Starts & Stops

Aspirational alterations to Gloucester street sign

This decorative sign was created for Flatrocks Gallery in Gloucester by artist Shep Abbott. It isn’t an official municipal sign, but the gallery’s owner says people comment on it.
John Blanding/Globe Staff
This decorative sign was created for Flatrocks Gallery in Gloucester by artist Shep Abbott. It isn’t an official municipal sign, but the gallery’s owner says people comment on it.

It’s always a delightful surprise to come across a street sign altered to convey some larger truth.

Take a New Orleans street, where a “One Way” sign now bears the phrase “One Day” — a particularly poignant sentiment in a place of oscillating dejection and hope.

A similar message of woebegone sentiment came more than a decade ago, when a “Reverse Curve” sign on Storrow Drive was altered by graffiti artists to say “Reverse the Curse,” a nod to Boston’s decades without a World Series win. (After 2004, the sign was removed by then-Governor Mitt Romney with the intention of auctioning it off and giving the proceeds to charity.)


Now, here’s another, this one in Gloucester: A stop sign that now reads SHOP.

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The sign is posted outside Flatrocks Gallery. It’s not an official municipal stop sign, so drivers needn’t halt when they see it. Instead, the sign was designed by artist Shep Abbott. He created another one for the store a few years back: “Caution — Beautiful Dreams Ahead.”

Anne Marie Crotty, one of the owners of Flatrocks Gallery, said the sign has been on display in various spots inside and outside the store for the past two years, but it wasn’t until this spring that it was moved to stand on the curb.

People don’t really stop for the sign — but they do comment on it, she said, “once in a while.”

Commuter rail service? Meh, says T chief

At a Wednesday meeting of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation board of directors, MBTA General Manager Beverly A. Scott was asked a point-blank question from the board: Two weeks after Keolis Commuter Services took over operations of the commuter rail, how was the company performing?

At first, she demurred, saying that she didn’t want to put a hard-and-fast number on it. But Scott’s penchant for no-nonsense, bare-bones answers got the best of her, and she changed her mind.


“They’re probably at about a six, or a six-and-a-half,” she said. “It’s not as great as I would love . . . but they’re holding their own, and I feel comfortable.”

Scott said she and Transportation Secretary Richard A. Davey planned to meet with the company in the upcoming week to offer suggestions, point out areas that needed improvement, and provide more detailed explanations of the kinds of enhancement they want to see in coming weeks and months.

She also mentioned that, starting this fall, she will be offering seasonal updates on Keolis’s on-time performance.

It’s similar to a practice that has been in place for years when it comes to the head of the Registry of Motor Vehicles, who starts her monthly statement to the board with the latest statistics on average wait times at RMV locations and over the phone. Scott said she will take up the same practice.

After the meeting, Scott expanded on the reasons for her lukewarm review. The 6.5 was not just a reflection of the company’s performance — they also reflect not-so-great circumstances that faced the company in its opening days. There was the opening-day lobster truck collision. And the Amtrak signal system wipeout. And the T-mandated heat restrictions on the Worcester line. And the trains themselves, and the tracks and ancient signal systems on which they run, remain the same.


“We couldn’t be a 10, or a triple-A, with our system now and with our infrastructure,” she said. “It’s not personal.”

‘[Keolis is] probably at about a six, or a six-and-a-half. It’s not as great as I would love . . . but they’re holding their own.’

But there are other factors in the commuter rail company’s control, she maintained. She said she planned to advise them on ways to do a better job communicating with customers, saying that there had been some issues with the call center and “Twitter stuff.” (One could arguably quibble with that judgment — after all, the new commuter rail Twitter account quoted a Beyonce song on its opening day.)

Scott said she was also eager to see a much-ballyhooed program to meticulously clean the trains’ interiors over the the coming weeks and months, a kind of spruceness boot camp to ensure that customers notice a sudden improvement in the quality of their commute. Scott said she’s hopeful that endeavor will be as successful as Keolis managers have predicted.

Still, she said, she understood that any long-term improvements on the quality of service would be slow if they were going to be sustainable.

“There’s no magic,” Scott said. “We’re gonna take them through their paces.”

Why pay extra on the Tobin?

The Tobin Bridge is, finally, going all-electronic Monday morning. Drivers will have to pay with their E-ZPass or spend an extra $1 per trip to pay their fee with a bill mailed to the address registered with their license plate.

With the change arriving, it’s hard to believe that anyone — especially anyone who drives regularly on a toll road — doesn’t have an E-ZPass yet. And yet, as of late last year, only 67 percent of drivers who cross the Tobin had E-ZPasses.

The Department of Transportation is trying to move that needle, so their “street team” has planned a number of enrollment booths for the coming week where North Shore residents can sign up for a transponder on the fly.

This Monday and Thursday, they will be in the parking lot of Saugus’ Kowloon Restaurant from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. On Tuesday and Wednesday, they will be at the MEG Foundation building in Saugus from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. On Saturday, they will be at Saugus’ Square One Mall Truck Show (an apt choice) from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and will scooch over to Market Basket in Chelsea from 2 to 4 p.m.

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