I made my way to the Portland Transit Center ready to take on Boston. Serendipity struck as I ran into Wayne Davis again. He was headed south for a meeting so we were able to ride together again. One of my most favorite parts about train travel is meeting passengers that love the rail. Watching Wayne shake hands of passengers, conductors, and staff alike really warms my heart. The Downeaster provides for a community that directly benefits from its use. Records for customer service, performance, fantastic union reps, and a low staff turnover highlight just how loved this route truly is. We passed beaches, farms, woods, camps, winding our way towards Boston. Once Wayne’s stop was called, I gave him a huge hug and promised to return soon. As I watched him depart, I took a moment to reflect on our time together in Portland. It is always nice to meet someone you’re on the same page with but when you’re both passionate about helping your community improve, it means so much more to find that camaraderie.
As I reached Boston, I was greeted by supporters of Rail Passengers as well as a few members of my direct team. Joe Aiello, Northeast Field Coordinator took us down to the commuter rail and explained the conundrum that is the North Station / South Station disconnect. This is technically the only part of my route where the only way I could access the next leg of the trip would be to get off the national rail service, buy a Charlie Card, board the T, go to South Station, disembark and go back up to the Amtrak or MBTA Station in order to continue south.
As we wound through the belly of the city, I watched how many commuters were impacted by this historical shortfall in connectivity and even more so impacted by the route delays the city is still dealing with after the derailment on the red line a few weeks ago. I can’t even imagine how frustrating it must be for those relying on the elevator as opposed to using stairs. I watched as people with strollers, and mobility devices stuff themselves and their belongings in to elevators hoping to make their connecting train. Our passengers should not have to stress about how many trains they’re gonna miss while trying to get access to the platform. This again reminded me of how if we are to advocate for the rights of passengers, we need to transcend ADA compliance. It is not enough to comply, we need to ensure continued improvements on inclusive terms set forth by those most affected.
After checking into the hotel, my coworker Jonsie Stone and I met up with some of the ladies of Rail Passengers and went out for drinks and tapas. We broke bread and snacked on a variety of charcuterie followed by a lap around the block stopping at various bars and pubs. The company of women was much needed on my end and did wonders to curb my homesickness for my friends and loved ones over 1,000 miles away.
The next morning Jonsie and I headed to Chowderfest. A free event right by the Downtown Crossing station. Each year, the top vendors in Boston gather their tents and portable stoves to serve up free chowder in a friendly competition where attendees are given wooden coins to vote for their favorite chowder. Though the lines were long, the heat index was low. We had almost a dozen different flavors thanks to the tips from our friends in the tourism bureau. Jonsie had not tried chowder before and was stunned by how radically different each vendor made their recipe. Once we had stuffed ourselves on everything from Manhattan Style with Chorizo to Sustainable New England Clam, we waddled through the crowd soaking up the live music and historical costuming.
Joe extended an invite to watch the Women’s World Cup match between USA and England so I followed him to The Banshee, a well respected neighborhood pub known for hosting every soccer match under the sun. We grabbed a round of beers the bar had on special, proceeds going towards America Scores, and gathered in front of the big screen to cheer on our athletes. The game was one of the most entertaining I’ve seen in quite some time, not only for the red cards, penalty kicks and wild substitutions, but the commentary of all flavors as well. The weird thing about traveling for this long is that one begins to miss the little things about home. Being elbow to elbow with a whole host of beer swigging, screen screaming fans definitely brought about a second wind for me.
With my new found energy, I headed to Idle Hour in Quincy for a meetup with members of Rail Passengers, as well as a few other local and online groups. Chef Ashley welcomed us with a special appetizer just for the event. She and I got the chance to talk shop and sip bourbon before meeting with Quincy’s mayor and supporters of the improvement to their local station. We all shared train stories and some of Chef Ashley’s favorites from the menu.
The last item on my agenda was to meet up for a bon voyage brunch with Jarred Johnson and Jim Aloisi of TransitMatters. We were joined by Mike Deehan WGB Radio, NPR as we shared thoughts and small plates at the Lincoln Tavern. Just a stop away from South Station, Lincoln Tavern offers a robust menu. We had a gorgeous spread – Mango Coconut Shrimp Salad, Falafel, Short Rib Poutine, and a Smoked Salmon Breakfast Pizza with Everything Bagel crust.
Jim and I got on to a tilt about the intersections of sustainability, transit, and food. When he first asked me about how my trip incorporates different aspects of advocacy, I asked about food deserts in Boston and how people balance their time. It is not easy to commute for over an hour, work a full time job, care for ones family and still get dinner on the table before bed. I was glad to see that TransitMatters has people at the helm who take these conditions into consideration with their passenger advocacy. With my mind and belly full, Jarred escorted me back to South Station and wished me a safe journey as I boarded the MBTA headed to Providence.