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First day at new job

August 23rd, 2004 (09:34 pm)
current mood: geeky

Today was my first day at my new job. Brief summary: An almost entirely positive experience, marred only by an subcompetent public transit system.

I showed up and found that they didn't have a computer for me (bad), but were expecting a brand new one by FedEx today (good), and had a decent notebook for me to work on in the meantime (nice fallback). They use Exchange (why Exchange is popular still baffles me, but never mind), but don't even blink at developers who want to run Linux and talk to the Exchange server by IMAP.

They can't have me start working on the extremely interesting stuff they were thinking of yet (I can't say what it is, but it's pretty researchy), because they need something else done for an upcoming release. However, the something else is pretty interesting in its own right. Plus, I got started on a prototype on the train home, and ought to be able to finish it before I get to work tomorrow, so I know I can get the real thing done in time and get to the researchy stuff.

The people are great. Today I got drawn into a conversation on how sewing machines work, which wound up covering silkworm evolution, punched cards, and fusion reactors. Yeah, this is a good fit for me. :-)

What's been disappointing has been learning just how screwed up the MBTA is. I mean, I knew they had the oldest (and, apparently, least maintained) subway in the US; I knew they had this primitive scheme where some commuter lines run out of North Station, and some out of South Station, and there's no real connection between the two; but, you know, those are basically money problems, which ultimately can't be blamed on the MBTA themselves. Today, though, I got a lesson in how bad the MBTA is at running its infrastructure.

So. I'm at North Station. There are 5 commuter rail lines that run out of this station, and a few Amtrak services. There are 12 tracks. So, a simple counting argument shows that it should be possible to make sure that a given line always departs from the same track, right? Then the horde waiting for the train on track 1 could wait by track 1, the horde waiting for the train on track 5 could wait by track 5, etc. That's how SEPTA runs it, in Philadelphia. But the MBTA doesn't do that. Instead, the MBTA has screens up in the terminal, announcing the departure track for each train--allegedly 5-15 minutes before departure, but sometimes as little as 3. So, all the hordes have to wait inside the terminal, waiting to see which track they need to scramble for. As near as I can tell, this is actually a deliberate effort to keep people from crowding the platforms, so that people getting off the train don't have to fight their way past people getting on the train. It doesn't work, of course, because they still have to fight past the same people in the terminal instead of on the platform. A proper solution would be to set it up so that people boarding the train can enter the platform at one end, while people getting off the train exit the platform at the other.

Then my train was late. This happens to everybody, of course, but the MBTA doesn't seem to care. SEPTA had monitors to tell you whether the trains were on time, and, if they were late, how late; and they had a refund policy if your train was more than X minutes late. The MBTA didn't even admit the 6:25 train was delayed until 6:34.

Oh, and the website lies. It claims that the Green Line runs out of North Station, but it doesn't; it runs out of a subway station a block away, that you have to cross a major street to get to. The subway station is called North Station, but that's marketing a lie. And the website doesn't mention that, currently (June 2004-September 2005), the Green Line from the so-called North Station to Lechmere is not running; there's a shuttle bus, but you have to walk something like half the distance to Science Park to get there, so why bother?

And the trains don't run very often (twice an hour at best, at least on the Lowell line), and the seats are uncomfortable, and they threaten to perform unconstitutional searches. And for all this, they charge 3-4 times as much for a monthly pass as I paid in Philadelphia (for about the same travel distance).

So that's my rant for the day.


Posted by: Siderea (siderea)
Posted at: August 23rd, 2004 10:10 pm (UTC)

Welcome to Boston. :)

It is always amazing to me what non-T riders don't know about the T. I'm sorry you had to learn.

BTW, the T does have some sort of delay guarantee, but, well, if you're buying a monthly pass, getting a free train ride is meaningless.

Posted by: C. Virtue (cvirtue)
Posted at: August 25th, 2004 05:05 am (UTC)

Do you know much about the internal workings of the T? I'm wondering if it's a money issue, or an apathy issue, considering that Philly, a smaller city (I think) has such a well-run subway system.

Posted by: Amy Knauer / Violet Coleson (violet_amy)
Posted at: August 25th, 2004 09:28 am (UTC)

I'm really happy for you. I consider who you work with to be almost as important as what you are doing. It sounds like you found a company where you'll actually enjoy being there everyday and I don't think that happens for very many people. Very cool :)

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