Framingham Blog Posts
2013 IRS Commuter Benefits
There is still no indication if Congress will taken any action on the Commuter Parity Act of 2013. In particular, if Congress has any plans to deal with IRS commuter benefits which is to reduce the cost of commuting via public transportation before the end of 2013.
Many local News reporter are reporting that this isn't going to happen - "Congress Fails To Renew Commuter Tax Credit, Slicing Some Benefits In Half Jan. 1." reported WJZ and The Baltimore Sun reports that "Maryland bus and MARC train riders could pay more for commutes after Congress failed to renew expiring tax credit." and "Maryland commuters could pay more come January after Congress let a tax credit expire."
The bill that Obama signed this afternoon had no mention of the IRS Commuter benefits.
Use these links to search for information on Twitter:
It's still not too late to contact your Senator and Representative to take action and extend the 2013 IRS Commuter Benefits for those that take public transportation.
Free Sand/Salt mix in Framingham
Residence of Framingham should take advantage of the free sand salt mixer available at the Recycling Drop-Off Center at 255 Mt. Wayte Avenue. You can find the sand pile next to the metal pile, just behind the recycle boxes area. (Ask at the guard shack when you arrive.) There is a shovel there to help put the sand in your container.
Use any size container and shovel in the sand salt mixer and keep it near your driveway or walkway. I recommend getting an empty paint bin and cover at Monnick Supply Company which is located at 759 Waverly Street near downtown Framingham. I believe it cost about $8 for the paint bin and cover. (This is cheaper than buying a bin that has salt in it.)
The only problem with the Monnick Supply paint bin is that it's pure white, which makes it a little challenging to find after a snow storm. However, it will be easy to identify the bin use in the off season. We keep a solo cup in the bin and scoop out the mixture when we need it. You may need a plastic shovel or screwdriver to break up the sand as the weather gets colder.
The mixture has come in handy several times so far this short winter season.
Equalizing Pre-Tax Benefits for Public Transportation Expens
Earlier this year, Congress pass a temporary extension for commuters that take public transportation to make it equal to what car-commuters could allow to pay their transportation expenses. This means that $245 a month worth of commuting-related expenses could be paid for tax-free. To be used to pay for monthly parking or monthly commuter rail pass.
Unless Congress acts this week, before the winter break, this extension will expire as scheduled on December 31st. This means that the tax break for transit riders will drop to $130 a month; while the parking benefit will stay at $250 a month. Framingham commuters will be getting a pay cut! It will now cost commuters $30 a month or $360 a year more. (Calculating the Pre-Tax savings between $245 and $130 and a tax rate of 27.65%)
This will make it more costly to ride the commuter rail and, in some situations, it will make more sense to drive into the city to park in a garage than it would be to take the commuter rail. The last thing that Boston needs is having additional cars on the road!
Framingham/Worcester MBTA commuters should ask their Congressmen to act now on the Commuter Parity Act which will make the pre-tax benefits permanent. Act today since Congress Christmas break is set to begin this Friday
MBTA train delay
This morning the 7:30 am train from Worcester was significantly delayed due to police activity in an unknown location. About 20 mins after the delay started the MBTA communication team announced the delay via Twitter and text alerts.
The info alert at the train station said the train was 20 minutes behind schedule and was not moving. About every minute they tack on additional minute to the behind schedule.
The problem is that they didn't communicate where the train was. I was talking to a fellow commuter in Framingham and she was confused of how long the delay would be. Was the train stuck in Ashland or still in Worcester?
I decided to reply to the twitter alert and asked them where the train was stuck. There were about 60 people waiting for the train, and I was the only one to take action and inquire more details about the delay. I was happy that they responded:
This allowed me to decide that the (P514) train might be a good option to take. So I crossed the pedestrian bridge and waited.
It turned out that the 8:55 train arrived (P514) about 30 seconds before the 7:30 train arrived (P512), but I knew that the 8:55 train would be sitting for about 15 minuted before departing to Boston and the better option is to take the delayed train. The only good thing about taking the (P514) train would be that it wouldn't be as crowded, but since I was already late I took a quick run to catch the delay train.
Two things that I learned about today's experience; One, inquire more details when the train is going to be late and don't be afraid to talk to people around the station!
MBTA Ticket Reminder
Just a friendly reminder if you take any MBTA Commuter rail, do not place your ticket on the seat tab in front of you.
This morning a passenger next to me put her 10 ride pass on the seat tab in front of her. Since the train was running late, the conductors weren't going around checking for tickets. She forgot that she placed it in front of her. When we got to Yawkee stop which was not a scheduled stop, but since we were running late we were making all stops. She quickly got up and got off the train, leaving her ticket behind.
I didn't see the ticket until I got up at the Back Bay station stop, otherwise I would have said something. Her forgetting to check the seat cost her to loose the $80 ticket.
The life lesson here is to hold on to the ticket until the conductor ask for it. After showing it to them, place it back in your wallet.
Framingham Train Breakdown
A year ago today was one of the longest times that it took to from Boston to Framingham. That's because the MBTA train that I was on broke down. The MBTA crew wasn't able to fix this, as a results we had to get push and every person on the train had to get off at Wellesley Farms and get on another train.
While this was happening, I was tweeting with other passengers on the train behind us. The delayed caused everyone getting home by an hour and a half. I even tweeted that Boston Marathon Runners can get to Boston in faster time.
If you have RealAudio, you can hear the train announcements as it was happening on September 6, 2012. It's nice that the conductor put some humor into some of the messages.
This exact situation happened again on August 26, 2013 with the exact same situation.
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!