Survey about Public Art in Worcester

From TweetWorcester, the official Twitter account of the city (which you should follow, on Twitter or via RSS):

The City of Worcester’s Office of Economic Development is working to shape the way public art is incorporated into the City’s landscape in the future, and establishing the current status of public art in Worcester will help us reach this goal. As part of our effort, we have created a short survey (8 questions). This survey aims to determine the prevalence, location, and types of public art located throughout the City.

If you have a few free moments, could you please complete the survey? We are looking to obtain as much feedback as possible, so please forward this survey link to friends and colleagues as well. We ask that you kindly complete the survey by July 11, 2012.

The  survey can be found here.  Please forward to your friends, and share it on Facebook/Twitter/whatever.

MBTA – New Commuter Rail Fare Structure

What follows is an announcement from the MBTA letting us know that, beginning July 1, they will charge $3 for the convenience of purchasing a ticket from a conductor on the commuter rail.

As anyone who’s taken the train in the past few months knows, the ticket machines at Union Station are broken.

I contacted the MBTA on May 2 about this and never heard back from them (except to receive a confirmation number).

I called them tonight; the (very courteous) customer service rep let me know that the ticket had been assigned to the maintenance department and that she will follow up with her supervisor tomorrow to see when the machines will be fixed.

I hope the machines will be fixed soon, and I’ll post an update when I hear one.

I encourage other readers to call the MBTA and ask as well.

Information on MBTA’s New Commuter Rail Fare Structure – Effective July 1, 2012

The MBTA is introducing a new, two-tiered fare structure for commuter rail this year in order to improve on-board fare collection and help improve customer boarding and alighting times.  At present, conductors collect over $1,500,000 each month in cash for fares purchased on board.  This increasingly high number of cash transactions takes the conductor’s time away from two key duties: checking passes and opening and closing doors.  Under the new structure, the pricing encourages passengers to purchase tickets in advance at a ticket window or machine.  All tickets purchased off board are $3.00 less than for on board purchases. To help inform customers about this structure, our printed schedules and on line materials will list both sets of prices so that it is clear which price applies in each case.   By reducing the number of cash transactions on board, the structure provides two customer service improvements.  First, conductors can move more quickly through the train so that all tickets and passes can be verified, helping to reduce fare evasion; second, with less time devoted to cash transactions, more time is available to attend to doors, which improves boarding and alighting speed.   This will contribute to improved on time performance.  Because we do not have ticket vending machines at every location, we have chosen to retain a cash option for our customers.  Some transit agencies do not allow any cash transactions on board, reducing their administrative costs.  At this time, the MBTA is not in a position to fully-eliminate cash sales on board.

As you may know, the MBTA is also preparing to introduce a pilot project enabling customers to pay for commuter rail travel on board via their telephones.  With the increasing availability of smartphones, mobile payment options are now in use at a growing range of retail locations and the MBTA is working to bring this convenience to our customers.  If successful, this approach could help the MBTA avoid the purchase and maintenance costs of ticket machines while allowing our customers greater flexibility in when and how tickets are purchased.  If you are interested in learning more about this pilot project, please see for details as the project is developed.

Any additional questions on the new MBTA fares or the newly implemented commuter rail ticket expiration dates should be submitted to the MBTA.  You may also reach them by phone at: (617) 222-3200 or online at

Signage for giraffes

The relatively new stop sign installed at Webster St. and Hope Avenue is nearly invisible to those of us driving smallish sedans — the top of my windshield is about 40 inches off the ground, while this sign is mounted 11 feet (132 inches) off the ground:

Worcester has a notorious aversion to following the MUTCD regulations & guidelines about signage, but for those who are curious, the MUTCD recommends that signs like these be mounted between 5 feet & 7 feet off the ground, depending on whether it’s in a rural area or business/residential.  By those standards, an ideal place to mount that stop sign might have been just below the Hope Avenue street name sign.

That Hope Avenue sign, by the way, is about 7 feet off the ground. A good height, but the way the blade is turned makes it almost invisible to those coming to the intersection from Auburn.

Admiring the dubious charms of Big Beverly

If you’ve driven down Lincoln Street recently, you’ll likely have noticed this sign, printed on a 12-inch tall blank:

OK, that’s an improvement — I could actually read that one from across an intersection.  It’s still ugly as all get-out, but I could read it.

With our mysteriously limitless sign replacement budget, I suppose we could just replace all of our signs with these humongous ones.  Switching to a readable sans-serif font is way too practical & cheap for Worcester.

(As an aside, Big Beverly proves that the sign shop still doesn’t know what to do with descenders — notice how the tail on the “y” touches the bottom border.  The whole thing should have been set a half inch higher on the blank.  Worcester’s now full of descender-related bloopers.)

For those of you interested in typography in general, I recommend reading Just My Type by Simon Garfield.  The most interesting part of the book, though not detailed enough, was a chapter devoted to highway signage, and the competition between MOT Serif and Transport for use on British highways (see this excellent post for examples of both and a good critique of the book, which is not without its faults).

I remain unconvinced that mixed case is the way to go on regular street signage, and my newfound crush on MOT Serif may be to blame, but that’s a discussion for another day.

(And if you can indulge me on linking to another discussion on signage types — read this and the associated links.)