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starts & stops

New US survey gives MBTA high rankings

Commuters wait for a Red Line train at the Park Street T Station. Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff

We all complain about the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, but one new site serves to remind us of one thing: Compared with other US cities, we don’t have it that bad — in terms of public transit access, anyway.

The site, AllTransit, is a data geek’s dream. Researchers used numbers from 805 transit agencies and the US Bureau of Labor Statistics to gauge how easy it is to catch a bus or train or ferry to get to a nearby job, according to the site, which was first reported by The Atlantic’s CityLab.

Apparently, we’re third-best in such access for cities with populations over 500,000. That’s right behind New York and San Francisco, and just ahead of Washington D.C.


For example, the average Boston household has 17 transit routes within half a mile. And about 650,000 jobs are accessible to the average household in a 30-minute trip.

Linda Young, a director of research and project management at the Center of Neighborhood Technology who helped develop the site, said the researchers found a score for each city based on a number of questions:

“If I walk out the door, can I get a bus or a train or ferry? And once I get one, how far will it take me and what will it take me to? And are people using it?” said Young.

There’s good news for Boston. On a 10-point scale, Boston gets a 9.4.

The T isn’t the only agency included in these metric: The data also include transit from agencies and companies such as Amtrak, Peter Pan Bus Lines, the Brockton Area Transit Authority, Massport, and the Metrowest Regional Transit Authority.

If nothing else, the gathered data are just plain fascinating: For example, Boston has 25 farmers markets near transit; and 638,842 people live within a half-mile of transit.


Young said that Bostonians should be proud of all the transit they have at their fingertips. But she also said she hopes people use the site for its true purpose: to make sure that people all across the city have good access to transit, no matter who they are and where they live.

You can visit the site at http://alltransit.cnt.org/.

Public transportation continues to go green

Public transportation is getting a bit greener, the American Public Transportation Association announced on Friday — you know, Earth Day.

As of Jan. 1, 2015, nearly 47 percent of buses from public transit agencies were using alternative fuels or hybrid technology as of the beginning of 2015, according to the association.

That number includes your very own Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. The T introduced 25 hybrid gas-electric buses in 2010; they are fuel-efficient and quieter.

In 2014, the T started rolling out a fleet of 60 more hybrid buses to replace some older vehicles, and even more are on the way: Last year, the agency signed a contract for 325 more hybrid buses that are scheduled to start rolling out this year.

According to the transportation association, some agencies are getting even greener than that: Indianapolis has 21 battery electric buses in its public transit system, Nashville runs nine electric buses, and San Jose, Calif., and Eugene, Ore., are going to follow with their own.

Joe Pesaturo, an MBTA spokesman, said the T is also interested in buying five electric buses.


APTA board members think it’s a good sign that more transit agencies are trying to go green.

“These sustainable practices not only reduce an organization’s environmental impact, but are good for business, too,” Valarie J. McCall, the association’s chairwoman and a board member of the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority, said in a statement.

Escalator etiquette turned on its head

The MBTA has a bit of a crush on Transport for London, that city’s massive transit system.

When officials here made moves toward a cashless fare collection system, they frequently mentioned how ahead-of-the-curve London’s transit system already is.

Now, Transport for London is getting bold in another way: escalator etiquette.

According to the agency, customers at the Holborn Tube station in Central London will be asked to stand on both sides of the escalator, instead of just one side.

That’s right: Instead of leaving one side empty for people rushing up the stairs, people will wait in place in two side-by-side lines. Officials at the agency said they tried it for three weeks last year, and it reduced congestion by 30 percent.

The agency said that research has shown that riders don’t like to walk on escalators that are too high, preferring to stand still. It wants to reduce congestion at a station that gets about 56 million customers a year.

Something tells me that such an idea would take a while to fly in Boston, where people are in such a hurry that I once saw at least three cars trying to cut into a funeral procession going through a tollbooth.


I asked Joe Pesaturo, an MBTA spokesman, if a similar change could be coming sometime soon. Perhaps for a station such as Porter Square, which boasts escalators so lengthy that the local November Project fitness group once used the stairs alongside them as a workout?

Pesaturo said you don’t need to change your escalator habits quite yet.

“There haven’t been any discussions about implementing new rules for the use of MBTA escalators,” he wrote in an e-mail, also pointing out that escalator availability was more than 99 percent last year. “When it comes to the T’s 180 escalators, our top priorities are maintenance and safety.”

He also used the topic to give a warning to the open-toed shoe-wearers among us.

“With warmer weather settling in, the MBTA would like to remind customers wearing sandals or flip flops that they should avoid escalators,” said Pesaturo, who himself witnessed a flip-flop accident at the Downtown Crossing station.

“The best way to maintain a smooth pedestrian flow is to prevent any incidents that could lead to a shutdown of an escalator.”

Nicole Dungca can be reached at nicole.dungca@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @ndungca.