What time is it?

Back Bay TV Screen (Time is 5:58)


I love the new digital displays in the commuter rail stations at Back Bay and South Station.  The old, fuzzy, monochrome television displays were due for retirement.  For now the systems display side-by-side. But that creates an unexpected dilemma.  With two displays apparently feeding from two separate computer systems, riders are left with the very basic question of …. what time is it?

Back Bay New Display (Time is 5:54)


The pictures on the left and right are from two displays side-by-side in Back Bay station.  One reads 5:54 and the other reads 5:58.  Which clock is correct?  I really don’t know!  I know what you’re going to say: maybe it is better not to know the time when you are dealing with the MBTA.  Perhaps, but these trains in particular run with big headways of 30 minutes to 2 hours.  There is a long wait between trains.  If you miss one, you’re in trouble.  It is important to know the time.

And as an aside, the new boards (on the left) have another bizarre feature.  When the time comes for the train to arrive in the station, whether the train is there yet or not the listing falls from the display.  What if the 5:59 train arrives at 6:01?  Tough luck; hope you saw the track number before it fell off the screen.