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Chelsea Street bridge setbacks explained, and another bus bites the dust

Posted by Nichole Davis  June 8, 2013 12:14 PM

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Stephen, a reader of the blog, wrote in to me recently. He said, in part:

"... I saw that the Mass DOT said the Chelsea Street bridge will be closed weeknights until July 1st. While this may not seem to be a big thing it is for the thousand of us that work at Logan Airport. The employee garage sits just across from this bridge and when the bridge is closed it takes a 10 minute bus ride and turns it into a 20 to 30 minute bus ride and that’s each way.

The bridge was completed (supposedly) last May at I believe the cost of over $200 million dollars to the taxpayers and there has hardly been a week in this past year that it hasn’t been closed at night for something. Do you think you could find out why this bridge never seems to be working properly and when it will finally be open and functioning as designed and paid for with our money?"

I got in touch with DOT spokesman Michael Verseckes, who's familiar with the project, to give me a heads up as to what was going on with all these extended delays. First and foremost, he sympathized with Stephen:

"...Your reader is correct when he says it's a big deal. This has been a major inconvenience to the folks who work at Logan, and he is not exaggerating when he's talking about doubling or more the ride. We apologize for the head aches we've caused and we're expecting to have the final tweaks down by the end of June."

Okay, but what's the deal? If the bridge is supposedly good to go, why was it opened back in May of 2012? Verseckes says that they decided to give the green light to use the bridge, knowing that several more tweaks would be necessary, because they knew that there was a significant need for pedestrians, boats and cars to use the crossing over the Chelsea Creek. As soon as the bridge was ready to be used actively, they decided to open it up.

What have they been working on since they opened the bridge? Verseckes told me that, since this new bridge is more sophisticated than the last bridge, more work needs to be done to ensure that it will provide the clearance for maritime traffic that comes through. This involves testing and calibrating of cables and motors that move the new lift span up and down. Verseckes says that they're doing all of this testing to make sure that the new bridge doesn't prematurely become damaged or suffer from excess wear and tear. After all this work finishes up (hopefully by the end of June, he says), there will be the need for the occasional closure to grease those cables to keep them in good shape.

Verseckes also wanted me to pass along that they have added some new safety features to the bridge, including pedestrian arms that block the sidewalk off from traffic. They've also moved some cameras out of blind spots so they can keep a better eye on what's happening on and around the bridge.

Hopefully this answers some of your questions, Stephen... keep me posted on your commute!
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Well, it was bound to happen eventually, I guess. Another low-cost bus carrier that runs between Boston and New York has shut down.

The story came out earlier this week that Lucky Star customers were being turned away at the doors unexpectedly, with promises for refunds for all e-tickets:

"Per the order of USDOT, Lucky Star Bus has temporary ceased operations. All affected e-ticket customers will be receiving a refund automatically. Thanks!”

What on earth would cause that sort of drastic situation? Oh, wait. Unless...

According to the order shutting down the company, it at one point dispatched a bus with a 4-foot-by-2-foot hole in the bottom and significant frame damage. Its buses broke down more than 80 times in just over a year.

Huh. Well, that would do it. (That last quote's from the AP.) This certainly is a stark reminder of the issues that plagued Fung Wah into eventual total suspension. It's not just mechanical problems, though. CBS Boston reports a letter from the Department of Transportation details drivers far exceeding normal times allotted behind the wheel, along with employees failing to follow through on required drug and alcohol testing.

So both the buses and the drivers don't meet minimum safety standards? Yikes. A quick gander at some of the Yelp reviews for the company seem to confirm what the DOT alleges, although the company has a middle-of-the-road rating overall at three stars. Take a gander at a few. First, to be nice, here's a five star review from L.L.

The drivers seem to be better drivers than the FW drivers (I've only had two so far, but I've had a better experience here than with FW, so I'll probably be using Lucky Star more often). They don't step on the gas and then break abruptly (I hate that stop and go crap) and seem to be able to stay in lane... The employees at Lucky Star seem to be nicer here... Because FW is more popular, it probably gets hectic herding people this way and that, or checking tickets and stuff. I wouldn't say they're mean or rude or anything. I just think that at Lucky Star, they're just really nice. I suppose there's less pressure on them, though, being the less popular bus service.

... and then a three star from Tia:

-These buses are old, yes. The seats will probably be ripped or the arm rest will be messed up or the bus will smell stale. But it's not filthy or anything. -The wifi usually works, but some buses don't have it. -Bring your toys fully charged, bc there are no outlets. -DON'T use the toilet on the bus. Just don't do it.

... and a one star from Beau:

As I'm writing this review, there is dirty water from a busted air-con system dripping on my shoulder. And it's not only me: a woman two rows in front of me is draped in a towel, three rows in front of her a couple is trying to plug a leak with their own sweater, and the driver's seat is completely soaked. Four seats are roped off and plastic bags filled with brown water are suspended from the ceiling. Apart from the broken air con, the smell of the bathroom is permeating throughout the bus. I've travelled in the 3rd world and I don't mind roughing it out when I have to - but this just isn't worth it.

Just an aside - I've also gathered from reading these reviews and others that it seems as if Lucky Star jacked their prices up very quickly after Fung Wah went under - in some cases, it was reportedly over $40 for a one-way ticket when the going rate had started out at $15 before the closure of Fung Wah.

It will be interesting to see how this all plays out. In the meantime, is this the end of the cheap New York-Boston bus service? When and if Fung Wah and Lucky Star return, can we expect to see prices back to the way they were and still expect a safe, reliable ride? Tell me your thoughts.
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Think of some events that can cause major stress to your body and mind. Not necessarily bad stress, but stress - what could rank highest for you? Would you believe that a new study shows that city driving could be right up there?

For some, that's not so surprising. (Especially anyone who has driven through Boston during rush hour on any given Friday in the summertime.) However, what is surprising about it is that the new study by MIT ranks the stress caused by city driving situations up there with the stress you feel when you're freefalling during a skydive. Yikes.

Audi is pairing with MIT on the study, where they're working together to determine a "Road Frustration Index". They used many different activities to determine stress levels, such as eating or attending lectures. Audi says they're taking the findings and using them to further develop driver-awareness systems in new cars. Find out how, and learn more about the study, here.
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MBTA Matters

Another weekend of busing on the Red Line's Quincy/Braintree spur -- it's part of the Columbia Junction project that's been going on for a while. Expect shuttle buses to be in place this Saturday and Sunday between JFK/UMass and Quincy Center. They'll be running from the start of service Saturday to the end of service Sunday. Shuttle buses will make all stops.

Orange Line riders - you still have to deal with these weekday busing diversions due to Assembly Square work for a while. These are only in effect, by the way, from Oak Grove to Sullivan Square. Every Sunday through Thursday until June 20th, August 4th to August 8th, and September 2nd to October 10th you'll find yourself stuck on a bus after 9:00 PM until the end of service. The T's still performing some fixer-upper work on the Oak Grove platforms from time to time through September so you could find a slight delay in service getting to and from that station.

Remember, Blue Line riders - Orient Heights station is closed as they do a full renovation.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the author

Nichole Davis is a Boston-based traffic reporter and news anchor. She’s been seen and heard on television and radio airwaves across New England since 2003, providing commuters with all the More »

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