sean's mass transit ideas

Mass transit ideas I have sent to politicians with no response

please take the time to read them and pass them along and adapt

where needed for a specific area giving proper credit 


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this was written in response to different things concerning the mass transit for my area.  the ideas themselves are not meant to be specific to one public transit system.  I have no problem with the ideas being used for other public transportation systems.






Firefighting, Policing and Communications ideas for the MBTA 

Instead of the firefighters union and the MBTA complaining back and forth about how much training firefighters are getting or have gotten they should be working to remedy the problem.  If the articles in the newspapers are correct then the MBTA hasn’t kept up with hiring new people for their police department and hasn’t given them adequate training in anti-terrorism tactics.  Also the MBTA has communications problems that they caused themselves by not replacing antiquated communication systems which prohibits even their own people from communicating effectively enough to their jobs properly.  I have some ideas as to what I think should be done to remedy this but I don’t have any experience behind me to be able to say here is how it should be done or to know the costs involved.  Here are the ideas that I have.


·         Starting with the firefighters and their training for subway tunnel fires set up an abandoned subway tunnel that can still support train traffic or build a tunnel system that is a realistic mock up of a subway tunnel with stations for each subway line.  Also set up trains that are no longer used by the MBTA in various points in the mock up to help the training along.  As part of the training they should be taught too properly maneuver the trains incase the train is hindering their ability to work the fire or dealing with the aftermath of the fire.  Include every city and town in the training that has subway tunnels and subway stations in them.

·         In the process of training firefighters, find out if current equipment is adequate or if new equipment needs to be designed to better fight the subway fires especially if the firefighters are being hindered in someway from properly fighting the fire.

·         Set up Firefighting teams that would have the appropriate equipment for subway tunnel and subway station fires, including vehicles that can fit in the tunnels and can be driven on both the streets and on railroad tracks.

·         Regarding the MBTA police, hire more police officers to bring the MBTA’s police department up to the necessary staffing levels to appropriately police the property owned by the MBTA.  Give the police more in-depth and more prolonged training with particular emphasis on what is considered suspicious activity. Do it even if it means hiring outside people that are trained to train the private sector to watch for suspicious activity that may have not been considered by the MBTA but would be useful in promoting better security.

·         Any new communications system that is installed has to have the capability of allowing the people trained to operate the system to access the whole system and allow all of the relevant people to directly patch into the system.  The communication system should also have the capability to allow people to talk to each other in the tunnels, with it being in real time, with out the need for repeaters in the tunnels.  Each relevant responding city, state and/or federal agency should be able to communicate using a standardized frequency or frequencies.

·         Design the communication system so that it cuts down on the ability to eavesdrop on the system but allows the MBTA, along with the local police and fire departments to utilize the system if needed with each department having the proper tools and training to tap into the system. Also design it so that way it will not be adversely effected by intense heat or fire for prolonged periods of time along with designing it so that it has an automatic back up system in place that would compensate for any problems if they should arise.

·         For times where the system cannot use a land line, use the same or similar walkie-talkie technology that Nextel uses for its direct connect phones to provide some level of privacy and protection against eavesdroppers.  Have the proper antennas and/or cells set up at and in the vents for the subway tunnels to permit two real time communications with the people involved.



from this point on it is ideas and suggestions that

I submitted to the rider oversight committee in

july of 2006 as you can see it is in report form

the document made it to subcommittee


Ideas for the

MBTA Rider Oversight Committee

Written by: Sean Davis



When there is an established local mass transit station or commuter rail station in a community whether it is commercial, residential or a combination of both when it comes to capital improvements I think that there are things could be done to offset the costs of the capital improvements so that the money can be put into other things that the MBTA can’t get around paying for in the budget.


  • When dealing with capital improvements on existing stations, redevelop the stations that have the space to be redeveloped so that they are not stand alone stations.  Redevelop them to support the same type of developments that are zoned for the area that the station is in whether it is an industrial/commercial zone, residential zone or a mix of both.  It isn’t hard to see that there can be development over a station just, go anywhere in downtown
  • Boston and you will see that there are buildings over the stations.  Do this in an attempt to attract new riders and to bring in new sources of revenue.
  • When dealing with rail beds where there is sufficient space around the rail bed and over the rail bed, develop properties over the rail beds or lease the air rights to a developer to develop properties over the rail beds with the developer picking up the tab for the capital improvements for the rail beds like the MBTA got the developer to do with South Stations rail bed.
  • When a rail bed goes through a community whether it is a recessed, ground level or a raised rail bed it is still detrimental to the community unless there is a span either above or below the rail bed to permit passage to both sides of the rail bed.  With these rail beds permit development over and around the rail beds to help the communities affected to make it easier for people to get to either side of the rail bed with safety in mind while adding usable space that can be leased from the MBTA whether it be residential, commercial or both.
  • The improvements should include things to pacify the riders and/or help the riders during the waiting for their trains or buses.


When it comes to expansion into new communities I think that there are a few things that can be done to help the communities deal with the influx of new people flowing through the community.  The biggest problem the communities have is the fact that many of them don’t want the MBTA in their communities, they need to be revitalized or new ones built from the ground up and they are not necessarily going to be built or revitalized in a time frame that the cities want unless everyone works together on the building of or revitalization a community with the biggest thing being moving people in and out of the community and having the right community based businesses there for the residents.


  • Transit oriented new communities are a good start especially if a city is trying to redevelop an existing community but it is just one good idea that the MBTA has already started to use.  This idea should be expanded upon.
  • Where the MBTA will be a direct partner in the redevelopment of a neighborhood the MBTA needs to be at the forefront in finding out what impact their vehicles will have on the traffic patterns of the neighborhood and how the stations will impact the overall development of the neighborhood.  If the street traffic has little or no space for the addition of MBTA equipment whether in the form of a bus or trolley, then there has to be an underground station or an elevated station.  With that in mind the development of any station should include development that would help the community. 
  • When expanding, whenever possible any new station should not be a stand alone station to minimize the impact of the station and/or to bring people and businesses to the area to help the area, so that the area can benefit from the station rather than just being just a staging area for people to move through the area.
  • “Transit oriented” should not be restricted to helping to revitalize communities.  Transit oriented should be adapted for commercial usage.  Develop commercially zoned areas that promote usage of one of the modes of transportation that the MBTA offers even if it means incorporating surface level stations for buses or trolleys into commercial buildings or building a station with it not being a stand alone station.

Where the MBTA has a major impact on the communities that the MBTA goes through especially with the street level rail beds for the trains, the MBTA has to take a proactive role in helping the communities that are directly affected.


  • In communities that traditionally have a large percentage of their residents who either drive or utilize the MBTA to go elsewhere to work and to shop,  the communities and the MBTA should work with local businesses which are looking to start up, expand or relocate in an attempt to attract them back to the communities.  The businesses should be the types of businesses that fit what the community is looking to have in their area. 
  • For areas that are starved for larger business’ that find it hard to attract that type of business, people have to be shown that a “reverse commute” is feasible due to the fact that most of the traffic is going into the major metropolitan areas.  A “reverse commute” would make it more cost effective for the MBTA.  At present during the rush hour commute for the most part the return trip in the morning it is more or less a return trip to pick up more people to the city.  Finding ways of making the reverse commute more attractive for workers and for businesses’ should be a priority to make the round trip for the trains to be more cost effective for the MBTA.
  • The state, the cities involved and the MBTA should provide incentives for companies to come into a community especially companies that have a minimum amount of employees and a willingness to get their employees to utilize the services offered by the MBTA instead of their employees driving in, at least the ones that are capable of utilizing these services.


Mass transit for the most part has been a cost effective means of commuting for work.  Understandably not everyone can utilize the services that the MBTA offers at least for commuting purposes at the same time there are many people who can utilize these services but choose not to do so in favor of the conveniences of driving.


  • The MBTA can not go with word of mouth it really has to outwardly advertise beyond advertising the benefits to people who already know them.  With the costs of driving going up, the MBTA should be showcasing the cost savings of utilizing the services offered by the MBTA over driving.  This would include savings for gas, wear and tear on the vehicle they are driving and parking.  Part of the showcase should be that it become even more cost effective if you use one of the passes offered by the MBTA and that there are tax and car insurance benefits to using the passes.  The tax benefits should not be restricted to payroll deductions due to not all companies utilizing this option.
  • For businesses it would be in their best interest to show the cost effectiveness of utilizing the services offered by the MBTA to their employees that are in a position of utilizing theses services.  It saves the employees money and if their companies have onsite parking that is normally used for their employees it would be beneficial to the company as well.  The existing parking spaces could be used for customers so that they don’t have to go from a parking lot/garage or the company could make money in the way of parking fees for the spot from people looking to park in the city where parking is at a premium in the city.
  • For businesses that are looking to expand, it would be beneficial for them if the employees that are capable of utilizing the MBTA do utilize the MBTA due to the fact that the business can focus less on parking for their employees and more on what makes them money.  The MBTA is in a position to show both sides of the parking issue due to the fact that the MBTA has both parking spaces where they make money on and parking spaces that they don’t due to needing those parking spaces for employees.
  • The MBTA also needs to show how user friendly it is and what it is doing to improve upon the user friendliness of the system.  The MBTA needs to show that the it is just as worker friendly as it is user friendly to get people to get past the perception that the workers have bad attitudes towards the customers (even though there are a few like with any other company).  This would include better signs around the system geared towards people who don’t understand the system and people who don’t understand English very well or at all.
  • The MBTA should showcase to businesses and the employees of those businesses, that depending on the type of work that the employee needs to do, it would be beneficial to the employee and to the company if the employee utilizes the MBTA rather than being stuck in traffic unable to do any work.


People know the MBTA best for its ability to move people around quickly during the daily commutes for work.  On the same token but to a lesser degree people know that the MBTA is good at getting around for other things besides going to work.  The MBTA needs to be more active in getting people to use their services outside of commuting for work.


  • The MBTA should partner with companies and organizations such as state and national parks, historical sites and other places of interest, that are more for a person’s and a family’s leisure that are with in a relative proximity to the stations to allow shuttles to these places so that way they don’t require as many parking spaces and have less vehicle traffic. 
  • With municipalities that operate things like airports, cruise terminals or other things that bring a mix of people going on business trips and people on leisurely trips that are interested in having the MBTA expand their services to these place, the MBTA should partner with them to meet the needs of that municipality and to expand the services in an attempt to gain new regular riders while sharing the expense of the expansion with the municipalities.


Companies when looking to move and/or expand, they tend to want to move or expand in areas easily accessible by the highway.  Unfortunately it causes more people to drive which only creates more of a bottleneck on the highways.


  • When dealing with companies wanting to expand, the MBTA should entice companies to build around existing commuter rail stations if they can find the space around the commuter rail station with the station being in close enough proximity to the company so that the company can focus on workspace rather than parking spaces.
  • For companies that cannot find or are unwilling to look for property near a commuter rail line, see if they are willing to partner with other companies that would be willing to share the cost of creating an office or industrial park close enough to have its own branch off of an existing commuter rail line or auxiliary stop used only during work hours.  If there are enough companies that are willing to go for this idea then try to sell them on the idea to having as many of their employees commuting by commuter rail that would be capable of doing so, so the companies can focus on office space and parking spaces for customers which makes better use of their space given the cost of employee office space which is productive versus employee parking spaces which isn’t productive.


When it comes to the fare restructuring and fare increases there are positives and negatives for both for the most part people see the restructuring as a good thing and the fare increases as a bad thing.


  • The fare restructuring while unifying the fare system is being hampered by the Charlie ticket.  The Charlie ticket and Charlie card are good things when it comes to people using the MBTA on a fairly regular basis at the same time the Charlieticket and CharlieCard are both a waste of materials if you are not a regular user of the system.  The Charlieticket generates trash almost immediately if you only need it once or twice, where as the token could be put right back into the system to be reused.  The Charliecard is a waste of resources for someone who doesn’t need a refillable ticket, especially when that Charliecard could have gone to a regular user of the system.
  • No one has publicly talked about the fact that in the restructuring of the fares there will be a surcharge for people who don’t have Charlie cards.  This in my opinion hurts the people who don’t know the system and the people who don’t use the system often enough to warrant a Charlie card instead of the Charlie tickets or cash.
  • The fare increase though understood is causing problems for people not due to the increase itself but the amount of the increase.  At the same time it does nothing to address the problems that the MBTA has to deal with part of which is from past mistakes and past short sightedness on the part of the state and the MBTA when dealing with various things.


The commuter rail has many advantages over driving but it isn’t as cost effective as it could be if the MBTA really took the time to look at what is wrong with the Commuter rail system.


  • The MBTA with regards to capital improvements for the commuter rail should look at the companies that run along the rail beds of the different lines to see if they need to expand and if the expansion could be done at the existing location with being able not to just abut the rail bed but lease the air rights over and abut on both sides of the rail bed to help them expand.  Do this in an attempt to divert money from capital improvements to commuter rail expansion while looking to see if the companies that will abut the new rail bed would consider expanding over and onto both sides of the rail bed to make it more cost effective for both the MBTA and the companies looking to expand.  Along with attracting businesses to locate near enough to the station for it to beneficial to both the companies and the MBTA enough to split the cost of the expansion.
  • The commuter rail has an aging fleet of engines and rail cars that are slowly becoming unusable due to the age and the equipment being rebuilt repeatedly to the point that some equipment cannot be rebuilt any more along with toughening environmental laws.  The MBTA should think about adapting an advertising idea that they have been using on the local bus lines.  Where the commuter rail can be seen from the skyscrapers and runs along the various highways and through cities and towns, with the trains being visible for a good stretch, make them mobile billboards like what the MBTA did with the buses by wrapping them in the advertisements.  In this case wrap each rail car in an advertisement whether each car has its own ad or the whole train being used for a single ad. If this is actually able to make money then put that money directly into the commuter rail system to buy new equipment to replace the aging equipment.


The MBTA has to deal with its vendors and its unions and should treat them appropriately according to what is in the best interest of the MBTA.


  • When it comes to vendors, the MBTA needs to let the contracts run out for vendors that do specific jobs that the misplaced MBTA employees would be able to do, like being parking attendants so that the money collected stays in the MBTA coffers rather than going to a vendor since in the media has shown that in the past there have been contracts with vendors that favored the vendor over the MBTA even though the MBTA is the customer.  At least one media outlet has stated that they supposedly seen evidence of a conflict of interest with various board members by reporting that various board members had a stake in one or more vendors at the time of the contract were being written for the services.
  • The MBTA and the unions that protect the employees are at odds with each other over how much the MBTA can afford to pay with regards to the benefits for employees.  There is no valid reason that the MBTA should be required to pick up the full tab for the benefits for its employees given that many of the unions in other industries do provide some or all of those benefits and are paid for though their union dues.  The riders are more apt to side with the MBTA when it comes to money problems when dealing with their unions especially since their fares help to pay for those benefits that the MBTA employees are whining about.  If the unions do not want to take on at least part of the costs of employee benefits then they should be willing to find ways of saving the MBTA money that will not be detrimental to the current or future service levels that the MBTA can provide while allowing the benefits to be funded the way the unions want them funded by the MBTA.