Writing to the Top

Red Line Harvard

The MBTA encourages riders to “Write to the Top,”

Simply put – you deserve the best. If you find out service less than adequate, please “Write to the Top.” Top level management will respond.

So I submitted a version of the following to the MBTA’s Charlestown Superintendent Carrie Dubose and Red Line Chief Joseph Casey (not to be confused with John Casey, SEPTA’s General Manager):

Last Sunday, I needed to travel from Kendall Square to Medford Square and arrive by 9:00 AM. The MBTA’s online trip planner suggested that I board a Red Line train at Kendall at 8:16, arrive at Davis Square at 8:27, board a 94 bus at 8:35, and arrive in Medford Square at 8:47. This seemed like an ideal schedule: eight minutes to make the transfer at Davis and a thirteen minute cushion at Medford Square. It should have been a hassle-free trip.

I arrived at Kendall early and waited for a train until 8:22. I boarded the train, reasonably expecting that I would still be able to make my bus connection with some time to spare. While stopped at Harvard, the operator announced that the train was being routed express to Alewife. I estimated that I would not be able to make my connection to the 94 bus, so I approached the customer service agent at the Church St. entrance for schedule information for bus 96. She told me that she had no access to bus schedules and that I would have to exit through the fare gates to pick up a schedule, then repay the subway fare if the 96 bus alternative would not work out. Wishing to avoid paying an extra fare or missing the next Red Line train, I returned to the platform.

I ended up missing my connection to the 94 bus at Davis Square by less than two minutes. The next bus to Medford was scheduled to depart Davis at 9:10 and arrive in Medford Square at 9:19. I ultimately reached my destination more than thirty minutes after my scheduled arrival; I consider this to be unacceptable service.

I understand the need for scheduling adjustments to maintain specified headway on the Red Line. Still, I have a number of requests and suggestions that would have improved this experience.

First, I would like confirmation that my fare can be refunded per the MBTA’s On Time Service Guarantee. My service (arrival at destination) was delayed more than 30 minutes, but the policy does not explicitly state that missed subway to bus transfers are included in the guarantee.

The customer service agent at the Church St. entrance at Harvard Station should have been more courteous and helpful. After I explained my situation, she curtly informed me that I could either wait for the next Red Line train or exit through the fare gates and repay the fare if my checking with the schedule revealed that the 96 bus would not be faster. She should have been able to access bus schedule information, either through her coworkers at the main Harvard Station customer service booth or through the MBTA’s informational phone line. At the very least she could have offered to let me back in without paying a duplicate fare after I ran to pick up a bus schedule from the kiosk in the station.

Third, I think the 94 bus at Davis Square should have been held for Red Line passengers who had switch off of the rerouted Alewife express train. Holding the bus for two minutes would have accommodated these passengers while maintaining on time service according to the MBTA’s Service Delivery Policy.

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