes, schedules, adequacy of service.Towns may decide to put more money to get extra good service, but again – it will be their decision. People at town level will be getting much more involved – vocal, passionate and understanding about the issues. This is how democracy works.
    I am afraid that this big, centralized transportation system is not working for way too many people and the result is obvious – too many cars on the road.

      1. True. But municipalities can pool resources and get tailored solutions for their residents. Unfortunately, all municipalities have really tight budgets to entertain starting their own mini-transit systems. I am suggesting developing local, very targeted systems – this hasn’t been MBTA’s strength.

  37. One more thing here. I believe this comment section would benefit from a “like” system on the order of Facebook.

  38. One thing I don’t often see talked about is how pushing the buses past their rider capacity slows down boarding/alighting, which in turn exacerbates the bunching. At peak times, buses are almost always filled to their maximum standing capacity, with passengers often left waiting for the next bus. When the bus is this crowded each stop takes so much longer. Outbound on a crowded bus, many riders have to get out via the back door because they can’t make their way through the bus, and then wait in line at the front door to come *back* on and tap their card.

  39. I have a HUGE problem with our healthcare law regarding CVS. The law specifically stipulates that NO mass health customer may be medical denied medical services at the time if they are unable to pay. I have been denied from receiving serious, life changing medications at CBS due to lack of funds. Once or twice a worker has personally waved the fee, but it appears there is a policy (or it certainly seems they train their technicians) to deny the waiving of any fees. I would like to know how best to proceed. I would assume go public, write an expose on customers, get local news involved, but I was wondering if you could step in as the local Representative and tell CVS they are breaking our Healthcare law.

  40. A likely factor in bus bouncing is that many high traffic bus stops are consistently disrespected with dangerous illegal parking of delivery vehicles, tour buses (for profit, not for public transportation but for tourists), and Uber/Lift ride share cars. (This particularly true of long term temporary bus stops in Harvard Sq, such as Brattle St at Palmer St.) I suggest this routine and increasing dangerous cooption of bus stops for illegal parking contributes to bus bunching.

    Bus lanes are worth pursuing; they will work better if bus stop regulations are enforced to ensure safe, efficient, and respectful service.

    Bus stop regulations were made to honor ADA civil rights.

    City and MBTA authorities don’t enforce with enough ticketing. I have witnessed both MBTA Police and Inspectors at Bennet Alley take no notice or concern about illegal parking at the bus stop there. Likewise, I have confronted Cambridge traffic enforcement officers on foot that have walked right past illegal parking at the same bus stop. I went to the Office of the Mayor of Cambridge the same day I witnessed enforcement failure by an traffic enforcement officer (not the present mayor or last one).

    Both the MBTA, police and municipal authorities can write $100 tickets. My research of municipal ticketing data at certain bus stops where I witnessed consistent bus stop violations found less than one ticket a month written at those bus stops. For years I have tried to get MBTA Police bus stop ticketing data and gotten nothing.

    Thank you Sen. Brownsberger for taking up my appeal about the MBTA bus stop situation on Avenue Louis Pasteur in Boston recently . For unknown reasons all but one bus stop signs disappeared from a street with four bus stops and four bus stop shelters. Not surprisingly cars began parking there in even greater frequency. Signs are now up. Thank you. This one block street has a famous venerable public high school, two colleges, a medical school, a hospital, and is in a hospital district, there are several MBTA bus lines and other bus routes. There is a huge population of bus users on the block, I used to be one of them. I have given up taking the bus to commute because I don’t feel safe or respected. My employer provides a free MASCO bus for most of my commute and a discounted T pass for the rest. I don’t consider these a good value because I value my safety and dignity.

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