Starts & Stops

Broken Back Bay Station clock stays broken

An MBTA rider asked about the clock at Back Bay station in May. The clock still read the wrong times last week.
David L Ryan/Globe Staff
An MBTA rider asked about the clock at Back Bay station in May. The clock still read the wrong times last week.

I’ll admit it: Sometimes, I let e-mail get away from me.

With the high volume of messages sent by insightful readers with questions or concerns about their daily commute, it’s sometimes challenging to address them all in a timely manner.

So it was this past week, combing through my folder of archived Starts & Stops e-mails, that I came across a message sent by John Bonavia of Needham on May 26.


“WHY can’t the MBTA fix the station clock at Back Bay?” Bonavia wrote. “It’s been broken for WEEKS — so long that I don’t recall when I first noticed it.”

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He worried that the clock, located close to arriving Amtrak trains, would reflect poorly on the city, and that fixing the broken timekeeper should be a priority for station managers.

“Things that are right in the public eye should get faster attention,” Bonavia wrote. “It’s all very well bringing visitors and business people in on the Acela, but any image of modernity is instantly destroyed by silly things like this.”

But, of course, that e-mail had been sent two months ago.

Surely, I thought, by now the clock must have been fixed?


I checked back in with Bonavia, who asked a colleague who frequents the station to take a fresh look. And sure enough, in the early afternoon, one side of the clock said 8:50 and another side said 9:40.

“It was already pretty embarrassing,” Bonavia said. Now, he commented, the clock’s continued disrepair is “totally shaming.”

I sent a question to T officials last week to find out what the problem was.

On Saturday, Kelly Smith, an MBTA spokeswoman, got back to me and said T staff were aware the clock was broken and had assigned a crew to fix it, though she did not have a timeline for when it would be back up and running.

Regional buses debut on Google Maps

Want to get from Boston to Pittsfield using public transportation?


Now, there’s an app for that.

Commuters can now track all 15 bus services in one place online.

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation announced last week that all 15 of the state’s regional transit authorities — bus services located throughout the state — now provide bus schedule data to Google, allowing commuters to check on their smart phones to determine when the next bus is slated to arrive.

In the past, commuters would need to search across multiple websites to use public transportation for travel between cities. With help from Bridgewater State University and the MassDOT’s MassRides Statewide Travel Options Program, all the bus schedule information for all of the state’s public transportation offerings will be kept up-to-date on Google.

Now, “it’s more of a one-stop-shopping option to plan your trip,” Beverly A. Scott, general manager of the MBTA, said in a statement.

And in smaller cities such as Pittsfield or Northampton, where buses arrive infrequently and service ends in the early evening, having hand-held access to bus schedules on Google Maps can be essential to save time and commuting headaches.

The only problem? Google Maps doesn’t make RTA service any faster or more reliable, so a trip from Boston Common to Worcester State University will still take more than three hours — a tall order for commuters who could make the trip by car in less than one hour.

Commemorative Hubway bikes debut

There’s a new “it” bike in town, and it hit the streets of Boston last week.

To celebrate the two-year anniversary of Hubway bike-share, along with the program’s 1 millionth ride, Hubway officials released a special commemorative bike Tuesday morning that strikes a look that’s different from its old-school counterparts.

Black, it seems, is the new silver.

In addition to the suave color, the bike carries a special message on its rear fender: “1 Million Rides! And counting . . . ”

The bike was first docked Tuesday at South Station, but Brooke Savage, a South End resident designated as Hubway’s 1 millionth rider, quickly laid claim to the bicycle and decided to take it for a spin to another station.

Local transportation officials hope the bike will be a hot ticket for commuters, and a source of excitement for people who spot the unusual member of the Hubway fleet in stations around Boston, Cambridge, Somerville, and Brookline — kind of like being handed a two-dollar bill with change at the grocery store.

“It’s going to be a special sought-after bike,” said Bill Deignan, transportation program manager for the city of Cambridge. “People will see it and be happy they saw the bike there, and they’re going to want to take it.”

In the two years since Hubway’s debut, the system has logged more than 1.1 million miles ridden between the 113 stations located throughout the metro Boston area.

In the next few weeks, Hubway will be adding 20 more stations, which will be located in Jamaica Plain, Roxbury, South Boston, and north Dorchester.

Globe Insiders talk on bike safety

If you missed Tuesday night’s Globe Insiders talk on bicycle safety, you’ve got another chance to experience the magic: Video of the event is now posted online and can be watched at

Though someone on Twitter pointed out that “hosting a panel on bicycling on Morrissey Blvd. [is] a bit like hosting a talk on wheelchair accessibility at Machu Picchu,” the turnout in our pothole-ridden neck of the woods was stellar, and audience members offered a slew of interesting questions.

The panel discussion featured bike advocate Richard Fries , Boston bike czar Nicole Freedman , bike lawyer Josh Zisson , LivableStreets Alliance’s Jackie Douglas , and the Boston Transportation Department’s Vineet Gupta .

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