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Starts & Stops By Martine Powers

Texting service takes guessing out of wait times at RMV

MassRMVWaitTime.com sends users a text message when the wait  time at a branch of the Registry of Motor Vehicles has died down.

MassRMVWaitTime.com sends users a text message when the wait time at a branch of the Registry of Motor Vehicles has died down.

Waiting for hours at the Registry of Motor Vehicles? That’s so 1997.

For years, the Massachusetts RMV has estimated wait times listed on its website, encouraging people to check before heading to their local branch to resolve title or registration issues.

Watertown , Ma 08/ 20/10:The waiting line early this morning at the Watertown Mall where the RMV in Watertown was located.( David L Ryan / Globe Staff ) section: METRO slug: reporter Library Tag 08212010 National/Foreign

David L. Ryan / Globe Staff / File 2010

The wait one morning in 2010 at the Watertown RMV branch was not short.

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But folks waiting for that opportune moment — that post-lunch lull or the ebb of congestion right before 5 p.m. — have had to refresh the website again and again throughout the day. The hope is to see that magical “No wait time.”

Now, a local ad agency has come up with a straightforward fix: text message alerts.

With the tagline “Take Your Life Back from the RMV,” MassRMVWaitTime.com sends users a text message “when the wait time at your selected registry location is humane,” the website says.

You simply type in your cellphone number and select which branch you plan to visit, as well as whether it’s title or registration services that you plan to use. Then, choose the wait time you find acceptable: 30 minutes? Maybe, 5 minutes?

When the wait dies down, the message arrives: “It’s a good time to get your RMV biz done.” (The alerts can also be sent by e-mail.)

The website was created this summer by a New Bedford-based advertising agency, Pidalia. The website also lists the wait times at all the state’s branches on one page, which is helpful if you live near two RMV branches and could go to either one.

Weekend bike limitations

On Sunday morning, Boston and Cambridge residents will wake up to a brave new world: A half-shuttered Longfellow Bridge that bars Cambridge-bound car traffic for the next 3½ years.

And though there are still a few weeks left before Boston-area residents will have to deal with the added headache of weekend Red Line diversions on Longfellow Bridge — those are scheduled to come in August — local bike enthusiasts have already expressed dismay at a new regulation: They won’t be able to ride over the bridge to bypass any ensuing gridlock, though they will be able to walk their bikes over.

Though cyclists will be allowed to travel in both directions on the bridge during most of the construction project, officials at the Massachusetts Department of Transportation have barred bike-riding during the approximately 25 weekend Red Line diversions scheduled to take place intermittently over the course of the next 3½ years.

On those weekends, the T will cease running on the bridge, and will instead run shuttle bus service between Park Street, Charles/MGH, and Kendall/MIT stations.

“It’s purely out of concerns for safety,” said Michael Verseckes, a MassDOT spokesman.

During the weekend diversions, the bridge will be closed to all vehicular traffic traveling both ways to allow a steady stream of buses to cross uninterrupted, Verseckes said.

In recent years, there have been multiple cases of MBTA buses involved in crashes with bicycles, several of them fatal.

Verseckes said the agency decided it was too dangerous to have bicycles riding alongside so many buses on the narrowed bridge without a physical barrier between them.

Cyclists who want to cross the bridge will have to dismount their bikes and walk them across the river.

T parking policy protested

Parking has, of late, been the controversial topic du jour. (Don’t get anyone started on minimum parking requirements in Charlestown!) But feelings are running just as high when it comes to overnight parking at commuter rail stations, which is allowed at some stations but not others.

Bruce A. Leicher, who parks at the Littleton/Interstate 495 station on the Fitchburg/South Acton line, e-mailed with a complaint.

“For years we could park overnight,” Leicher wrote, but after the T took over management of the lot, “new signs now prohibit it, even though we pay for monthly spots.”

“This means we can no longer use the T when we have overnight visits in town or to go to Logan or Amtrak,” he continued. “This makes no sense after many years of successful overnight use.”

Rose Anne Concannon of Marshfield had the same concern.

“I can’t understand why the Greenbush commuter rail line forbids overnight parking,” she wrote. “The upper parking lot is mostly empty and it would be easy to segregate an area for extended parking. It would be very convenient for many people in the area who would like to travel to the airport, Amtrak, or the bus.”

But Joe Pesaturo, a T spokesman, said the agency’s policy on overnight running was not changing — for now.

Overnight parking is allowed at 17 MBTA facilities, including 10 commuter rail stations. Some of those stations charge an extra overnight rate, and the T enforces a seven-day maximum for overnight parking.

He advised commuters who are planning on leaving for an overnight trip to drive a bit further to one of these lots.

Concannon said that’s exactly what she’s done, but she worries that the added distance might deter others from using public transportation.

Still, there’s hope: “We are considering expanding overnight parking to other facilities,” Pesaturo said.

Martine Powers can be reached at mpowers@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @martinepowers.
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