|Earliest: May 17, 2005||Latest: July 1, 2018||Total: 69|
Google's iGoogle service is a way to create a custom homepage of custom widgets. You can have a widget to track stock trading, latest ski conditions, the 'funny joke of the day' and so much more! Really cool way to get all your information in one place.
On November 1st, 2013, the iGoogle service will not exist any more. I can't complain too much since I haven't spent any money using iGoogle. That's why I supposed that Google is pulling the plug since it hasn't made that much money from this service and feel that web apps built into Chrome will replace the feature.You can find these in the Google's Chrome Store.
One of the features I liked about iGoogle is the ability to have custom search widgets. I can have a widget which will show me all the latest news related to Framingham, and another which will tell me any news about the MBTA. I can scan the headlines and read only the stories that appeal to me.
Google News has some similar features, so I'll play around with that. I'll miss having a single source of information.
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.
Laz Parking Framingham 2.0
Last night Laz Parking was busy cleaning up the MBTA parking lot. This morning the parking lot was open and full with cars. There were fewer parking spaces due to the large snow piles. This effectively means that the parking lot is 100% full on the weekdays.
If your traveling to Boston from Framingham and don't normally park in the MBTA parking lot, chances are that there won't be available parking spaces. Your best bet is the Hollis Court Parking Lot in the rear of the Store 24 and is a daily lot. $4 a day parking.
Laz Parking Framingham
Framingham commuters are unable to use the MBTA parking lot because Laz Parking didn't plow the main parking lot after last Saturday's storm. The parking lot directly next to the station did appear to get plowed, and several cars were seen in the parking lot covered with snow.
Commuters were surprised to find out that two days after the storm, the parking lot barely got plowed. Even more surprising is that parking lot was still not plowed when commuters came home, leaving many to wonder where to park tomorrow. This parking area handles about 140 cars.
Currently the only alternative to parking at the MBTA commuter station is using the Pearl Street garage, however, just last week the garage was closed for daily parking. Commuters have to resort to talking to local merchants to park in their parking lot for the day.
Pearl Street Parking Garage Changes
There's some big changes happening at the Pearl Street Garage in Framingham. Regular monthly pass users can no longer purchase their monthly ticket at the entrance of the garage. In addition, the garage is now closed for daily parking and overnight parking.
This is part of a long term plan to modernize the garage. The Framingham Facilities Management team hopes to implement some type of automatic gate in the garage within the next couple of months. While this is going on, Monthly pass holders will now have to get their pass at the Facilities Management from the town hall.
While this is very inconvenient, keep in mind that the Pearl Street garage is still the best deal in town, at least for Framingham residences. There's two ways to get a pass, visit room 133 at the Framingham Town hall between 8:30 - 5. You can also send a check to Facilities Management, before the end of the month, to get next month's pass. You can contact Facilities Management at 508-532-5485.
Red Sox fans will want to take note that there's no daily parking at the garage. The Framingham MBTA stop may not be an option as the MBTA parking lot is full from daily commuters. I'll blog later about some ideas on where to park for Red Sox games.
Note: The parking lot will be monitored by Framingham Police and they will be enforcing the parking rules. Just because there isn't someone at the garage doesn't mean that you get a free parking spot. Not only will your car get a ticket, but it may get towed too!
Mass General Laws
Did you know that you could be fine for carrying a lighted match, cigar, cigarette or pipe on MBTA property? From the Mass General Laws C272 Sec 43a, which is posted on signs all around the MBTA Station:
Section 43A. Whoever, in or upon a railroad carriage, steamboat, or other public conveyance, or in a terminal or other facility of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, smokes or carries an open flame or lighted match, cigar, cigarette, or pipe shall be punished by imprisonment for not more than ten days or by a fine of not more than one hundred dollars, or both such fine and imprisonment.
I guess the MBTA is really cracking down on not just smokers but people that are holding smoking paraphernalia. In other words, you're a criminal for possessing a legal product in your pocket.
Framingham MBTA Station Tips
Recently I wrote a blog posting with an update on the parking situation at the Framingham MBTA station. I want to follow up with some tips about the station based on my year and a half experience taking the commuter rail every day.
The cheapest monthly parking is at the Framingham parking garage on Pearl Street. Some business offer cheaper prices by renting out their space. The garage is the best option for the winter months because you don't need to dig out your car after a long day. (I have also seen some cars get flooded out because they park in the parking lot behind the Park Street Baptist Church.)
If you park at the MBTA parking lot, or the Framingham garage, your best bet is to take the cross over bridge if you take any of the evening rush hour trains to Framingham. This is because the walk is overall shorter and in the winter time the entire walkway is completely cleared. The Waverly street walkway is not 100% clear by the Old Station Steakhouse and can be icy.
The train is about 95% on time, so do what you can to get their early! The bells at the train station go off about 30 seconds before the train arrives. Most people that are in the Framingham MBTA parking lot will make the train. I have seen people drive in and park and sprint to the train and make it within plenty of time.
During the morning rush hour, there's usually 3 areas to board the train.The best place to board is towards the head of the train, which in the morning is just under the crossover bridge. The first cars are the closest to the entrance for Back Bay and South Station.
The quiet car is the last car on the train, and at the Framingham stop that's the handicap boarding. However, I have found that regardless of where you sit on the train most people are quiet. Every once in a while you end up near someone who just bump into someone for the first time in so long and you get the pleasure of hearing all about their business. (I once had the pleasure of hearing someone on a conference call for most of the duration to Boston.)
There is wireless access on the commuter rail, it was the first rail to offer such service, however its not always reliable as the wireless service is really bad in parts of Wellsley and Natick. This is true for cell phone services. I have found once I made it past route 128 in Newton, the cellular and Internet service is fairly reliable.
During really bad weather, the Natick Station can flood up and this will cause delays on the rail. There's nothing you can do, other than bring a good book to read or plan to take a later train and hope that the flood dries up.
There's always some taxis waiting at the Framingham train station. Almost every evening rush hour train I have seen several taxis waiting.
There is a shuttle SUV from Philips that drops off and picks up passengers. I don't know much about their service, but their they are the only company that provides this service. This is worth looking into if your considering applying for a job at Philips.
At the Back Bay station, the Framingham train always leaves from track five or seven. Since April, it has been track seven due to construction at the Yawkey Station. If you are coming from the Copley Square area you don't need to go through the station, you can enter through the stairs across the street from the station.
Framingham MBTA Parking
A quick update to the availability of parking at the Framingham MBTA parking lot. Six months after the MBTA raised the commuter rail rates, are commuters avoiding taking the commuter rail?
Answer: No. It appears that more and more commuters are going back to using the commuter rail as their preferred method to get to Boston. This isn't just true at the Framingham stop. By the time the train leaves the Natick stop, some of the commuters are standing for the duration of their trip. (Note: There are seats available, but some people usually don't want to sit in the middle seat.)
As for parking spaces, I have made the follow observation during my morning commute, while taking the 8:15 train; in December, I noticed that there were about 15 empty parking spaces. Today I noticed that there were only 5 empty parking spaces. Note: The 8:15 train is usually the last busy morning commuter train as it gets to Back Bay by 9am.
If your considering parking at the Framingham MBTA station, your best bet would be to get their early. Usually your best best is to forget about the Waverly parking and check the parking near Franklin Street. If the MBTA parking lot is full, you should look into the town parking garage on Pearl Avenue. The parking garage is about 4 blocks away and cost $4 to park all day.
The MBTA could add an additional 5 parking spaces by allowing customers to park in front of a fence that never opens and removing the handicap parking spaces. There's already enough handicap spaces by the spaces near Waverly Street where handicap users would most likely park.
Parking in Framingham
If your wondering about parking availability at the Framingham MBTA station, you'll be happy to know this summer that there appears to be plenty of parking.
When I catch the 8:14 express train to Boston, I see about 10-15 available parking spot in the MBTA lot. Obviously the earlier train has more parking availability. but, its nice to know that there is parking after 8am. The Natick parking lots fill up pretty quickly.
Another alternative is parking on Pearl Street garage. Its about $1 cheaper and there's always plenty of parking spots. You should keep in mind that the garage is about a quarter mile from the train station, so don't get their a few minutes that the train is due to come in.