Starts & Stops

John Mayer reminisces about riding the MBTA

John Mayer, a Grammy award-winning artist, performed last weekend the Comcast Center in Mansfield, where he recalled his days at Berklee College of Music and played a song, “Comfortable,” that he came up with while on the T.
Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe
John Mayer, a Grammy award-winning artist, performed last weekend the Comcast Center in Mansfield, where he recalled his days at Berklee College of Music and played a song, “Comfortable,” that he came up with while on the T.

It’s not every day that a Grammy Award-winning music artist gives a shout-out to the MBTA.

John Mayer — singer, songwriter, celebrity-beau-of-the-week — performed last weekend at the Comcast Center in Mansfield.

In the middle of his set, Mayer reminisced about his days as a student at the Berklee College of Music and his time in Boston in the late 1990s: his old dorm room at 150 Massachusetts Ave., strolls along Newbury Street when he couldn’t afford anything in the shops, and his time taking the T.


The Green Line, he said, was where he first came up with the idea for one of his earliest songs, which he rarely performs: “Comfortable,” a wistful love song to an ex, came to him as he held on to the handrail on a screechy stretch of Boston’s most-maligned T line.

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Of course, Mayer’s short stint at Berklee — he dropped out at the end of his second semester — doesn’t exactly make him a home-grown hero.

 But when the crooner dedicated the MBTA-inspired ballad to Beantown, Bostonians in the audience couldn’t help but swoon.

“The fact that John Mayer played a special song that he wrote when he went to college in Boston,” tweeted Meagan Bryan. “I die.”

I-93 HOV barrier is gone, but will return

If you’ve driven on Interstate 93 South past Somerville in the past few weeks, you may have noticed two big changes:


1. The disappearance of the concrete barrier and plastic posts that split the carpool lane from the other lanes, replaced by white diagonal stripes.

2. The recent surge of TOTALLY ANNOYING drivers who have taken the absence of a physical barrier as an open invitation to hop between the regular and high-occupancy lanes at opportune moments.

Sam Silverman of Medford wrote in with news of the disappearing HOV lane barriers: “I’ve already seen a car cut across from the HOV lane to the regular lanes on the lower deck where they could never do it before,” Silverman said.

That was the diplomatic take. One of my co-workers provided a much less newspaper-appropriate response to the experience of watching single drivers jump into the carpool lane, then glide back out before they could be caught by State Police. Not cool.

I talked to the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, and spokesman Mike Verseckes confirmed that the physical barriers were indeed removed recently.


The good news: The barriers were removed because the bridge deck is being repaired and resurfaced. The $10.8 million project, scheduled to be finished by the year’s end, comes as welcome relief to anyone who’s found that the deck’s plethoric potholes make the southbound approach to the Zakim Bridge feel more “Mad Max” than “Easy Rider.”

“We removed the island barriers both to remove the obstruction for crews to make deck repairs, and also because toward the end of the project, we’ll be resurfacing I-93,” Verseckes said. The barrier is coming back, with the new plastic posts that are wider, brighter, more durable, and better able to handle emergency vehicles that need to cross the barrier.

But until that time: Fight the urge to whiz past your fellow single-occupancy commuters. Respect the painted lines. Don’t be that person.

Marty Walsh vows to fight cab-related attacks

Representative Marty Walsh, one of the 12 candidates in the Boston mayor’s race, responded Thursday to news of two recent, and frightening, incidents of taxi-related assaults that occurred in the last three weeks.

In each incident, a woman was sexually assaulted after she tried to hail a cab late at night but was instead picked up by a vehicle without a proper taxi license.

“I will do whatever it takes to limit predators’ opportunities to commit violent acts against women via the taxi system,” Walsh said in a statement.

His answer to the problem: Require that all licensed Boston cabs have “uniform appearance practices,” such as Patriots- or Celtics-themed taxicabs.

The city already has several requirements: Licensed Boston taxis must be predominantly white in color, and they must have a police hackney unit medallion on the back as well as vinyl lettering on the side of the cab that reads “BOSTON LIC. TAXI.”

But Walsh says that’s not good enough.

He says he plans to follow through on a plan floated several years ago. The Boston Area Rape Crisis Center conducted a survey and learned that women felt uneasy in taxis largely because they found it difficult to distinguish which were licensed. The organization partnered with Suffolk University, Boston police, and the Massachusetts College of Art and Design to create a design that would make all cabs look more similar — and would feature colors of Boston sports teams.

“We owe it to the women of Boston and all residents to address this issue,” Walsh said. “It can’t wait any longer.”

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