Framingham Blog Posts
Driving to Boston
This morning I had to drive into Boston because I need to go to the airport tonight. This is the first time that I drove into Boston for work. For the past 2 years, I have taken the MBTA Commuter Rail from Framingham.
Framingham Commuter Rail to Back Bay: 45 mins (P516)
Driving to Back Bay via Mass Pike Exit 13: 38 mins
I arrived into the office 15 minutes earlier than usual. I save additional time by parking underneath the building normally I would have a 10 minute walk from BackBay. I was impressed on how quickly I got in since there was a fair amount of traffic on the Mass Pike by the Weston Tolls and just before the Star Market overpass.
When I was on the Mass Pike in Newton and Brighton I saw the P510, Framingham 8am local, train go by. This train left Framingham the same time I did. My usual train the P516, 9:11 express train was still in route someplace in Wellesley.
It wasn't all that bad dealing with the peak of the rush hour on the Mass Pike. Traffic might have been slightly less than normal because of Rosh Hashanah.
My Mass Pike Tip: Stay in the left Fast Pass lane at the Weston tolls. This makes the merge after the toll a little easy since you only have to worry about the traffic on your right.
My Speen Street Tip: Stay in the right lane on Speen Street after the Home Depot light in Natick. That puts you in the correct lane to take a left on Cochituate and makes it easy to get on the Mass Pike. Just watch for cars making sudden lane changes as you get near the on ramp.
I wouldn't recommend doing this commute everyday. Taking the train does has its advantages such as, reading books, responding to emails, doing some daily prep work and more importantly the overall cost savings. The Monthly Garage Parking in Boston starts at $305 a month, plus MassPike Tolls and gas. A monthly commuter rail ticket cost $252, plus local parking, which usually ends up still being cheaper than parking in Boston.
Taking the train is more predictable than driving into Boston, while there has been a few delays, for the most part you can be certain that 85% of the time it takes 45 minutes to get to/from Framingham to Boston regardless of weather conditions.
Winter Street Detour
The Winter Street bridge is still under construction, which makes it a little difficult to get down Winter Street. (The road has had a detour since June 20th.) With school starting this week, it might be helpful to know how to best get around the detours.
While the schools may offer some directions, these are the best way around the detour.
Directions to Framingham State University from 135
- Take the Winter Street off of 135
- Take a Right at the first light (Fountain St)
- Take a Left at the first light (Dudley Rd)
- At the next light take a Left (Franklin St)
- At the first light take a Left (Maple St)
- Take a Right on State Street
Directions to Keefe Technical School from Route 9/Mass Pike
- Take the Mass Pike to Exit 13
- Get onto ROUTE 9 and head EAST
- After the second Traffic Light
- Look for Main Street Edgell Road (Framingham State University) It will be an Off Ramp from Route 9
- Take a Right at the First Light (Main Street)
- Take a Right at the Second Light (Franklin St)
- Take a Right at the Second set of Lights (Mt.Wayte Ave.)
- Take the second right on Mt Wayte Ave (Dr. Harvey L Cushing Way)
- At the end of the road take a Left.
- Travel 3/4 a mile and Keefe Technical School will be on your left
Water Rates increase
Framingham residences are now going to pay more for water. Sadly this is a results of customers using less water. Somehow this see a negative encouragement of conserving water usage: (From Boston.com)
The average family in Framingham will pay a combined $196 more annually for water and sewer, or 16 percent, thanks to a newly imposed rate hike. Selectmen voted in implement the increases on Tuesday.
Town Manager Robert Halpin said there were two factors that account for the increase: Residents are consuming less water, and a consent decree to update the town's water and sewer infrastructure.
Pearl Street Parking
Today I learned that the Pearl Street Garage in Framingham was at one time a VERY popular parking spot for commuters taking the commuter rail. In fact, there was a waiting list just to park in the garage!
So what happened? Higher prices? Better parking near the train station?
The 2009 recession is what happened. According to someone that has parked at the garage for many years, the latest recession has taken a big hit on commuters going to Boston and as a result there has been fewer and fewer cars parking in the garage.
As we start climbing out of this recession, and that new jobs are created in the city, I am confident that commuters will return to parking at Pearl Street. It's the best deal in Framingham for MBTA commuters.
So, if your considering taking the commuter rail from Framingham, I highly suggest taking a look at the Pearl Street Garage before the parking garage fills up again!
Pearl Street Parking Garage
The current rate for the Pearl Street parking garage is $65 a month for Framingham residences and non-resident is $80 per month. You can get the permit from the Facilities Management office in the Memorial Building (Room 133).
Earlier reports that the garage parking is free is incorrect. This has not taken effect! Commuters still have to pay for parking or risk getting a $20 parking ticket.
The Pearl Street garage is still the best deal in town as there is always parking in the garage - currently about 20 commuters use the garage which holds 289 parking spaces. Parking in a garage has good advantages in the summer months, it helps going back to a nice cool car. In the winter months, it's nice not having to worry about shoveling out the car.
Parking at the Framingham MBTA Lot
Currently it cost $4 to park all day at the Framingham MBTA parking lot. There are 200 parking spaces and by the 8:45am inbound train most of the parking spaces are full.
If your going to a Red Sox game, you shouldn't have a problem getting a parking spot after 4:30, as that's when spots start opening up again as early commuters head home. In fact, by 5pm you may even get some of the premium parking spots next to the train station.
When I had to park at the lot a couple of times this week, I was wondering where I would get change so that I could put in $4 in the money slot. I ended up going to CVS and buying a couple of things and asking them to break a $20.
An alternative I later found is using the "Pay by Phone Parking" system by ParkMobile. You simply download their mobile application at www.parkmobile.com and register your car. The Framingham MBTA stop is Zone 116. This seems to be an easy way to pay for parking without having to look for $4 and to run to deposit your money in the money box when your running late.
More importantly there is no transaction fee for customers at MBTA lots where Parkmobile is available! Yes! This means you don't have to fumble around to find $4 to park!
MBTA Super Express Train
The MBTA recently added two new super express trains will make it much quicker to get from Boston to Framingham, cutting about 10 minutes off the regular express train.
I took one of the outbound express trains a day after it started. The were plenty of MBTA personal at the Back Bay terminal letting passengers know that next train would be the super express train and that the regular train would be arriving shorly after.
The train itself had fewer cars than other cars during the rush hour commute. There appered to be 2 cars short and none of the cars were double deckers which sit more passengers.
During the commute they counted all the passengers twice, by two different individuals. One was counting the number of passengers in the car and the other the total number of passengers on the train.
I thought there would be more available seating, but I was one of three people in the last car that was standing during the entire commute. I suspect that the train afterwards had more room than normal. There were a lot of people getting off at Framingham, my best guess would be less than half the train got off at the Framingham stop.
There's rumors that the MBTA will add additional express trains later this Fall. Also the Yakee Station should be finished this Fall, and that will adjust the train schedules so that the trains can run a bit more frequent. They had to adjust the schedules last Spring for the construction.
Pearl Street Garage Could Get MBTA Commuter Shuttle
Some big news for those that park at the Pearl Street Garage. From the Framingham Patch:
Officials are discussing a plan with the MetroWest Regional Transit Authority to operate a shuttle bus from the the town's Pearl St. parking garage to the MBTA commuter rail station.
"The hope is that this service together with the fact that we have opened the garage up for free commuter parking will increase its use," Town Manager Robert Halpin said. That in turn will make the parking lot safer for all, he added.
A followup to last week's posting about the Commuter Fringe Benefit offered by the IRS. The state of Massachusetts also has a Commuter Deduction. According to the Massachusetts Filing and Payment information page:
If an employer pays for an employee's MBTA pass, the amount by which the value of the pass exceeds $125 a month is included in the employee's income and reported as wages on the employee's W-2. To calculate the commuter deduction in these circumstances, the employee first deducts the $125 a month ($1,500 a year) from the cost of the pass; the remainder is the amount qualifying for the commuter deduction. The amount of the commuter deduction is the portion of the qualifying expenses that exceeds $150, and the total amount deducted cannot exceed $750.
May sure to to talk to your tax adviser on how to fill out the Massachusetts Schedule Y if you a commuter rail rider. This is a good deduction to take advantage to offset the price increase in done in July.
Commuter Fringe Benefit
Boston MBTA Commuter Rail riders should be aware of the change to the IRS pre-tax benefit for purchasing a monthly pass. In January, Congress changed the transit pass ceiling from $125 to $245. This means that for most commuters, more take-home money. (Framingham is in Zone 5 and it cost $252 for the monthly pass.)
In addition this change is retroactive to Jan. 1, 2012! It's unclear how the IRS will handle the retroactive change. There could be a payroll adjustments, or some 1040 federal tax form adjustment.
Here is the official change as mentioned in the Revenue Procedure 2013-15:
Qualified Transportation Fringe Benefit.
For taxable years beginning in 2013, the monthly limitation under § 132(f)(2)(A) regarding the aggregate fringe benefit exclusion amount for transportation in a commuter highway vehicle and any transit pass is $245. The monthly limitation under § 132(f)(2)(B) regarding the fringe benefit exclusion amount for qualified parking is $245.